How the west was won

Whether working for Silicon Valley or sportswear manufacturers, designers love America’s west coast. Liz Farrelly experiences the pioneer spirit

Why would a designer want to work on America’s west coast? Easy. Sun, sea, sand and silicon. Silicon Valley that is, not the Pamela Anderson variety.

Sparked by the immense success of San Francisco’s computer-belt hinterland of Palo Alto, AKA Silicon Valley (birthplace of the Apple Macintosh), the west coast of America has become a mecca for designers of all disciplines.

But even before the computer-industry proliferation of the Eighties, the west coast was a hi-tech stronghold thanks to the concentration of aerospace and military concerns; Howard Hughes sparked off the industry in Orange County at around the same time that Hollywood went Technicolor. Scattered along the west coast, from Seattle (home of Microsoft and Boeing) to the Los Angeles tinseltown and south to San Diego’s military bases are IT, software and some serious hardware manufacturers.

Nurturing the hot-house atmosphere of innovation is a sympathetic crew of venture capitalists, eager to underwrite start-up companies promoting brain-wave ideas by ex-employees of the major players. In turn, “top dollar” is paid to engineering and science graduates from Stanford University and UCLA.

E-commerce, animatronics, screen graphics, digital and cable TV, medical, sports and leisure equipmentä hi-tech innovations have contributed to the growth of a wide-range of industries beyond just computing. All this activity has boosted the profile of designers. Interface and industrial designers, marketing, research and advertising professionals, graphic and multimedia designers are all in demand. Plus, a number of international consultancies have offices in San Francisco – Ideo, MetaDesign, Interbrand, Fitch, The Attik – it’s no surprise that British designers are there in force, attracted by opportunities to work with blue-chip clients for a healthy remuneration. To say that the west coast is a prosperous part of the world is an understatement. But along with the obvious advantages, are their any drawbacks? Below, seven individuals tell it like it is…

{storyLink (“DW199910150050″,”Piers Thomas, Patagonia”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150051″,”Oliver Bayley, Interval Research Corporation”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150052″,”Brett Wickens, Sapient”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150053″,”Richard Clarke, Nike”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150054″,”Stephen Peart, Vent Design”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150055″,”Bill Evans, Bridge Design”)}

{storyLink (“DW199910150056″,”Cameron Campbell, Ideo Product Development”)}

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