Number of staff: 13
“As a relatively young agency, change is a constant in our lives,” says James Greenfield, founder and creative director of Koto, a newcomer to our list. “This year, we’ve won a couple of very big accounts, and done some high-profile work, which has generally been well received.
“Getting the global Fanta rebrand out to the world has been the biggest highlight. You really don’t realise how ubiquitous it is as a product until you travel and see our work in fridges the world over. Lots of friends and family have sent photos of it back from their various holidays this summer.”
Number of staff: 5
“We are excited about a lot that has happened this year, but our publishing imprint InOtherWords in particular continues to motivate us,” says OK-RM co-founder Rory McGrath.
“We’re excited to be launching a book and exhibition with Juergen Teller and Vivienne Westwood, as well as the comprehensive Gestalt with Fos; and Disobedient Bodies with Jonathan Anderson and Andrew Bonacina.”
OK-RM has recently started work on a large-scale fashion project that will launch in Paris in January: “Our role will be creative directors of the brand, and our responsibilities will reach every aspect.”
Location: London (plus Shanghai, New York, Singapore)
Number of staff: 265
The word that best sums up 2017 for Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR) is “diverse”, says creative director Sean Thomas. “Clients are asking us more challenging questions, and this is pushing us out of our comfort zone,” he adds.
The year’s most high-profile project has probably been the new identity for The Diana Award: the first project launched under the JKR Foundation, which was set up to undertake work for good causes.
Other highlights have included branding Budweiser ‘America’, designing a Selfridges window display for Heinz Beanz, launching haircare brand FORM in the US and redesigning the identity for fashion shoe brand Butterfly Twists.
Number of staff: 8
Tom Sharp, creative director of The Beautiful Meme, has some lyrical words to describe the last 12 months. They’ve been, he says: “Like being on a catwalk in a see-through dress. Like hearing The Rite of Spring for the first time. Like getting a 147 break in your local snooker club.”
Meanwhile, as far as Brexit’s concerned, Sharp sees it as “Just another asteroid to fly around”. And as to why The Beautiful Meme might have been picked by its peers as one of the top agencies, he responds, simply: “Our name is very easy to remember.”
Number of staff: 7
The last 12 months have seen Alphabetical take on two new juniors, attract new clients, and work on larger and more diverse briefs than ever before, says creative partner Tommy Taylor.
“We’ve built a part of London out of made objects, we’ve created 10x15ft local wildlife creatures out of concrete, and we’ve helped a valuable iconic British charity rethink who they are.”
Going forward, the team is unclear whether Brexit will affect the studio. “Post referendum, it feels like demand for design services is accelerating,” Taylor reports. “Creativity doesn’t have a border control, thankfully.”
Number of staff: 7
The opening of Tate’s David Hockney exhibition in January, along with the launch of the accompanying catalogue, was an early highlight for A Practice for Everyday Life (APFEL) this year, say co-founders Emma Thomas and Kirsty Carter.
“We’ve been fans of Hockney’s work since we were growing up, and the opportunity to work on a publication for him has always been on our list of dream projects – especially on such a large scale.”
Other highlights include the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition at the Barbican Centre this September, while they’re also excited to be moving studios at the start of 2018.
Location: London (plus San Francisco)
Number of staff: 43
“We’ve been (literally) around the world, with teams working across Europe, Japan, America, Colombia, Philippines, Nigeria, Pakistan and India. It’s been incredible,” says DesignStudio’s principal James Hurst, reflecting on the year.
“In 2018, we’ll continue to find and hire the best talent, irrespective of where people are based,” he says. So who exactly are they looking for? “People who can help define what a brand is, and give our clients the clarity and confidence on how that thinking will accelerate their ambitions,” explains Hurst.
Number of staff: 28
“To keep an agency running over 15-16 years, reinvention and reinvigoration is important,” says DixonBaxi co-founder Simon Dixon. “This year has delivered on a lot of that approach, based around a renewed energy to create work we’re proud of.”
Looking ahead, though, he’s saddened by Brexit. “We’re half-international in team make-up, and 70 per cent of our work is global,” he says. “Brexit feels like a step back.
“However, we think it will be okay. We’ll remain open to the world, hire the best people wherever they come from, and fight any sense that international talent is not welcome.”
Number of staff: 6
Things have been going well at Spin this year, says partner Tony Brook: “I have to pinch myself. I’m very fortunate. Big changes include moving studio, Claudia Klat becoming a partner was a definite highlight, and the continued success of publishing venture Unit Editions.”
Looking ahead, Brook sees Brexit as bad news, although none of the studio’s international staff are currently from EU countries, which he believes will minimise the effect on the team.
Spin’s main challenge of 2018? “Keep standards at the highest level, keep the work fresh, exciting and relevant, and our clients happy.”
20. Taxi Studio
Number of staff: 42
“Emotionally speaking, the last 12 months have seen us go from a major low to a major high,” says Taxi Studio’s creative partner and co-founder Spencer Buck. “Last summer was a sad time for us; we were forced to lose some great people due to a sudden, unforeseen downturn in business.
"However, since then we’ve bounced back, and then some; this year has turned out to be our biggest to date. Our senior management team, in particular, are absolutely smashing it, the awards we’ve won this year have put broad smiles on our faces, and receiving recognition from our peers in this list is incredibly satisfying, too.”
Next page: Top UK studios 21-30