The UK’s top 50 graphic design studios revealed

The London-based design practice offers branding, graphic design, copywriting, strategy and art direction services. Pentagram’s unique approach also ensures it’s always ahead of the curve. Backed up by an international team boasting diverse skillsets in interactive marketing, media strategy and design, Anomaly is set to lead the change. “We have a lovely studio space, which is light and quiet to work in,” she continues. experience, Morag Myerscough has continued to transform spaces the length and breadth of the UK this year with her bold graphic signature. Love believes that design sits at the core of brand success, and seeks to develop visionary solutions that drive conversation and engagement for global brands. “Consistent equals predictable, patronising, repetitive, dull. Sennep
Macmillan app branding by SennepFounded:   2003
Location:   Shoreditch, London
Staff:   UK: 14
Creative roles:   60%
Sennep creative director Matt Rice describes the studio’s inclusion on the list as a “lovely pat on the back” for his diligent team, who keep their heads down creating clean, crisp design in an environment that he describes as “friendly, relaxed but focused.”
Never happy to “settle for 98 per cent”, Rice isn’t afraid to start again if necessary in order to craft the perfect solution. And while it may have an underlying approach to its projects, it doesn’t restrict itself to a particular aesthetic; neither does it have a specific manifesto. Turner Duckworth
Turner Duckworth’s visual identity for UprootFounded:   1992
Location:   Chiswick, London; also San Francisco
Staff:   UK: 28; global: 70
Creative roles:   75%
As well as mixing up projects with large and small clients, Turner Duckworth finds success in mixing and moving its creative talents too. “We have little time for self-promotion – our work is   our self-promotion,” asserts Cartlidge. The members of our 2014 judging panel also considered the following studios to be outstanding contributors to the UK creative industry this year. Saffron Brand Consultants
Studios: London, Madrid, New York, Miami, Istanbul, Vienna, Mumbai
Saffron has a strong “one-office” philosophy and operating model. Made Thought
Brand mark and packaging for Tom Dixon on the new Eclectic rangeFounded: 2000
Location: Fitzrovia, London
Staff: 18
Creative roles: 88%
Made Thought co-founder Ben Parker reaches for a   Brian Wilson quote to express his studio’s mantra: ‘Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you’ll suck forever.’
Four key principles lie at the heart of everything the Fitzrovia-based studio does:   firstly, a balance between style, concept and function; secondly, a brave, risk-taking approach that doesn’t just rely on research and strategy. The pair focus on bespoke typography, image-making and visual identity across a diverse range of sectors, creating work with intelligence, visual ingenuity and meticulous craft. Designers Anonymous
Studio: London
Founded by Darren Barber and Christian Eager, Designers Anonymous is an award-winning agency that boasts close relationships with its clients, which include Carlsberg, 20th Century Fox and Tate Gallery. “Over the last 20   years, our efforts have been for one thing – to make beautiful, memorable work,” they say. “We care a great deal about what we do, and   we’re willing to go the extra mile to make things   work. Print, branding, typography, motion and public art all come under the studio’s remit. 27. Here, listed alphabetically, are 2014’s top 36-50 UK studios… Its work was shortlisted for Designs of the Year at the Design Museum in 2011 and appeared in Time Magazine’s Top 10 of Everything 2010. Clients include Cartoon Network, Warner Bros and Disney. Made By Many
Made By Many redesigned the ITV News websiteFounded: 2007Locations: Islington, London; also   New YorkNumber of staff: UK: 44; Global: 54Creative roles: 90%
Made By Many helps big companies act like small ones. We   have lots of projects on, and we all get   on well as a group,” he explains. “Mind you, we’ve been here for 40-odd years so I guess we’ve turned up on a lot of people’s radar.”
03. “We move our designers around to stop them getting in a rut,” says creative director Bruce Duckworth, who co-founded the agency 22 years ago with partner David Turner. Anomaly
Studios: New York, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Shanghai
The globally acclaimed Anomaly bills itself as a “new model agency” in response to the idea that the old agency models are broken and traditional solutions are becoming less effective. GBH
The Verb logo by GBHFounded: 1999
Location: Chiswick, London
Staff: 18
Creative roles: 80%
With co-founder Mark Bonner recently appointed president of DAD, Gregory Bonner Hale packs considerable punch on the UK design scene – and proudly occupies the fertile space between the traditional disciplines of design, advertising and digital. Moving Brands
Moving Brands’ Google branding, in conjunction with SonosFounded: 1998
Location: Hoxton, London; also Zürich, San Francisco and New York
Staff: UK: 50; global: 80
Creative roles: Not disclosed
Independent with massive global clients, Moving Brands is all about creativity for the moving world, and “no dickheads”. 30. “It’s much nicer to hear that, than to hear we’ve won an award,” says the studio. The studio is responsible for a wealth of striking and innovative identities for the likes of RAC, The Royal Mint and Carat, and – as our survey shows – remains as highly thought of today as it was in the mid 90s. Golden Wolf
Studio: London
Golden Wolf is a passionate and prolific animation studio based in Shoreditch. “Our intention is to be creatively fulfilled doing purely commercial work for mainstream clients,” says co-founder Mike Alderson. “We always try to push our clients to the most interesting solution that works for them,” says co-founder Andy Altmann. North
Studio: London
Sean Perkins launched North in 1995. Human After All
Human After All’s World Economic Forum 2014 agenda reportFounded: 2005
Location: Shoreditch, London
Number of staff: UK: 16
Creative roles: 100%
Since rebranding in 2013 as Human After All, the London-based creative agency – which previously operated as part of The Church of London – has been carving a global reputation with innovative projects for the likes of Google, Facebook and BAFTA. DesignStudio
DesignStudio worked with Airbnb in a year-long project to create a top-to-bottom transformation of the Airbnb brandDesignStudio was founded in 2009 by designers Ben Wright and Paul Stafford to fill the gap in the creative industry between small boutiques and sprawling design firms. “To say you’re unique is a pretty self-centred attitude,” believes co-founder Tim Beard. But the studio’s ambition is anything but small. ManvsMachine
ManvsMachine set out to create a film channel for Film 4, covering all on-air aspects of the brand from idents to OSP and beyond.Founded: 2007
Location: Haggerston, London
Staff: UK: 20
Creative roles: 90%
When you have Microsoft asking you to work on its Xbox brand refresh and Nike falling at your feet, it’s safe to say you’re doing something right. Why Not Associates
Why Not Associates’ collaborative prints with Charming BakerFor over 25 years, London-based graphic design company Why Not Associates has been busy crafting a diverse portfolio, from museum exhibitions for the VA to motion projects for Channel 4 and beyond. Wolff Olins
The Space by Wolff OlinsFounded: 1965
Location: Kings Cross, London
Staff: UK: 90; global: 150
Creative roles: 30%
Founded in London seven years before Pentagram – “exact date unknown, it was the 60s!” grins marketing director Krisana Jaritsat – Omnicom-owned Wolff Olins has the longest heritage of any of the agencies on our list, and is still widely respected by its peers. The team of 12 tries to be as democratic as possible: “We have regular crits through the week with the partners,” reveals Finney. Over the past 20 years, Tony Brook and Patricia Finegan’s multidisciplined design studio has developed a stunning portfolio of work across branding, publishing, motion, digital and more. People often ask for consistency, but what they need is coherent thinking. 04. “We learn about the world through our work,” says creative director Caz Hildebrand. To be included among the top UK ideas and design companies is a humbling achievement.”

Watch the whole series. The studio launched in Belfast in 2005, and since then has been busy crafting experiences that people want to talk about, share and engage with. Magpie
Magpie’s Mind and Movement brandingFounded:   2008
Location:   Shoreditch, London
Staff:   UK: 8
Creative roles:   65%
  A relative youngster in this list, Magpie has recently worked on projects as diverse as real ale festival London’s Brewing, and the brand creation of Zizu, a company launching a product to help safeguard children’s posture. The 30-strong team of   strategists, designers and account handlers craft award-winning branding, digital and live experience work for clients ranging from super brands to start-ups. Love
Studios: Manchester, London
Love is a design-led agency that takes an integrated approach to storytelling, utilising advertising, branding, digital and experiential to meet its clients’ aims. It’s rarely in the   public eye, but GTF was name-checked time and time again by our panel. “We don’t think in terms of ‘disciplines’, we’re in our element when we begin a project with a big view of what’s possible, and what we’re allowed to bring to it.”
Is there a secret to their success? “We’re   not believers in spouting lots of words – we let the work do the talking.”

Watch the whole series. AKQA
Nike RISE, by AKQAFounded: 1994
Locations: Farringdon, London; also   Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Gurgaon, NYC, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Tokyo and Washington DC
Number of staff: UK: 400; Global: 1,600
Creative roles: Undisclosed
AKQA won the 2014 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Innovation. “We’ve always believed this quote from Ash Maurya sums up our company very well: ‘Life is too short to make things no-one wants’,” explains co-founder Isaac Pinnock. “I wouldn’t say it’s the place to work if you want an easy ride,” Stevenson laughs. 26. Sawdust
Studio: London
Sawdust is the award-winning creative partnership of Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton. “Our commitment, passion and attention to detail borders on the obsessive,” they confess. Cartlidge Levene
Training Pool Changing Village signage at London Aquatics CentreFounded: 1987
Location: Shoreditch, London
Number of staff: UK: 5
Creative roles: 100%
For over 37 years, the small but perfectly formed studio founded by Ian Cartlidge and Adam Levene has been creating clean, elegant and modernist environmental graphics for a wide range of clients, most recently including   the RCA, Tate Modern and London Aquatics Centre. You can now subscribe to both the premium print edition and fully-interactive iPad edition in one heavily discounted bundle deal. “By Friday we’re ready for drinks, quizzes, games, table-tennis and storytelling.”
12. SomeOne
SomeOne is the new lead brand partner of Cancer Research UKCentrally located in Shoreditch’s Silicon roundabout, SomeOne is an award-winning design practice that cuts out the middleman between creative and client. Venturing into new territory has worked well for Magpie, with its recent education pact and exhibition Mind and Movement winning the studio a DAD Yellow pencil. Working out of London and San Francisco, the team work across branding, art direction, digital and motion with the aim of bringing bespoke solutions to global brands and audiences. A 2014 highlight so far has been the Boys Noize/ Skrillex music video Dog Blood: “We went balls to the wall on the graphic approach and animation techniques,” adds Graham. Johnson Banks
Disaster Emergency Committee branding by Johnson BanksFounded: 1992
Location: Clapham, London
Staff: 10
Creative roles: 60%
According to founder Michael Johnson, johnson banks began with a simple goal to find “unique answers to the most interesting problems” – but went on to develop a fascination with the social impact of design, counting many charity and cultural institutions among its clients. Pentagram
London Design Festival guide by PentagramFounded: 1972
Location: Notting Hill, London; also New York, San Francisco, Austin and Berlin
Staff: UK: 60; global: 170
Creative roles: 70%
Founded in London by Alan Fletcher, Colin Forbes, Theo Crosby, Kenneth Grange and Mervyn Kurlansk in 1972, Pentagram is the grandfather of design agencies. “Our aesthetic is simply the imaginative application of art and science to create beautiful ideas, products and services. 36-50 top UK studios in 2014… It boasts a top-notch roster of clients with true design pedigree, such as Kvadrat, Vitra and Frieze Art Fair. Save 61% with a print and iPad edition bundle subscription to CA! “Our goal is to remove the friction from life by creating work with worth and purpose,” says chief creative officer James Hilton. “We’re nice, and a bit nerdy,” says its executive creative director Matt Heinl. “We’re a lawsuit waiting to happen when it comes to our after-hours activities.”
33. We do that.”
“We’re a dysfunctional family that functions exceptionally well as an ambitious and progressive design practice,” he continues. Here
Here redesigned the Bacardi brand identity, creating a new bat icon based on some early logos and the anatomy of the Cuban fruit bat.Founded:   2005
Location:   London Fields, London
Staff:   UK: 20
Creative roles:   75%
At Here Design, inquisitiveness is essential. “The vibe is hardworking and fun – hopefully a place where individuals feel supported and valued,” say Simpson and Beardsell. APFEL
APFEL’s Other Primary Structures designFounded: 2003
Location: Bethnal Green, London
Number of staff: UK: 6
Creative roles: 67%
“Our work reflects a thought process rather than a   preconceived style. Jason Gregory, Mark Bonner and Peter Hale have come a long way since they studied together in   the   early ’90s. “Our aim is to be the defining digital product studio by launching valuable products, services and companies that make a measurable difference to the world,” says global design director Joe Macleod. 25. Founded in 2013 as a sister company to leading design studio   ilovedust, it specialises in imaginative animation and motion graphics. With studios in London and San Francisco, job swaps are popular in the Leo Burnett-owned agency. “The quality and   intelligence of our work is paramount, and it’s very rewarding that this is being recognised.”
He describes the vibe at Cartlidge Levene as “informal, relaxed and creative”, but with a hard-working ethic and impeccable standards that the five-man team refuses to compromise on. “We pride ourselves on being bold, lucid and original, and keep these qualities front of   mind,” explains co-founder Jonathan Ford. At its heart is a tightly knit creative team who work in a relaxed atmosphere and have the freedom to explore design solutions in their own way. 29. 01. “We always try to give each client something distinctive,” he continues. Mark Studio
Studio: Manchester
Mark is an independent branding and graphic design studio. Co-founded by designers Kirsty Carter and Emma Thomas, A Practice For Everyday Life has carved a name for itself in the British design scene – excelling particularly in the cultural sector. The WPP-owned agency has a legacy quote that keeps the team focused: “We ask, ‘Are we the most creative agency in the world, or a bunch of   fucking wankers?’ It’s unachievable, but that’s the point, if it were easy it wouldn’t be a challenge,” smiles Quinton. Moving brands’ ‘nerds’ are a varied bunch to boot: ‘”Our staff are from different backgrounds in terms of education, experience and geography,” adds Heinl, “and that brings a real sense of open-mindedness.”
11. Just this year, the studio’s XBox Glitch campaign was the first of its kind to integrate TV commercials and web content, utilising a knack for innovative storytelling and high-concept design. 06. Spin
Spin’s Type Plus bookFounded: 1992Location: Kennington, LondonNumber of staff: UK: 9Creative roles: 70%
“We see every project as an opportunity to make something apposite, unique and special,” says Spin senior designer Sam Stevenson. Based near the Peak District, Pyke and his core team of five look for creative inspiration outside the design world, in disruptive technology, anthropology, even campanology. Words: Tim Hardwick
Huge thanks to all the 60 panel members for their input, and of course congratulations to the final 30 – find out who they are tomorrow in Computer Arts issue 233. 19. We hope our output might generally ‘feel’ like a GTF project, rather than look like one.”
02. UK Government Digital Services
Studio: Cabinet Office, London
Although not a traditional studio, the Government Digital Services team operates like an in-house agency within government. “Projects benefit from enthusiasm, interest and perspective. “We don’t have tantrums when we aren’t allowed to run a font at 6pt or use a fourth spot-colour on a print job,” he laughs. Pearlfisher
The Guild brandingFounded: 1992
Location: Hammersmith, London; also New York
Number of staff: UK: 55; Global: 85
Creative roles: 69%
Pearlfisher operates three fully integrated studios – dedicated to Futures, Strategy and Design – in London and New York, working across branding, packaging, spatial design, animation and everything in between. “But   we also need to be accountable, and justify the   marks that we make,” he continues. We have an underlying approach, but not a style. Co-founders Nick Finney, Alan Dye and Ben Stott’s arsenal of creative tools is fittingly eclectic, even including weekly group yoga. “We have a strong team of creative minds,” explain the studio. Future Deluxe
Studios: London, Brighton
Future Deluxe is an experimental creative studio driven by research, technology, and the pursuit of new aesthetics and techniques. ilovedust
ilovedust collaborated with sister company Golden Wolf on eye-popping music video Dog BloodFounded:   2004
Location:   Southsea, Hampshire
Staff:   UK: 22
Creative roles:   75%
Detail, craft and a strong sense of narrative are the threads that bind ilovedust’s diverse folio together. There’s   an open and collaborative culture: we’re all   interested, involved and have input – and often go to exhibitions or events together in the evening.”
28. Its global team of strategists, designers and account managers work as a coherent team across its different offices to bring the best of its knowledge, skills and experience to its clients, wherever they are in the world. Graphic Thought Facility
Design Cities for The Design Museum, by Graphic Thought FacilityFounded: 1990
Location: Farringdon, London
Staff: 12
Creative roles: 83%
Pushing one of the world’s most famous design agencies into second place is a small studio   that has quietly been creating stylish, considered work for almost a quarter of a century. Stranger and Stranger
DonPapa Rum brandingFounded:   1994
Locations:   Farringdon, London; also New York and San Francisco
Staff:   UK: 13; global: 25
Creative roles:   60%
Packaging and branding design firm Stranger Stranger has been “super specialised” for a long time. This is unique in our industry.”
So how does it feel to be selected by a panel of creative directors as one of the UK’s best? Purpose
Sin SerifFounded: 2003
Location: Marylebone, London
Number of staff: UK: 30
Creative roles: 65%
‘Design with substance’ is the motto at Marylebone-based design studio Purpose. “The more we understand, the better our design work can be.”
It’s an approach the studio uses to great effect with global clients such as Bacardi, when exploring its heritage and authenticity for a recent rebrand – but Here also saves time for passion projects such as the Geometry of Pasta, the studio’s very own brand of pasta and sauces. In short: the 50 world-class studios on this list are here because their fellow designers think they should be. “It’s very flattering, of course,” says Hyland. Let us know in the Comments below… “We merge high-end design and polish with the ability to solve very complex and seemingly impossible creative propositions,” says B-Reel’s Lins Karnes. Watch the whole series. Its work covers CG, moving image, interaction, design and film production, and serves a wide range of industries, from fashion to technology, music and entertainment. “We foster a can-do spirit. The GDS helps government make digital services and information simpler, clearer and faster, and puts users’ needs before the needs of government. 05. Eschewing trends or corporate cash cows, its focus is on conceptual, ideas-driven design. “It’s good to   get the recognition of friends, but most of all it’s a great way to attract new talent,” asserts creative director Chris Moody.”Perhaps the reason we still feel relevant is because we keep bringing in new people with new ideas.”
At its heart is a collaborative spirit and commitment to human-centred design: “The work only works if it works for real people,” adds Moody. Watch the whole series. Since 2005 the firm has focused on launching, relaunching and protecting products, services and organisations worldwide, while growing from a team of three to 33. It develops out of questions, and responds to the content and context of a project,” says APFEL studio manager Anna Lisa Reynolds. Our people – their passion, commitment and belief – are core to our success,” says co-founder and creative director Stuart Youngs. Studio AKA
Studio: London
Studio AKA is a multi-BAFTA winning and Oscar-nominated independent animation studio, known internationally for its idiosyncratic and innovative work, which is expressed across an eclectic range of projects. 16. Rose
Rose’s Labyrinth – Mark Wallinger, for Art on the UndergroundFounded: 1999
Location: Rotherhithe, London
Number of staff: UK: 10
Creative roles: 80%
Rose specialises in creating, developing and maintaining world-class brands. It’s a sentiment that’s recently seen the agency work on campaigns for Google Play and Sonos, and most recently BBC iPlayer. The past 12 months have seen the 10-person agency bestowed with a swathe of industry accolades, including a silver award for DAD’s Most Awarded Design Agency 2014. Mark likes to keep things simple, works hard to understand a client’s business and what makes it different, and works harder still to communicate that difference in the most engaging and effective way. Universal Everything
Polyfauna: a series of audio-visual presentations by Universal EverythingFounded: 2004
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Staff: UK: 5; global: 6
Creative roles: 70%
In the last decade Universal Everything has maintained an unorthodox approach, “to how the studio works (a remote network of collaborators), where we are based (Sheffield) and what we do (something between design, art and film),” says founder Matt Pyke. We have good taste, but don’t necessarily worry about needing to make work in good taste. It’s the outcomes that are different.”
If there is one thing that defines Bibliotheque, however, it’s perfectionism: “We’re constantly pushing to make things better,” concludes Beard. With a culture of quality and ‘failing fast’, co-founders John ‘Sinx’ Sinclair and Matt ‘Mills’ Miller have created a sizable studio that feels like “a   post apocalyptic art college, encouraging people to do the unexpected, the challenging and the surprising.”
10. “It’s an insanely cool video – one that can make your nose bleed.”

Updated: 13.11.2014 — 15:07