The UK's top design studios: 9-5 revealed

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 14-10 on the list: here we reveal numbers 9-5. Has your studio been honoured?

09. The Partners

Wall art

Creative for Deloitte, the largest professional services network in the world
  • Founded: 1983
  • Location: London, Clerkenwell, Singapore, New York

Greg Quinton, ECD of The Partners is feeling pretty upbeat about the state of UK design right now. "The industry is the healthiest it's been for a good few years," he enthuses. "Brands can only tread water for a limited time without going under. This year has seen brands start to kick-start their offers, innovate their products and communicate them. Confidence is slowly returning. Amen!"

This year's highlights for The Partners include the transformation of retail giant Argos into a digital brand, in collaboration with CHI/D&P. Other new clients for the studio have included Eversheds, Silversea and the London Symphony Orchestra – joining longstanding ones such as Deloitte (pictured), The Connaught Hotel and Investec. "Oh and we finally updated our book, 'A Smile in the Mind', with over 600 new pieces and interviews (February 2016 release)," says Quinton.

The secret to their success? "Through the creation of ideas and experiences we build brands that continuously evolve and grow stronger over time," says Quinton. "We go beyond the expected, finding solutions that drive deeper thought and engagement, provoking extraordinary results."

The studio is also keen to encourage new blood, and has a placement scheme that's been bringing in newcomers to the business for 20 years. "It's an important part of our recruitment strategy and about 60-70% of our talent comes in that way," says Quinton.

08. ustwo

Apple Watch app

Moodnotes is a thought journal/mood diary app for Apple Watch
  • Founded: 2004
  • Location: Shoreditch London; New York, Malmo, Sydney

2015's been a great year for ustwo so far. "We've been looking to work in the health space for years," says co-founder Matt Miller. "So we're very proud to have launched our Apple Watch app Moodnotes, a thought journal/mood diary, in partnership with Thriveport LLC.

"We were also proud to see Wayfindr – the first open standard for audio-based navigation – go from an internal project to protoytpe tested by TFL to a standalone business. Also, winning two Baftas for our mobile game Monument Valley – an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness – was an amazing acknowledgement for the team and studio."

In general, Miller believes, it's a great time for the UK design scene. "I don't think it can ever have been so healthy," he enthuses. "The barriers to anything are lower than at any time in history." But that doesn't mean ustwo's success hasn't been earned. "Success is just the gloss on top of hard work," he adds, "and more often than not is total madness and stress."

For those willing to put in the effort, ustwo has an established intern programme, with potential roles covering all aspects of design and development. "We actively try to find the top talent leaving education each year and work with our entry-level colleagues to develop new skills and progress their careers."

07. Sawdust

Coca-Cola bottle

Sawdust's poster to celebrate 100 years of the Coca-Cola bottle
  • Founded: 2006
  • Location: Shoreditch, London

It's been a great year at Sawdust, says Rob Gonzalez. "It was amazing to be included in the list of nominees for the Design Museum's annual Designs of the Year, for our work with Wired UK – credit also to Andrew Diprose, creative director at Wired. Other highlights were speaking at the OFFF Barcelona design festival, and our poster to celebrate 100 years of the Coca-Cola bottle being chosen for an exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia."

One of the biggest challenges was speaking at OFFF in Barcelona: "definitely a different skill-set to what we're used to". They've also been experimenting with 3D as well as font production packages, and redesigning their website.

06. Universal Everything

Sydney Opera House

Universal Everything collaborated with more than 20 different animation studios worldwide to create a living mural on the Sydney Opera House
  • Founded: 2004
  • Location: Sheffield / London

Universal Everything's Gregory Povey list the studio's biggest 2015 highlights as follows: "Sydney Opera House (pictured): combining our love of architecture, moving image and sound. 'Apple: Start something new': making art with new technology. And Google Creative Lab: a new form of brand identity for a new form of publishing." Their ambitions for 2016? "Digital art for Apple Watch and Apple TV; and developing high end realtime graphics."

05. GBH

'Powered by fans' campaign

'Powered by Fans' campaign for Puma/Arsenal FC
  • Founded: 1999
  • Location: Chiswick, London

No one could ignore GBH in 2015, not least because its co-creative director Mark Bonner became 2015 President of D&AD. Other highlights included working with BMW and Louis Vuitton, while Bonner describes the biggest challenges as "growth, client problems and and the lack of summer". The solutions, in turn, have been "good people, creative solutions and daylight bulbs".

In 2016, they plan to "concentrate on winning a D&AD Black Pencil rather than handing them out".

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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