AKQA, Map and Universal Design Studio join forces to “collaborate”

AKQA has acquired Barber & Osgerby-owned Universal Design Studio and Map, in a move that will see all three teams work on projects collectively, bringing together architecture, product design and digital.

Left to right: Ajaz Ahmed, CEO at AKQA, Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber, co-founders at Universal Design Studio and Map

Architecture, interior design, product design and digital will be coming together under one umbrella, in a new studio acquisition from AKQA.

Digital design studio AKQA has joined up with architectural practice Universal Design Studio and product design studio Map Project Office, otherwise known as Map, in a bid to offer “integrated” services for clients that combine the three disciplines.

Beeline bicycle navigation device, by Map

Universal Design Studio and Map were co-founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who also own their eponymous furniture design studio Barber & Osgerby.

AKQA has now acquired majority shares in the two design studios, and Map and Universal Design Studio will relocate to AKQA’s East London studio in Smithfield. A new space will be designed to accommodate this, with the move expected to take place next year.

Mini Living interior design concept, by Universal Design Studio

Rather than merging under the same name, the three studios will remain separate companies but will work together across particular projects. They will also continue to operate separately when necessary.

“The studios will operate side-by-side as separate practices,” says Osgerby. “The teams will only be merged for specific project work and opportunities that involve all three disciplines. One of the most exciting parts of this is that all three teams will have the ability to learn from each other.”

This structure differs from the recent WPP merger, which saw five design companies – The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Brand Union, Addison and Vbat – come together as one giant consultancy under the brand name Superunion, dropping their individual identities.

The three studios will retain all existing staff, and Universal Design Studio and Map plan to grow their London and overseas teams in future.

In bringing together their teams, the three studios will now employ 2,100 employees across 23 offices worldwide, with hopes to combine “intuition, aesthetics and interactivity” in their future design work, says AKQA.

Nike Rise basketball coaching tool, by AKQA

Working across the same office space aims to encourage “collaboration across disciplines” and break down “artificial barriers” between digital interfaces, spaces and objects, the studio adds.

Ajaz Ahmed, CEO at AKQA, says: “We proudly welcome the Universal Design Studio and Map teams and their philosophy, and look forward to discovering new possibilities and perspectives together, now and long into the future.”

Osgerby says: “As the borders between design practice areas dissolve and as cross-disciplinary innovation is demanded from clients, it made sense to form a group in which we could answer this void in the market under one roof.”

The acquisition has now taken place, with the move to Smithfield expected to take place in 2019.

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