- Text Clara Malley
- Design Aodan Reddy
For the past two years, Ask Gen Z, D1A’s youth insights arm, has been an online hub for clients and our extended community—unpacking the real trends shaping culture and learning what’s next for Gen Z from Gen Z. A few weeks ago, we took the platform IRL for the first time with our new Ask Gen Z Dinner Series.
In collaboration with Casey Lewis—Gen Z insights consultant and founder of After School, a newsletter on trends and youth culture—we hosted D1A clients, next-gen creatives and entrepreneurs and media from some of our favorite outlets. They all came together for conversation and to foster new connections.
It wouldn’t be an Ask Gen Z dinner without questions. Our guests dropped their q’s in our stickered-up question box (shout out to the D1A design team) and wrote their hottest New York takes with crayons on paper-covered tables: for instance, what is the “least gnarly beach in the NY area?”
We also asked D1A’s very own Ask Gen Z panel to weigh in on some of the topics that we chatted about on site—tap in here to see all the responses. However, we were eager to dive even deeper into the main themes that emerged from our conversations that night.
First, how does Gen Z define their creative ambition? We hosted creatives and entrepreneurs across industries—photographers, writers, musicians and stylists—and we were curious to get a wider understanding of how Gen Zers view their creative trajectories.
Second, is it still “New York or nowhere” for Gen Z? Aside from the insidery chatter that we and our Gen Z guests recall—last year’s spate of chatter around memefied/TikTokified neighborhoods and “hipster wars”—do Gen Zers outside of New York still look to the city as a cultural and creative hub?
We gathered some insight on both of these questions in an Ask Gen Z survey with DCDX, a Gen Z consultancy with a network of more than 100,000 Gen Zers on Instagram who answer open-ended and poll questions via replies to IG Stories.
1Does Gen Z think New York City is the place to be young and creative?
2Which creative ambition got the most votes from Gen Z?
New York City is the place to be young and creative. Agree/disagree and why?
Gen Z respondents said yes—and no. They’re still weighing the pros and cons of in-person networking and creative opportunity with the freedom and access of remote work online. By and large, the votes “for” called out the wealth of opportunity and acceptance the city is famous for, while votes against cited (entirely justified) callouts on rent prices and the cost of living. There were also some interesting points about social media and the rise of “work from anywhere” roles that have changed the game for Gen Z creatives: “with how connected the world is you can be creative from anywhere,” one response read.
Jury’s still out for our Gen Z dinner guests as well; we reached out to a few of them to get their take on our questions.
I agree and disagree because to be young in New York is to be susceptible to every kind of energy available, the good and the bad. To be surrounded by all of these creatives not only pushes you further than you ever imagined, but it will make sure it is something you truly want to do.- CJ Hart, Photographer
Disagree. I love NYC — I grew up here and it’s my home — but it’s becoming an incredibly inhospitable place for young creatives who can’t afford the insane cost of living here.- Alex Pauly, Beauty editor at Highsnobiety
How does Gen Z describe their creative ambition?
Over 80% of Gen Zers polled identified as having a creative ambition of some kind, whether by actioning change through social impact work (31.8%), working as a content creator (26.5%) or going big on their own as an entrepreneur (22.12%). Other recent headlines have also cited polls indicating Gen Z’s content creator ambitions and desire to do work that aligns with causes they care about. These goals are worth bearing in mind as more Gen Z employees begin to enter the workforce. The next-gen might be looking for creative and socially-impactful opportunities than previous generations, even in addition to their 9-to-5.
I would describe my creative ambition as something that was learned but also, as something that has always been in me. My family [members] aren't creatives in the traditional sense but observing my Jamaican family create a beautiful life out of thin air was all the evidence I needed to know that my creative ambition is hereditary. I use my creative outlets to create the life I want to live and to shape the life of others.- CJ Hart, Photographer
Expansive. There are so many things that I’m passionate about and I have no idea where my ambitions will take me.- Alex Pauly, Beauty editor at Highsnobiety
One of the benefits of IRL events is the ability to bring together diverse Gen Z perspectives to spark questions we hadn’t thought of before. We look forward to continuing the conversation around how the next gen approaches their creative path—and where they’re looking to do it—at future Ask Gen Z Dinner Series events, coming soon to a city near you.