The top 20 US design studios of 2018

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Whether you’re looking for somewhere to work or just some case-study inspiration, the United States has plenty of world-class design studios to choose from. 

In this post, we’ve gathered together 20 of the best design agencies of the present day. Some are huge global players, some are small and niche, and most are somewhere in-between. But all are known for their stellar work, their big-name clients and their original, innovative approaches to design problems.

01. Pentagram New York 

Pentagram is one of the world’s biggest names in branding and design

Independently owned, global design studio Pentagram was founded in London in 1972. But its uniquely decentralised structure means its New York office, which recently moved to Park Avenue South, is its own entity. 

Launched back in 1980 by Colin Forbes, one of the original UK founders, the studio is behind some of the world's famous visual identities, including MasterCard, Windows, The MoMA, and Verizon. 

There are eight partners in the Manhattan office, including well-known names like Michael Beirut, Paula Scher and Emily Obermann, and each runs an essentially autonomous operation. Recent projects include identities for the superhero movie Justice League, pan-European sports channel Eurosport, and the new Federal Films division of Republic Records.

02. Sagmeister & Walsh

A New York Times Magazine cover featuring pink text

Sagmeister & Walsh’s work always makes a big impact

Sagmeister & Walsh is a boutique design studio in New York with just a little touch of magic about it. The studio's most recent iteration launched in 2012, when Austrian-born Stefan Sagmeister promoted his employee of two years Jessica Walsh to partner.

It’s a full-service studio creating strategy, design and production for big commercial clients, as well as arts organisations, publishers, musicians and non-profits. They’re also known for some pretty quirky side projects of their own. 

Above all, S&W’s work is consistently attention-grabbing, stunningly original and achingly hip; lighting the way for those who believe that corporate work doesn’t have to mean bland conformity. 

Recent projects include an innovative visual identity for fashion brand Milly’s; ‘Ladies, Wine Design’, an initiative aimed to foster creative women; and a special cover for the New York Times Magazine themed around Donald Trump’s inauguration.

03. Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

This New York studio holds legendary status in the design community

Iconic US design firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv holds legendary status in the world of trademarks and branding. Founded as Chermayeff & Geismar in 1957, by Yale graduates Ivan Chermayeff – who sadly passed away in 2017 –and Tom Geismar, the design agency has created logos for the likes of NBC, Mobil Oil, New York University, The Museum of Modern Art, Xerox and National Geographic. 

Recent projects include a major monograph, Identity and logos for the ‘Leonard Bernstein at 100’ celebrations; ClearMotion, a next-generation suspension system for cars and trucks; and the Oceano Azul Foundation, which is dedicated to sustainable oceans. 

04. Landor 

Landor is known for both its top-class work and its influential industry reports

Headquartered in San Francisco, Landor is one of the world’s biggest and most influential brand consulting firms. Founded in 1941 by Walter Landor, Landor now has 26 offices in 20 countries. 

It’s been a member of WPP, the world's largest marketing and communications firm, since 1989, and is known for its annual brand trends reports. Clients include the likes of Alaska Airlines, FedEx, General Electric, Huawei and Sony.

Recent projects include the branding of new companies including the financial powerhouse S&P Global, formerly McGraw Hill, and Covestro, a multibillion dollar spin-off from Bayer’s materials science division. 

05. Meta Design 

MetaDesign has spread the design principles of Erik Spiekermann and co across three continents

MetaDesign is an international design consultancy founded by Erik Spiekermann. Uli Mayer-Johanssen and Hans Ch. Krüger in Berlin in 1979. Its San Francisco office was established in 1992 around Bill Hill and Terry Irwin, and the company, a member of Publicis Communications, now also has branches across three continents.

Among the most visible engagements for MetaDesign in the US in 2017 included a logo redesign for Japanese food corporation Ajinomoto, and the launch of the Loggly brand, a cloud-based log management and analytics service. The studio has also been working on website redesign engagements for UCSF and San Francisco City Clinic.

06. Huge 

Huge has made a big name for itself in digital design

Headquartered in Brooklyn, Huge is a digitally focused studio providing a range of strategy, marketing, design and technology services. Founded in 1999, it now also has offices in 14 countries worldwide. 

Huge is well named, in terms of corporate influence at least. Its client list covers nearly 20 percent of the Fortune 100 and includes the likes of Coca-Cola, Google, Unilever and Nike.

Highlights for the studio in 2017 included winning McDonald’s global UX account, a global campaign for LG’s V30 phone, and the announcement of a new office in Chicago for 2018.

07. Firstborn 

Firstborn was one of the early pioneers of online design and branding

Firstborn is a creative agency headquartered in New York. Founded in 1997, it focuses on delivering a wide range of digital services for big-fish clients such as L’Oréal, Mountain Dew, Bloomberg, Jet and Supercell.

The medium-sized studio is a part of the global network of Isobar, as well as the Dentsu Aegis Network, a subsidiary of Dentsu Inc.

2017 was a typically strong year for Firstborn, in which it became digital AOR for Pepsi and digital consultant for S&P Global; designed a new consumer channel for health brand Nature’s Bounty; and masterminded an Instagram series for a new Adidas shoe launch.

08. House Industries 

House Industries combines the physical and the digital to create original and innovative work

Founded in 1993 by Andy Cruz and Rich Roat, House Industries is a foundry and design studio based in Delaware. With one foot in physical design and one in digital, its offering centres around traditional skills in drawing, painting, and lettering.

This studio’s client list includes Hermès, The New Yorker, Lego and Disney, and its work is in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

2017 highlights for House Industries included a show at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and the release of its tongue-in-cheek self-help book, ‘House Industries: The Process of Inspiration’.

09. The Office of Paul Sahre 

The Office of Paul Sahre deliberate shuns the idea of specialisation

The Office of Paul Sahre is a design consultancy based in New York City, launched in 1997 by the eponymous designer, who purposely abstains from specialisation in favour of a problem solving approach that can take any form or function. One famous example was a monster truck-style hearse built for the band They Might Be Giants. 

Other past clients have include The New York Times, Google Creative Labs, This American Life, Simon and Schuster Aids and Marvel Comics. The big 2017 highlight for Sahre was completing his monograph, Two-Dimensional Man: A Graphic Memoir, which documents his three decades of work as a designer.

10. Happy Cog 

Happy Cog has long been a thought leader in the web design community

Born in 1999, during the early ‘wild west’ days of the internet, Happy Cog has built a solid reputation within the design community for its promotion of common web standards and, more recently, responsive design.

Based in Philadelphia, the agency continues to design award-winning websites, digital products and experiences for nonprofits, higher education, media companies, and global brands. 

Notable projects in 2017 included a new design language for materials science company Gore-Tx and a digital redesign for wedding attire company David’s Bridal.

Next page: 11-20 top US design studios