There was once a time when, to be taken seriously as a creative agency, you had to be based in a capital city – ideally London, Paris, Berlin or New York.
But in these digital days, it’s now perfectly possible to do quality work with big, global clients wherever you feel happiest and most comfortable. And with rents sky high in London, what UK-based designer wouldn’t want to branch out geographically?
With your physical location now less important, the ‘shopfront’ of your business falls more and more to your portfolio website.
We've already looked at the 7 best London agency websites of 2017 and 7 best New York agency websites of 2017, but these agencies, all based in Greater Manchester, England, have made their sites work brilliantly in attracting attention and new clients. And we can all learn something from what they’ve put together...
Music is an award-winning branding and communications agency based on Lever Street, central Manchester. Launched in 2007, its clients include Nike, Triumph, The Brit Awards, NHS, Polaroid and Brew Dog.
“We won’t follow due process or take the road well trodden,” it promises. “We won’t hide behind the agency/client divide and we won’t create work we’re not proud of.” And the design of its website provides evidence that these are not mere words, but a real philosophy that infuses its designs.
We particularly love the confident, full-screen carousel that greets you on arrival; the day-glo rainbow coloured list that pops up on clicking the hamburger icon; and the artful, confident typography that finds the sweet spot between cocky and professional.
Founded just this year, BGN is a strategic, brand-led agency based in Charlotte Street, central Manchester. It’s a small but perfectly formed team of six people, with 46 years of creative agency experience among them (plus, somewhat unusually, Business and Psychology degrees). Their clients to date include Brand Attic, Forse Cycling, Capo Juices and The Moorings.
Their portfolio website is beautifully put together, with confident use of all-caps titles and an inspired palette of pale pink-on-black that really shouldn’t work but somehow does.
As a new company, it’s a nice touch that they also list the clients they’ve worked with individually over the years, quickly conveying the depth of experience amongst them. And we love how clicking ‘Say Hi’ produces not the boring contact form you expect, but a lively looking conversational interface; a sign that these old dogs are still alive to new tricks.
WDC Creative is a boutique creative design studio specialising in commercial and retail interiors and graphic design. Founded in 2001, it’s based in Hilton Street in central Manchester with a client list including the likes of Asics, Godiva, Chelsea FC and P&O Ferries.
Specialising as it does in interiors, you’d expect the design elements of WDC’s website to be perfectly balanced, with generous use of white space… and you won’t be disappointed.
This elegant layout brings together some enticing photography with a lovely selection of fonts to produce a visual experience not unlike leafing through a high-end magazine. There’s a fascinating blog, too, with posts on topics such as ‘What Makes a Good Office Design?’ and ‘What Can Environmental Graphic Design Do for You?’
AHOY is an integrated branding agency offering brand strategy, ecommerce and digital marketing. Launched in 2008, it’s based in Heaton Moore, Stockport, Greater Manchester, and with clients including the likes of Greene King Beer, Barburrito, Pizza Hut, Lancashire Farm and Neighbourhood.
AHOY’s slick website does an excellent job at presenting its extensive portfolio of work, usefully enabling you to filter projects by type or industry. Visually, a collection of geometric shapes, often subtly animated, brings it all together and provides a delightful visual consistency.
And we love how, instead of containing a lot of waffle and jargon, the ‘About’ page gets straight on with introducing you to the members of the team. It’s a nice touch that gets to the heart of the matter of why a client might choose to work with them.
05. Flow Creative
Flow Creative is design-led production company made up of a small team of designers, illustrators, animators and directors. Founded in 2016, it's based in Lever Street, central Manchester (a few doors down from Music) and its clients include the BBC, Porsche, JD Sports, Apple, Manchester United and GlaxoSmithKline.
There’s a beautiful sense of, er, flow to its website, which packs a ton of information and images into a one-page site that’s quick and easy to navigate around.
Using icons to identify the multitude of services it offers is a genius move, as a plain list would have just become a blur of unwieldy text. The portfolio itself is nicely categorised into seven clear and understandable categories, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. Oh, and boy do we love that logo.
06. Instruct Studio
Instruct Studio is a multi-disciplinary communications studio working within the architectural, media and cultural sector. Founded in 2009, it’s based in Stevenson Square in central Manchester's Northern Quarter (just around the corner from Music and Flow Creative).
Current clients include Bench, British Cycling, The National Football Museum, Manchester Airport Group and Universal Pictures.
The studio’s homepage goes for a bold and colourful image grid, with minimal text, that seems perfectly positioned for the Instagram era. Across the rest of the site, there are no clever tricks or animations, but with original and inspired typography, powerful images and an artful, elegant layout, who needs them?
07. Tile Creative
Tile Creative is a design studio specialising in strategy-led creative work across brand projects requiring elements of print, digital, moving image and physical design. Founded in 2012, it’s another one based in Lever Street, central Manchester (that street really is a hub of creativity) and its clients include Adidas, TalkTalk, Ryder Cup and SpaceZero.
Its website is businesslike: with no overblown effects to distract you, you can get on with just finding the information you need quickly.
That said, there are some little transitions and animation going on as you peruse the site that add a subtle sense of verve and dynamism to proceedings. That, along with the fun and friendly typography and bright and cheerful colours, make this a website that’s a delight to explore.
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