The top 20 US design studios of 2018

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11. Siegel+Gale 

Siegel+Gale focuses on keeping things beautifully simple

Founded in 1969, Siegel+Gale is a branding firm headquartered in New York City. It also boasts offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai. 

The studio is perhaps best known for its tagline, “Simple is Smart”; a principle it famously put into practice in 1979 when it helped the Inland Revenue Service simplify people’s tax forms. It’s also at the core of its highly regarded Global Brand Simplicity Index, which it releases annually every April.

Siegel+Gale’s commercial clients include American Express, Disney, Dow, Four Seasons Hotels, Microsoft, Motorola and Pfizer, while non-profits include Girl Scouts of the USA, Legal Aid Society, Florida State University and the Museum of Arts and Design.

12. Hugo & Marie 

Hugo & Marie is a mix of design studio and artist agency

Hugo & Marie is a multi-disciplinary creative studio and artist representation firm based in Brooklyn. Founded in 2008 by Mario Hugo and Jennifer Marie Gonzalez, it says it aims to “interweaves the values of its founders and artists with the character of its clients”, which include famous names such as Stella McCartney, Lorde, Coldplay and Rihanna.

Recent work for the studio includes a brand campaign for Glenmorangie whisky, a visualisation project for Swedish multi-instrumentalist Thunder Tillman, and an online presence for fashion designer Mira Mikati.

13. Fantasy Interactive 

Fantasy Interactive is at the cutting edge of user experience and new technology

Fantasy Interactive is an independently owned, digital design studio based in San Francisco and New York City. 

Founded in 1999, the award-winning company is nowadays firmly focused on user experience, working on everything from automotive user interfaces to artificial intelligence, consoles to mobile operating systems. Its impressive list of clients includes names such as Xbox, Google, Twitter, Spotify and Huawei. 

Recent projects for the studio, which is often abbreviated to f-i or fi, have included a collaboration with OgilvyOne to launch Chrome in Asia, a product site for Wacom, and a companion website for Sony’s Connected World campaign.

14. Big Spaceship 

Big Spaceship offers high-class digital services to discerning clients

Founded in 2000, Big Spaceship is a Brooklyn-based design studio that provides a mix of product design, brand communications and content to its clients, who include Converse, Dannon, Google, Hasbro, Nestle-Purina and Samsung.

Highlights of 2017 for the studio include expanding its executive team, getting selected as digital design partner for budget airline JetBlue, and winning MediaPost’s OMMA Agency of the Year award. 

15. The Barbarian Group 

The Barbarian Group is now on an even keel after a rocky couple of years

The Barbarian Group is an interactive design studio originally founded in Boston in 2001, but currently headquartered in New York City. Its most celebrated projects to date include the Subservient Chicken for Burger King, AnyFilms for Samsung, and the Beer Cannon for Milwaukee's Best. Since 2009, it’s been owned by Cheil Worldwide.

After a wave of disruptive departures in 2015-2016, which led some to question the future of the company, things stabilised somewhat in 2017, with work for Pepsi, Etihad Airways and IBM being among the project highlights.   

16. Stink Studios 

Stink Studios works across film, design, technology and strategy

Found in 2009 and originally known as Stink Digital, Stink Studios is a global digital company headquartered in London and New York, which also has offices in Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris and Shanghai. The studio works across film, design, technology and strategy for clients include Google, Spotify, Twitter, Ray-Ban and Nike.

Recently the studio has been partnering with WeTransfer to create “A Message from Earth”, a site paying homage to NASA's 1978 extraterrestrial communication. It’s also helped to design Facebook for Creators, a new platform designed to help video creators develop their skills.

17. R/GA 

R/GA likes to focus on the big picture for its forward-facing, global clients

R/GA is a full service digital agency headquartered in New York. Founded in 1977 by two brothers, Richard and Robert Greenberg, its global network now spans 18 countries, with 2,000 employees representing over 20 nationalities. Clients include McDonalds, Unilever, Nike, Johnson & Johnson and YouTube.

Sharply focused on staying at the cutting edge of new technologies, R/GA teamed up with Verizon in 2017 to launch Verizon Media Tech Venture Studio, an incubator for companies aimed at disrupting digital entertainment and media.

18. Code And Theory

Code And Theory is one of the industry’s most innovative studios

Founded in 2001 by Dan Gardner and Brandon Ralph, Code And Theory is a digital-first creative agency that designs products, content and campaigns across multiple platforms. Its clients include Bloomberg, LA Times, Vogue, Hearst Publications and Comcast.

Picked as one of the “10 Most Innovative Companies in Design” by Fast Company, it employs more than 375 people in offices in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, London and Manila. Recent projects include a new global website for Maybelline New York, a campaign for Burger King; and a motion graphics theme for NBC News for Snapchat. 

19. Brand New School 

Brand New School puts the focus on motion and interactivity

Despite the name, Brand New School is not actually a school, but a creative design and production studio that creates ads, interactive media, branding and music videos. Founded in 2000 by Jonathan Notaro, it has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Clients include Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, Nike, Gillette, Ford, and Starbucks.

Recent projects include animated spots for Nike to celebrate Children’s Day in China, launch imagery for Google’s new phone, and a spot-motion spot for a Quaker Oats campaign.

20. IDEO 

IDEO wants to use design thinking to solve the world’s biggest challenges

IDEO is a design and consulting firm that is, in its own words, “committed to making a positive impact”. It was created in Palo Alto, California, in 1991, as part of a merger between three companies led by David Kelley, Bill Moggridge, and Mike Nuttall. 

Pronounced “EYE-dee-oh”, the studio now employs more than 700 people in nine locations around the world, and applies human-centered methodologies to ‘big picture’ challenges, such as healthcare, education and government itself.

Recent projects include launching an innovation lab to help Peruvians, designing a new digital content platform for The Times and Sunday Times, and helping European fashion platform Zalando expand its services.

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