The UK's top 4 design studios revealed

Find out which design studios made the top of the list in Computer Arts' prestigious UK Studio Rankings 2015.

Earlier this year, Computer Arts polled almost 70 top designers, creative directors and studio founders across the UK to discover which industry peers they most revere, respect and in some cases envy, to produce the second annual UK Studio Rankings.

The results are detailed in Computer Arts issue 246 alongside a wealth of insight and advice from each of the top 30 studios, plus a host of statistics that will be helpful whether you're a freelancer for hire, designer looking for a salaried job or student seeking an internship.

We previously revealed 9-5 on the list: here we reveal numbers 4-1. Has your studio been honoured?

04. ManvsMachine

Film4’s idents were conceived, designed and directed by ManvsMachine
  • Founded: 2007
  • Location: Haggerston, East London

ManvsMachine’s biggest strength, according to co-founder and creative director Mike Alderson, is that: "Everyone here is amazing at what they do, but no-one takes themselves too seriously." It's an approach that won them D&AD Black Pencil and Seven Cannes Lions in 2015. Other highlights of the year include "seeing existing clients continue to come back with renewed enthusiam," adds Alderson. "Because this means we’re (probably) not douche-bags."

Recruitment-wise, they don’t usually look to fill predetermined creative positions. "We look for exceptional talent who will happily contribute to the team whilst defining their exact role or specialism. Age or qualifications don’t really come in to it," says Alderson.

03. Graphic Thought Facility

A new London campus for Hult International Business School
  • Founded: 1990
  • Location: Clerkenwell, London

"Having never really entered awards, it’s particularly flattering that this recognition comes from our peers, says Huw Morgan, partner at Graphic Thought Facility. "Being nominated was very helpful in explaining to my mum exactly what we do."

He list the many highlights of 2015 for the studio. "MDR (Modern Design Review) a magazine we design and art-direct, being nominated for Designs of the Year. The inaugural Photo London and seeing its opportunities for an identity that worked in campaigns, marketing, publishing and environmental graphics. The Hult Business School launch (pictured). Seeing the multiple and unique covers for The Art of Typewriting (an compilation of a single collectors of typewriter art collection) and the Dior by Richard Avedon book reaching fruition."

He believes the UK design industry is in a great state at the moment. "There seems to an insatiable desire to be in London — most applications we get come from foreign graduates — and at the very least this must be some gauge to a creative buoyancy. I hope it’s sustainable."

02. Magpie

Magpie’s work for VR project City Three Peaks
  • Founded: 2008
  • Location: Brick Lane, London

How does it feel to be voted by your peers as one of the UK’s top 30 studios in 2015? "It feels great!" says Ben Christie founder + creative partner. Nothing better than to be respected by those you respect."

2015 has been a big year for Magpie, in which it's moved to a new studio and area, won a D&AD Yellow Pencil for the fourth year running and had great success with the work they've done with Morgans. "It’s been a massive challenge for the studio but it’s been worth it," says Christie. "And it’s opened new doors for us, left, right and centre."

It’s a great time for the industry as a whole, Christie believes. "Following the success of Apple, a switch has been flicked. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the commercial value of creative thinking at not just brand, but board level. Steve Jobs really did us all a huge favour there."

Want to work there? Then understand that at Magpie, personality is really important. "We’re always keen to have people in for a while before employing them. We offer internships for two to four weeks that then get extended if we like people. And we generally up their money after a few weeks. In terms of jobs, every one of our juniors has made a job for themselves, rather than applying for a job. I don’t think we’ve ever advertised for a junior."

01. Made Thought

The Collection by G.F Smith
  • Founded: 2000
  • Location: Fitzrovia, London

"Good design shouldn’t just be beautiful, it should change behaviour," believes Made Thought director Ben Parker. "Our approach is about taking the brand and client on an ‘unorthodox leap’ to create something extraordinary.

There have been a number of highlights for Made Thought in 2015, he says. "The first has to be winning a Black D&AD pencil for our brand work on G.F. Smith. Another was our work on the Adidas StellaSport campaign being voted one of the top 10 fashion films by the Business of Fashion. Plus we’ve had a studio engagement and one baby so far this year!"

Of course, there have been challenges too. "Our biggest – people, size and approach – were all borne out of two key issues we’ve been wrestling with: ‘What type of studio do we want to be?’ and ‘What do we want to be doing?’," says Parker. "We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last six months. We’re clear now that we want to resist the temptation to grow bigger and stay intentionally small(ish). This will allow us to focus on only a few of the very best creative challenges out there and give them our all."

Buy the issue!

The full report on the 2015 Studio Rankings – and much, much more – was published in Computer Arts issue 246, which also came with a rather snazzy heat-reactive cover. The issue has just gone off sale, but you can stick pick up a back issue from our online store (while stocks last) here.

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