The UK's top design studios: 19-15 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 – on sale now – 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 24-20 on the list: here we reveal numbers 19-15. Has your studio been honoured?

19. John Morgan Studio

ArtReview cover

2015 highlights have included art directing ArtReview magazine
  • Founded: 2000
  • Location: Strand, London

As with many of the studios on this list, the biggest challenge of 2015 for John Morgan has been coping with the fallout from London's continuing property boom. Or as he puts it, "Finding a suitable studio space in a city so locked down and expensive that many of my colleagues are forced to move elsewhere".

Creatively, though, it's all good, with recent projects including art direction of ArtReview magazine (pictured); graphic identity and ongoing consultancy for David Chipperfield Architects, and four new Four Corners Familiars books, which features artists' responses to classic novels and short stories.

"This series was recognised in the Design Museum Designs of Year some years ago and continues to develop and build on that recognition," says Morgan.

"In 2016, we look forward to working with The Artist's Institute in New York as they move to new premises," he adds. "We also plan to make our bespoke typefaces available commercially through a new digital foundry."

18. Johnson banks

branding for Cambridge University

johnson banks' branding for Cambridge University
  • Founded: 1992
  • Location: Clapham, London

It's been a busy year for johnson banks. "We've seen a huge project coming off for Cambridge University (pictured); a tiny project, Mr Cooper, being tweeted about worldwide, presenting at What Design Can Do about 'design that makes a difference'," says founder Michael Johnson.

"It's not all been easy-going, though," he adds. "Working with a genuinely global client across multiple headquarters has been tricky: it's meant a lot of travelling, presenting and multilingial diplomacy. Working on a very intriguing new project in Virginia USA has forced us out of our NYC bubble (a good thing). I've also been trying to find the time to write a book about the branding process – very challenging and means very long days." In 2016, he plans to "make space for life a bit more".

He's a bit nonplussed about the design scene as a whole right now, though. "Not that many earth-shattering ideas around, to be honest – although less sense of blind panic than there was a few years ago."
As ever, the studio is keen to draw in the best new talent to keep driving things forward. "We're always offering internships, every two years or so looking for brilliant juniors," says Johnson.

17. North

Duck & Rice pub

The Duck & Rice pub website allows the customers to control the space
  • Founded: 1995
  • Location: 11 Northburgh Street London EC1V 0AH

From the perspective of North partner Stephen Gilmore, the UK design industry is looking pretty healthy right now. "It feels there are lots of opportunities and some great design being produced," he says.

This year they've brought in new names like Southbank Centre, Tate and Central Pattana to join longstanding clients such as Barbican, First Direct and chef Alan Yau. Working with the latter, they built The Duck & Rice (pictured), a pub website that allows the customers to control the space.

Gilmore's flattered that North – which will move to new premises in 2016 – has been included our list, but stresses they don't set out to seek glory. "The young studios we admire concentrate on producing great client work over their own self-publicity," he says.

16. Spin

Cover of monograph

Lance Wyman's monograph
  • Founded: 1992
  • Location: Studio 2, 33 Stannary Street

Spin may have been around for decades, but they refuse to rest on their laurels. "The challenges are always the same, to keep on pushing the bar higher, creatively, challenging ourselves to do better," says co-founder and creative director Tony Brook.

His 2015 highlights include: "The launch of the UCA Identity, an exciting, flexible and effective identity. Working with Lance Wyman on his monograph (pictured): he's the nicest person working in our field and one of the most talented ever. And the launch of the Spin monograph, a monumental effort by the team."

As far as taking on new talent goes, "there aren't many opportunities because we are quite small," says Brook. "But almost all of our staff came straight from college and usually through an internship. Mail your work in and you never know."

15. Wolff Olins

Branding for Orange

Wolff Olins branded Orange 'the first telco of the internet age'
  • Founded: 1965
  • Location: London (Regents Wharf), New York, San Fransico, Dubai

It's an exciting time for Wolff Olins, which in 2015 saw its work for Orange come full circle.

"In March we helped them launch their latest brand evolution, 20 years on from the original concept we created," explains creative director Chris Moody. "Orange have set out on to be 'the first telco of the internet age' and we're immensely proud to be a part of that journey."

It's a great example of what Wolff Olins is all about: "Working with organisations ambitious and brave enough to embrace real change through our work."

It's also keen to lure the best of the next generation of designers. "We have a rolling internship programme for junior designers, attend grad shows to find top talent; and spend time looking through hundreds of applications."

Last chance to buy the issue!

For the full report on the 2015 Studio Rankings – and much, much more – it's your last chance today to get your copy of Computer Arts issue 246. The print version sports a special heat-reactive cover, which is not to be missed!

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