What is Sheffield’s USP?

What should we be known for?

@DarrenBristow from Sheffield design agency Quba tweeted a question yesterday: Sheffield is a rich city , but what is it’s USP? What would you like it to be known for?

I always thought that in terms of money, Sheffield was quite a poor place. But we have plenty of non-monetary wealth. It is hard to avoid the cliches but Sheffield has a strong tradition of creativity and innovation but without being pretentious and unfriendly. We don’t like show offs but most people that live here would agree that there is something special about the place.

Richard Benjamin, the managing director of local creative agency Uber, recently penned a piece for marketing/creative publication The Drum, arguing for Sheffield as one of the most creative cities in the UK. Read a cached version here (you have to register on the site for the original).

It echoes Tom Keeley’s foreward from the Disordered haste Electric works launch booklet.

Whether you have been in the city all your life or just moved here, what do you think? What would you tell Darren in response to his question?

Sheffield’s helter skelter office

Opening night at the Electric works

On Friday it was the launch party for the city’s most high-profile office building, the Electric works in the Sheffield digital campus.

Guests were able to tour the building, view a design exhibition and play Wii, as well as enjoy a drink from the sky bar (with not-so-panoramic city views) and of course try the helter skelter.

The organisers were also giving out copies of Disordered haste, a booklet featuring a foreward by Tom Keeley. He writes about how Sheffield’s character has bred a culture of exoticism and the offbeat. Here is an extract:

This city doesn’t do the self-mythologising that you get the other side of the hills. There’s never a swagger or ego. It just gets on with it. Constantly producing, creating, with a sense of pride.

Although the new digital campus is providing more top class modern office accommodation for Sheffield, it has left pop culture magazine Article unimpressed. In a piece published over the weekend it critisises all the bland, empty offices that are being built in the city centre and asks why we need them when there are so many spaces that are unused and emptying.

The digital campus is obviously opening at a difficult time but, as the low-quality camera phone photos below hint, I think it does offer something relatively distinctive as an office – even if the high rents and low number of current tenants indicate that businesses are paying a premium for this.

In the future Sheffield does need to continue to improve its offering – without of course a swagger or an ego – if it is to develop. So the decision to build it is the right one, regardless of vacant lower quality office space in the city.

And as Tom’s foreward explains, the new buildings are just part of Sheffield’s development:

This post-industrial economy is more than just modern office buildings, it’s about changing the way we work. Flexible, responsive and engaging – like the city around it. So is Electric works. Not only an office, but a space to meet, think and make.

When the economy picks up, developments like the digital campus will surely put the city in a good position for further growth in this sector.

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