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Creative Hubs

The United States Edition

Culture’s continuous obsession with finding the most “creative city” has yielded more of the same: indices and lists chock-full of the juggernauts we’ve come to expect: New York City, Los Angeles, or Austin. They get most of the credit, while only being home to a specific creative experience.

We set out to profile the cities that haven’t constructed such a glowing creative reputation quite yet—the emerging places that might challenge our existing perspectives on what makes a city creative.

Our team developed our inaugural index through a multi-phase approach to research. To stay true to WeTransfer's vibrant creative community, we first leveraged anonymous product usage data to see where pockets of creative output are spiking across the United States. We then scored cities by creative growth and ranked top cities through an extensive qualitative factor analysis. How do these cities unexpectedly influence their citizens’ creativity? How might these cities challenge us to consider our own cities in a new way? Which cities might cause us to consider a fresh start, due to an unconventional approach to creativity?

Introducing the WeTransfer Emerging Creative Hubs Index.

The cities who’ve reached creative critical mass

Atlanta, Madison and Norfolk claimed the coveted prize in 2022, sitting as the top three cities in our inaugural Emerging Creative Hubs Index. While this year’s project was focused on the United States, there’s no telling where it could take us next.

Here’s a breakdown of our methodology

Okay, very cool index. But there are quite a few creative hubs in these United States of America. How did we decide which cities made the list?

Ocean View Beach in NorfolkPhotography by Nate Ryan

Our initial list of potential creative hubs was derived from WeTransfer product usage across the United States. Our team looked at where people were using our products, aggregated by location, and analyzed both the number of users and the actions they took in their respective cities in 2020.

Next, with 26 potential creative hubs identified for consideration, we scored each hub for emergence by looking at six key data points: overall hub size, the growth rate in creative jobs, revenue growth in the creative industry, growth in WeTransfer product usage, the growth rate of new startups, and the number of new B-Corps in the city.

And finally, with ten creative hubs prioritized, we analyzed each city through the lens of five key factors our research showed were most important to creative professionals. Each factor, scored on a five point scale, was weighted based on importance while creative hubs’ scores were aggregated across factors.

  1. 1. The Cost of Inspiration Factor

    It’s hard to feel a sense of creativity when you’ve been priced out of finding inspiration in the first place. From the cost of an enlightening cup of coffee, to attendance at a stimulating exhibit from the local museum—cities must be affordable for all to discover what propels their creativity forward.
  2. 2. The Activism Energy Factor

    The intersection of creativity and activism are two fields defined by a shared focus — creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships, and creates new paradigms. Cities hold the key to collaborative action, bringing people together to push the world forward.
  3. 3. The City Serendipity Factor

    Chance leads to the possibility of new behaviors, new collaborators, new passions, and new ideas. Inspiring cities are serendipitous cities, forever sparking creativity in citizens by the abundance of wonders that the city continues to reveal to them.
  4. 4. The Welcome Mat Factor

    For creative professionals to give themselves over to creative impulses, they must first feel comfortable and safe enough to create. Anyone living in a city must feel integrated and be welcomed by city leadership in order to thrive—for underrepresented creatives, this matters even more.
  5. 5. The Greenspace Mindspace Factor

    The enjoyment (and protection) of fresh air, wide-sprawling parks, and blue skies is essential to improving the mental and physical well-being of creative professionals. Nature tends to center the soul, helping creative professionals pause long enough to feel creativity’s tug again.

Find the right creative hub for you

Ten cities, ten emerging creative hubs, and ten potential places to lay your creative head on a pillow. Take our quiz to find out which city makes sense for you.

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