On the up

With demand for design expected to increase, the industry needs to build its strength and rise to the occasion, says Lynda Relph-Knight. Research by Michelle Reeve.

With the publication of the Cox Review imminent as we went to press, the industry’s officialdom were aglow with optimism for the future of design. Sir George Cox’s assessment of how design can best give the UK a competitive edge over global rivals promises to place design at the heart of both Government and British business. The fact that it was commissioned by would-be national leader Chancellor Gordon Brown at the Treasury adds extra spice.

With this move we can expect renewed interest in design that is financially accountable, with a direct impact on the bottom line. But this will surely be tempered by increasing concern with social issues, perpetuated by organisations such as the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at London’s Royal College of Art.

Then there is the move by some designers to work with clients prepared to take them into their midst and help them to ‘redesign’ their businesses. The Design Council’s Design Immersion programme, through which designers spend time in a client company advising on how to make it more profitable, is starting to pay off and is expected to get a boost as a direct result of the Cox Review.

All this is to the good in that it will create commercial opportunities for design, while improving the goods and services the UK offers. But how will it affect designers?

So far only the very top creative individuals or consultancies have seen a slice of the action through involvement in HHRC’s Product Design Challenge or the Design Immersion scheme. But with demand for quality design expected to increase significantly over the next few years, the entire industry needs to build its confidence and creativity to meet the challenge.

Some people dismiss creative awards as no more than a beauty parade. But they could become increasingly valuable as a way of promoting a design consultancy or individual designer, giving business people – newly fired up about the value of design – some indication of which the most creative consultancies might be. They can assume that if they’ve been selected for prizes by their peers then they must be doing something right.

This year there are quite a few new names entering the charts for creativity. Let’s hope that trend continues as the design industry gains in confidence and influence.

What we did

As in previous years, the Creative Survey listings are based on the success enjoyed by largely UK consultancies and in-house design teams in the main creative awards, across a range of design disciplines. Graphics, digital, product branding and interior design are the main thrust, with architecture and fashion prizes excluded from our trawl.

We have awarded points for wins and placings according to a system used through the four annual surveys we have published to date – see the table opposite for full details. Most of the awards are long-standing, but any new schemes of an appropriate standing, such as Design Week’s Benchmarks, have been added into the system.

The charts are compiled from data provided by the organisers of the relevant awards, rather than by consultancies. Rankings are based on points accrued over the past three years. The charts comprise two main listings. The All Awards chart opposite takes account of performance in prominent awards, whether international, discipline-led or relating, like the Scottish Design Awards, to a specific geographical location. It also includes personal awards, such as the D&AD President’s Award and appointment as a Royal Designer.

The UK Awards chart ranks consultancies and in-house teams according to their success in the UK’s two biggest schemes honouring creative excellence/ the Design Week Awards and D&AD Awards.

Winners of the Design Business Association’s Design Effectiveness Awards are listed separately.


A = Interiors

B = Exhibitions

C = Branding/packaging

D = Print

E = Corporate identity

F = Product

G = Digital media

H = Other


DW awards, Benchmarks

Best of show – 25

Category win – 10

Highly commended – 6

Commended – 5

Short listed – 3

D&AD Awards

Gold award – 25

Silver award – 10 S

Silver nomination – 3

In book – 1

New York Festivals, Clio Awards

Grand award – 25

Gold – 10

Silver – 8

Bronze – 6

Finalist/Shortlist – 3

Mobius, Roses Design Awards, Promax Awards, Type Directors, G – Mark Good Design Awards, Scottish Design Awards. British Council for Offices Awards

Best of Show – 5

Gold/ Winner/ Certificate – 3

Silver/ Commendation – 2

Finalist/ Bronze – 1

The Rest (includes RedDot Award, Bimas, Communication Arts Awards and Fab)

Winner – 1

Personal Awards

D&AD President’s Medal, Prince Philip Designer’s Prize, Chartered Society of Designers, Jerwood Prize, Royal Designer for Industry, BCO President’s Awards – 25


One thing that the charts throw up is that you don’t have to be big to win awards, but it seems to help if you are independent. All of the consultancies in the top 20 of the All Awards chart boast independent status – even the newly named Red Bee Media (5), the former design arm (as BBC Broadcast) of the BBC.

The Partners (21), owned by WPP, is the highest ranking group belonging to a global marketing services agency. Its stablemate, broadcast design and identity specialist Lambie-Nairn (equal 35), and Omnicom’s Wolff Olins (equal 22) are the only other ‘owned’ consultancies to make it into the All Awards listing. Interestingly, all three fare significantly better in the UK Awards charts, which include only Design Week and D&AD awards wins, ranking seventh, 20th and equal 14th respectively.

Another feature is that, as in previous years, both charts are dominated by graphics and branding groups.

It isn’t necessarily that these disciplines are more creative – indeed, celebrated product designer Jonathan Ive and his team at Apple Computer have notched up countless awards over the years, with Ive himself taking a host of personal honours. It is simply that there are more awards schemes or categories covering print design, packaging and branding.

It is not surprising, therefore, to see Williams Murray Hamm topping the All Awards chart. It is a great coup that the relatively tiny London consultancy – known for bold, contentious designs for fmcg brands such as Hovis and Jaffa Cakes – also ranks second to Wolff Olins in the effectiveness charts this year, proving that the twin attributes of creativity and accountability can go hand in hand.

Nor does it come as a shock to find print-based consultancy The Chase (2) and multidisciplinary group Pentagram (3) – which earns third position largely through the print work of partners Fernando Gutierrez and Angus Hyland – also making it into the top three in the All Awards chart.


Top 50 – All Awards
Position Position Consultancy Points Disciplines
this year last year      
1 3 Williams Murray Hamm 210 CDE
2 2 The Chase 195 BCDEG
3 1 Pentagram 157 ABCDEFH
4 6 Apple Industrial Design Team 149 F
5 5 Red Bee Media (previously BBC Broadcast) 147 DGH
6 4 Johnson Banks 128 BDEGH
7 7 Elmwood 117 CDEGH
8 23 True North 99 CDEG
9   Foster and Partners 91 AF
10= 35= Hat-Trick Design 86 CDEG
10=   Taxi Studio 86 BCDEGH
12 14 Pearlfisher 84 C
13 18= Lewis Moberly 76 CDEG
14 12 Frost Design 72 BD
15   Mark Denton 71 CDEG
16 9 Design Bridge 67 CEG
17 21= Gregory Bonner Hale 66 CDEG
18 11 Land Design Studio 65 AB
19 17 Barber Osgerby 56 AF
20 18= Turner Duckworth 53 CEG
21 13 The Partners 47 DE
22=   Brahm 44 BCDEG
22= 25= Pemberton & Whitefoord 44 C
22= 38= Wolff Olins 44 ACDEG
25= 24 Browns 43 D
25= 15 Love Creative 43 D
27   All Of Us 42 G
28 45= ARC Marketing 41 DG
29   Channel 4 40 G
30   Thomas Heatherwick Studio 39 H
31   BSkyB 37 G
32   Stand 36 DEG
33 45= Like A River 34 CDE
34 32= Virgin Atlantic in-house team 33 AF
35= 34 Lambie-Nairn 32 CEGH
35=   Priestman Goode 32 ACFH
37 25= ITV Network 31 DGH
38=   Aardman Animations 30 G
38= 30= Carter Wong Tomlin 30 CDEG
38=   Lippa Pearce 30 CDE
38= 38= Powell Tuck Associates 30 AFH
38=   Sea 30 D
38= 38= Summa 30 CDE
44 45= Conran & Partners 29 ABCDFH
45=   A2-Graphics/SW/HK 28 D
45= 8 Ideo Product Development 28 FG
45= 30= NE6 Nevis 28 DE
48   Cartlidge Levene 26 CDEG
49=   De-construct 25 G
49=   DEGW 25 A
49=   L&CO 25 CDEG
49= 20 Nike Design 25 CF


The story is much the same in the UK Awards chart. Print and identity specialist Johnson Banks takes the top slot here for the second year running, beating the mighty Apple (2) once again. Print giants Gregory Bonner Hale (3), The Chase (4) and Frost Design (5) make up the top five here.

There is a sense that the numbers have just been slightly reshuffled towards the top end of both charts. Many contenders are within one or two places of their 2004 ranking. But there are exceptions, notably highly talented London group Hat-Trick Design, which storms up the All Awards chart from last year’s equal 35th place to equal tenth this year. Hat-Trick’s sudden success can be attributed directly to one project and one outstanding awards win. Its colourful, photography-based identity for London’s Natural History Museum, a collaborative project involving the museum’s in-house team, among others, won Best of Show in DW’s inaugural Benchmarks prize in October, scoring an impressive 35 points in total.

The Benchmarks also account for the debut of L&Co Design (equal 49) in the All Awards chart. The south London group set up by Paul Barlow was runner up for Best of Show with its branding for Estonian telecoms company Diil Mobile Network, which also won the Telecommunications category.

By the same token, digital group All Of Us blasted into both charts on the strength of one big win. Its exquisite website for Sony Aiwa, which can be visited at www.allofus.org/aiwa, won Best of Show in the 2005 Design Week Awards, as well as the Interactive Media – Commercial category prize.

Then there is Channel 4, whose design arm 4 Creative scored a rare D&AD Gold – the only one awarded this year – for its own TV titles. This win alone earns it 35 points, while 4 Creative accumulated another five points from other honours.

Another big award-winner and chart virgin is Glasgow consultancy Stand (32). It swept the board at the Scottish Design Awards this year, winning the Grand Prix, for its corporate literature for Tennent’s lager, and the Designer of the Year prize, among other honours.

Other top 50 debutants include Bristol group Taxi Studio (equal tenth), definitely one to watch and a great fan of entering awards, Mark Denton (15), and Leeds group Brahm (equal 22nd).

But the highest newcomer is architect and product design group Foster and Partners (9), which enters the chart mainly on the strength of Lord Foster’s personal awards. He won the 2004 Prince Philip Designer’s Prize, as well as the 2005 British Council for Offices President’s Award, scoring 50 points for those honours alone.

Meanwhile, the resourceful Thomas Heatherwick Studio (30) owes its position mainly to its founder being honoured as a Royal Designer this year.

In-house design teams are gaining in strength – though it tends to be the same names creeping slowly up the charts year on year. Apple Industrial Design Team is unrivalled champion on the product side, while Red Bee Media earned most of its points while still part of the BBC.

Red Bee Media’s broadcasting rivals Channel 4, BSkyB and ITV Network also star in the charts, demonstrating the strength of screen branding as an outlet for design. They are joined in the top 50 by Nick Park’s Bristol film company Aardman Animations – creator of man and dog duo Wallace and Gromit – largely because of Aardman’s own website.

Nike Design still features towards the bottom of the All Awards chart, with Guardian Media Group and Marks & Spencer ranked in the UK Awards listing. Then there is the in-house team at Virgin Atlantic, whose collaboration with product and furniture design group Pearson Lloyd on the airline’s upper class suite has paid dividends in award wins for both teams.

Pearson Lloyd is one of very few 3D design teams to feature in either listing, mainly because there aren’t many product prize schemes. Its 23 points earned mainly for the Virgin Atlantic upper class suite and its elegant street lamps for the City of Westminster merit equal 28th place in the UK Awards charts, but don’t quite make the grade for a position in the All Awards listing.

Furniture star Barber Osgerby (19), Priestman Goode (equal 35), multidisciplinary group Conran & Partners (44) – in largely for its domestic product ranges – and Ideo Product Development (equal 45) make it into the All Awards listing. French star Philippe Starck ranks twelfth, while Therefore Design features equal 37th in the UK Awards chart.

Interiors and exhibitions are similarly short on chart entries, with most of the multidisciplinary groups listed – like Pentagram and Wolff Olins – earning their positions through graphics or branding work.

Foster and Partners leads the pack for interiors, figuring in both charts, along with Powell Tuck Associates. Hosker Moore Kent Melia joins them in the UK Awards chart and DEGW enters the All Awards chart at equal 48th on the strength of a BCO President’s Award for its co-founder, workplace guru Frank Duffy, last year. As for exhibition work, Land Design Studio and Casson Mann stand out in the All Awards and UK Awards charts respectively.

Digital and broadcast design are, meanwhile, flourishing this year. As already stated, the in-house teams go from strength to strength. But the prowess of All Of Us – a two-year-old breakaway from London consultancy Digit – and De-construct, formed after the failure in 2001 of digital megastar Deepend, indicate that things are looking up on the consultancy side.

The fact that groups like Johnson Banks – best known for print – and packaging star Williams Murray Hamm are entering awards with digital work, gives some idea of how things are changing in design. We have done our best to single out the ‘best in class’ in our specialisms tables (see opposite), which are based on the nature of the projects for which awards have been won.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to categorise projects, with designers becoming more diverse in their outlook and more strategic in their work. In a couple of years, these charts could look very different, as the industry finally edges up the ranks from being a discipline-led cottage industry to a highly respected sector, based on creative consultancy across the board.


Top 50 – UK Awards
Position Position Consultancy Cumulative points Disciplines
this year last year   for past 3 years  
1 1 Johnson Banks 97 BDEGH
2 2 Apple Industrial Design Team 88 F
3 5 Gregory Bonner Hale 66 CDEG
4 6= The Chase 55 BCDEG
5 6= Frost Design 50 BD
6 15 Hat-Trick Design 48 CDEG
7 4 The Partners 44 DE
8 12= Browns 43 D
9=   All Of Us 42 G
9= 8 Pentagram 42 ABCDEFH
11   Channel 4 40 G
12 10= Philippe Starck 38 AF
13   Foster and Partners 35 AF
14=   Priestman Goode 31 ACFH
14= 16= Wolff Olins 31 ACDEG
16=   Aardman Animations 30 G
16= 16= Powell Tuck Associates 30 AFH
16= 34= Sea 30 D
16= 16= Summa 30 CDE
20 20 Lambie-Nairn 28 CEGH
21= 28= A2-Graphics/SW/HK 27 D
21= 12= Carter Wong Tomlin 27 CDEG
23 24= Barber Osgerby 26 AF
24= 9 Love Creative 25 D
24=   True North 25 CDEG
24= 42= Williams Murray Hamm 25 CDE
27 14 NB Studio 24 CD
28=   Pearson Lloyd 23 F
28= 31= Turner Duckworth 23 CEG
28=   Unit 9 23 G
31   BSkyB 22 G
32= 24= Digit 21 G
32= 44= Lippa Pearce 21 CDE
32= 24= Una London 21 CDEG
32= 31= Unreal London 21 CD
32= 34= Virgin Atlantic in-house team 21 AF
37= 38= Cooper Rose 20 ACDEG
37= 46= De-construct 20 CG
37= 38= DHA Design 20 AB
37= 38= Therefore Design 20 F
41= 30 Elmwood 18 CDEGH
41=   Happy Forsman & Bodenfors 18 CDEG
41=   Hosker Moore Kent Melia 18 AG
44= 21= Farrow Design 17 D
44= 21= Intro 17 BCDEGH
46=   Brahm 16 BCDEG
46= 3 Casson Mannn 16 AB
46=   Guardian Media Group 16 DG
46=  </
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