Tell me about the design community in Denver vs Portland

over 6 years ago from , Product Designer @webflow

My wife are planning a move this spring. Our top choices are Portland OR and Denver. We want mountains, a vibrant city, and an art culture, and job opportunities for the future.

Have any of you lived/live in these cities? What can you tell me about the design communities, opportunities, and what you love about these cities?

Thanks all.


  • Josh Carr, over 6 years ago

    I live in Denver. I've been here for 15 years now. I would tentatively say that Portland is the better choice for you. Denver's art/hipster/design community is actually pretty small and isolated to a small part of the metro area. There are a few big design agency players that share an incestuous relationship of designers - I would say it's hard to break into that scene.

    I would also say that trying to be an independent designer is difficult in this city. We're a big city, yet everyone still has a friend or relative that they're going to use first. You may be the best choice but it's hard to prove that here and still make a living.

    So not a whole lot of opportunity.

    On the up side: we have a lot of diversity here - so culture isn't lacking. However, if you want something outside of white suburban culture, you have to go looking for it. We're very segregated as a metropolitan area. I can look at a map and tell you the dominant ethnicity in the area. We have a diverse culture, you just have find it.

    I personally love Denver. We have more sunny days than the sunshine state. The weather is usually really nice. It was 60 degrees on Sunday. The mountains are nice, but I feel like the city folk don't get up there much. The people are generally good people. I wouldn't say it's a highly-educated city, but it's not terrible either. It leans blue, but there are certainly red... and some very red people here in the metro area. We also have lots of good food thanks to our diverse culture. You could tour the world's cuisine without ever leaving the city.

    To me, the worst part of Denver is the traffic. Our city planners have it rough, we were never supposed to be this big and the solutions they've tried to relieve congestion just aren't working. I live 12 miles from my job and my commute can be less than 20 minutes... but it's usually more like 45-60 because there's always traffic. Everyone complains about traffic here - unless you're lucky enough to work from home.

    Crime is an ever-present issue (as with any major city). There are a lot of transplants who have no idea how to drive in snow. Locals hate you if you're not "native." Even a little rain makes the whole city shut down. People just don't know how to drive in general here. Your insurance rates will skyrocket because people suck at driving here. Most of the homes within the city limits are old. Unless you're doing the apartment thing, pretty much any house you buy will need upgrades. The only new builds are so far out of the city that I wouldn't say they're worth it. I'm sure I could go on, but I've written enough.

    Even with it's shortcomings, I would never live anywhere else.

    For other people though, I'd suggest Portland.

    3 points
  • Ryan Hicks, over 6 years ago

    I live in Denver (moved here Nov. 2016) and pretty involved in the UX community so far. It's large and a lot of companies are hiring, but it's competitive which can be a god or bad thing.

    Despite what the title says this isn't a comprehensive list but it's a good start to all thing tech in Denver/Boulder - https://leadoutsales.com/comprehensive-guide-boulder-denver-startup-tech-scene/

    Anywhere in the West you'll find mountains. I don't know anything about Portand, but it's expensive in Denver. Crazy stupid expensive; especially for anything housing related whether renting or buying. I'm paying 70% more for 200 sq. ft. less than where I previously lived before moving up here. So the cost of living is something to seriously consider as that most likely will be your deciding factor not what you listed above. I've found the roads here in Denver are shit too. They don't seem to be repairing them as often as my previous city, and I suspect a lot of it from the freezing and thawing every year from the temperatures. I also find the cell service here in Denver isn't that good and I have Verizon. The drivers are awful. For some reason, the Denver metro area also has no road reflectors anywhere. There is a massive homeless population here. And the city loves to cater to them and give them free stuff which keeps them around. I have strong opinions on this, but at least they don't bother you to much. And most of them are in downtown so if you don't live there you won't see them. These are just some of the annoyances and not so glamours parts of this area for you to think about. I do love it here, though. The short trips to the mountains and amount of year round activities (if you don't mind the cold) are great. Everyone is pretty active here so if that's not your thing you may struggle to fit in...? I'd recommend moving out here when it warms up unless you have movers handling the process for you. And yes I live downtown.

    1 point
    • Josh Carr, over 6 years ago

      We do have a growing startup industry. I wouldn't call the design scene large. I would certainly say it's competitive. I guess it just depends on perspective.

      Cost of living is high in Denver, but a quick google search says that Portland could be even higher.

      Roads and traffic - the crap part of the city for sure.

      Homeless population is quite large here. With a liberal-leaning government, that's not going to change any time soon.

      Everyone being active? Maybe... there are plenty of things to do no matter your preference. Everyone's going to have a difference social perspective. I don't think anyone wouldn't "fit in."

      As for the weather: it's not cold here. Are you from Texas, Ryan? lol.

      0 points
      • Ryan Hicks, over 6 years ago

        I'm from the midwest being there for 26 years and lived in FL for 6 years. I don't think it's "COLD" like miserable, but it's definitely not weather to be moving in. This week has been pretty mild, but I would not want to move hundreds of boxes and heavy items in snow or in 30 and below weather.

        0 points
      • Kyle L, over 6 years ago

        Thanks Guys,

        I really appreciate the time you took for your thoughtful responses. This does give me more to go off of than just being a tourist in the city.


        0 points