Shining lights

SOME of the industry’s top players were very concerned about how well they did in Design Week’s creative league last year. One consultancy even planned a morale-boosting session for all of its staff in case it didn’t rank as high as it hoped in the charts.

That kind of response fulfilled our ambitions for the new survey. We hoped that it would focus consultancies’ minds on competing through creativity and draw attention to some of the best talents in British design.

As with last year, the tables are based on all design award wins, with the top UK creative schemes – the Design Week Awards and D&AD Awards – taking centre stage for the main Top 50. Last year we looked at award wins over the previous three years, and we have added points for this year’s successes to give a cumulative total. We have again excluded specialist multimedia awards from the listings as this area deserves separate treatment.

We’ve excluded the DBA Design Effectiveness Award from the creative ranking, because, while effectiveness is key to design’s commercial success, entries are not judged by quality of design. This accounts for some of the shifts in the charts. The year’s successes in terms of effectiveness are listed separately.

The survey was open to all Design Week readers, who were invited to supply a list of winning projects. Data was also gleaned from the organisers of the main awards schemes across the world. We have used the same points system as we did last year to evaluate the different awards and personal honours won by team members. The rankings are organised in four ways this year: Top 50 winners of Design Week and D&AD Awards; Top 50 winners taking account of all awards; DBA Design Effectiveness Awards winners; and league tables for corporate identity, print, packaging, product design and furniture, and interiors.

Top 50 – DW and D&AD awards

There’s a hint of the David and Goliath saga in this year’s charts, in that tiny graphics group Johnson Banks has toppled the mighty Partners from the top position, with a convincing 39-point lead.

Johnson Banks did exceptionally well in the Design Week Awards this year. It won the Direct Mail prize for its V&A Spiral mailer about Daniel Libeskind’s Deconstructivist extension to the museum; it took the Poster and Print awards for its British Council work; and it was highly commended for two projects. It went on to win a British Design and Art Direction silver for the typeface it designed for Yellow Pages.

The Partners has nonetheless put in a healthy performance, adding 30 points to its score this year. But Lambie-Nairn/Tutssels has shown the biggest increase among groups in the top 20, rising from 18th position last year (as The Brand Union) to fifth, with a score up 57 points. The BBC identity has much to do with this, winning Design Week’s Best of Show and the Corporate Identity prize for Lambie-Nairn.

Graphics-related design has generally made a good showing again, with HGV and Interbrand Newell and Sorrell holding on to third and fourth positions respectively. Many of the old names are in there, but it’s good to see less established groups such as Tom Hingston Studio and Sea making it into the charts.

On the packaging front, Wickens Tutt Southgate and Turner Duckworth are still battling it out, with WTS leapfrogging its rival in this chart. Last year Turner Duckworth ranked eighth and WTS ninth. Both have increased their scores by around 20 points.

Newcomers to the charts include the in-house team at Apple Computer, led by British star Jonathan Ives, which won D&AD gold for the iMac and scooped DW’s Client of the Decade prize. Dyson Appliances, meanwhile, boosts its score, with James Dyson becoming DW’s Designer of the Decade.

As for interiors, Din Associates is back in the frame, largely because of the exhibition tracing the life of Diana, Princess of Wales at the Spencer home, Althorp in Northamptonshire, and the Soup Opera outlet in London’s Canary Wharf. Ben Kelly Design has meanwhile added 20 points to its score through its success with the Design Council’s London offices and the British Council’s True Stories exhibition.

The exclusion of DBA Design Effectiveness Awards wins from the scoring hasn’t made a significant difference to the ranking. It’s a sad fact that while many of the creative award winners have strong effectiveness stories to tell, they tend to shy away from that contest.

The points system

Design Week Awards: best of show – 25; category win – 10; highly commended – 6; commended – 5; finalist – D&AD Awards: gold – 25; silver – 10; nomination or inclusion in The Book – Design Effectiveness Awards: BT grand prix – 25; category win – 10; commended – 5; finalist – New York Festivals, Clio Awards, New York Art Directors Club, AIGA, ID Annual Review, IDSA/IDEA, IDEA/Business Week: best of show – 25; gold – 10; silver – 8; bronze/distinction – 6; merit/commended/honourable mention – 5; nomination Brand Design Association Awards, New York Type Directors Club, Packaging Design Council, Beverage Packaging Global Design, Mobius, Scottish Design Awards: best of show – 5; gold/winner – 3; silver – 2; bronze – 1.

The rest: category win – Personal Awards: Royal Designer for Industry, CSD President’s Medal, D&AD President’s Award, and Duke of Edinburgh Award – 10; student awards –

There’s no change in the top three slots of the all-awards chart this year, with global groups Fitch and Ideo Product Development jockeying for pole position. Size is an issue – Fitch for example is a multidisciplinary team. Both are active awards supporters, particularly in the US, and both are conspicuously successful. We haven’t included all of the awards each has won in the totals, given that some are very specialist or very local to the US, but it hasn’t made either of them any less prominent as world-leaders in creativity.

The Partners, meanwhile, retains its title as top UK-only group when all awards are considered. But Johnson Banks, which has toppled The Partners from the DW and D&AD Awards chart, is catching up here, more than doubling its points score since last year.

Lambie-Nairn/Tutssels is also a rising star – last year as The Brand Union it scored 46 points compared with the massive 158 that earns it seventh place this year. The BBC identity and various screen graphics award wins are largely responsible for boosting its chart position.

Apple Design Group has shot in from nowhere, largely on the strength of the iMac. The iMac has not only revived the fortunes of the computer giant, it – along with Dyson Appliances Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner series – has brought new respectability to the in-house design team. Former Fitch colleagues Clive Grinyer and Bill Sermon having gone to Tag McLaren Audio and Nokia respectively, let’s hope that the in-house teams of these companies feature in next year’s charts.

While Lewis Moberly remains top packaging and branding group, regardless of the much bigger global group Landor Associates’ appearance in the charts, the friendly tussle between Turner Duckworth and Wickens Tutt Southgate continues, with Turner Duckworth getting the upper hand in this chart. To be fair to WTS, Turner Duckworth does have an office in San Francisco and so enters more US awards. In the UK, however, both include Superdrug among the clients that have commissioned award-winning work – a great testament to the health and beauty chain’s commitment to good design.

Graven Images and Din Associates are welcome additions on the interiors and exhibitions front, bolstering the sector led by Fitch. Both have broadened their horizons over the past couple of years, to cover all types of interiors projects at home and abroad. It is good to see the efforts of these two smaller groups paying off. The acknowledgement they have received from their peers is well-deserved.

Product design’s stars such as Ideo Product Development, Kinneir Dufort, Seymour Powell, TKO and Queensberry Hunt show consistent creative strength, with Therefore making its debut in the charts this year for the Psion Series 5 personal organiser, which won the BT Grand Prix Awards and took the consumer product prize in the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards.

Design Acumen, meanwhile, appears to be resting on the laurels won through the British Airways First class seat – it has not increased its points total this year. Product design is, of course, also a significant part of the work of Fitch and Pentagram.

There is one group missing from the product line-up, which not that long ago would have been up there with the rest. Priestman Goode, renowned for innovation and coverage in the national media, has been very quiet on the awards front in recent years as it has diversified into manufacturing and broadened its clientele. We can only wait until some of the big jobs on its agenda reach fruition to see how well it fares in its new role.

The other one to look out for in product design is relative newcomer Factory Design, whose principals come from the well-respected stables of Pentagram and Seymour Powell.

Several groups have added significantly to their scores this year, often because of overseas award wins. It’s great that so many in the survey are keen to show the work that they’re proud of to a wider audience.

Packaging and branding

Lewis Moberly has long held pole position in this sector for creativity. But the challenge is there now from younger rivals Turner Duckworth and Wickens Tutt Southgate, both regulars on the awards scene. The sector is rife with international awards and several of the groups here can boast overseas wins. UK design appears particularly popular in the US, where the likes of Lewis Moberly, Elmwood Design and Coley Porter Bell have notched up prizes. ©

Interiors and exhibitions

It’s not surprising to find Fitch topping the charts, given its global reach and strong interiors traditions, particularly in retail. But it’s encouraging to see smaller specialists such as Ben Kelly Design, Din Associates, Casson Mann and Redjacket making the grade in what for the past few years has been a difficult sector. On the exhibition front, Met Studio Design still figures on the strength of past glories, having quietly reinvented itself after going into liquidation in January.

Product and furniture

Ideo Product Development is an exemplar for all design groups, particularly in product. It achieves great work across the globe and features regularly in the business press. But the most significant move is the advent of a second in-house team, Apple Design Group, into the charts. The success of Apple and Dyson Appliances marks the growing respectability – and influence – of in-house designers, given strong leadership and a supportive culture.


Fitch’s prowess in the print sector has much to do with its US offices, which have made consistent wins in innumerable local contests. In the UK, The Partners pips Johnson Banks to the post again, but the gap is narrowing and the heat is clearly on. Pentagram’s success can be attributed in part to the work of new graphics partner Angus Hyland, while HGV continues to keep up the side of the small, creatively-led specialist alongside Johnson Banks.

Corporate identity

Consultancies like Johnson Banks and HGV that feature in the print ranking also win prizes for smallish identity jobs. But Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, Wolff Olins, Enterprise IG and Landor Associates remain the main players, only two of which have made a mark for creativity. Nice to see The Partners’ identity push paying off. n

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