US vs. UK Design: A Cultural Difference

As the resident American in our multinational studio, I’ve been prompted to share my thoughts about the differences between US and UK design. I’m about a year into my expat life in London, and after designing for agencies in NYC and along the east coast of America, I’ve come across several surprising disparities.

When I started work in the UK, I quickly had to reprogram my brain to A-sized paper, metric measurements, and remembering to throw extra E’s and U’s into words – not to mention changing all my Z’s (now pronounced ‘zed’) to S’s in client emails. But aside from the obvious cultural contrasts, a few key differences in layout and the industry itself spring to mind. 

These observations are purely my own experience, but I’ve found that in the UK, the look and feel of design is much cleaner as opposed to the US. Both designers and clients feel more comfortable with whitespace. More risks tend to get taken with colour pairing and layout. While clean, innovative design certainly exists in America, I’ve noticed there is often a ‘more for your money’ attitude, where designers are asked to fit as much information as possible into layouts. However, using The Millions’ annual featured article that compares US and UK book cover designs, you can be the judge.

A Brief History of Seven Killings: US Cover (Left), UK Cover (Right)
A Brief History of Seven Killings: US Cover (Left), UK Cover (Right)

 

Daily work/life balance seems to be a major point of difference between the two nations. In an article for Creative Review surveying graphic designers in both the US and UK, “US respondents said they worked more hours on average than our UK respondents…While UK- and US-based designers both reported working more hours than they were paid to, respondents based in America were on the whole less bothered about this than the Brits, possibly because there is a greater cultural expectation of long work hours in the US.” I certainly found this to be true, especially in contrast to my time in NYC, where working full days until 11pm was often the norm. I’m grateful for a more generous balance, as I think it allows employees – especially in fast-paced environments – the necessary time to recharge before working the next day.

Graphic Designers Surveyed by Lucienne Roberts and Jessie Price
Graphic Designers Surveyed by Lucienne Roberts and Jessie Price

 

Discovering cultural idiosyncrasies is half the fun of relocating to a new country, and I’m sure as my time here progresses, this list will grow exponentially! For now, it’s a great opportunity to think about design differently.

Made in the USA by Moustafa Hassan: Source