Giant topplers

Digital design and interaction consultancies have made a huge impact on this year’s Design Week Awards tables. Though often ignored in major design awards, their ability to maintain creativity across a whole campaign really justifies their inclusion among traditional high-scorers. Design Week takes a look at the creative movers and shakers

There has been a slight yet significant shift at the top end of the charts, with a couple of groups finally managing to breach the duopoly of The Partners and Apple Design Group, which for the past couple of years have alternated in first or second slot in both of the main league tables.

The Partners continues to dominate the Top 50 table for all awards wins, but Apple has been elbowed into third place by digital giant AKQA. Other high achievers from interaction design include Poke and BBC Interactive, which shows the impact our decision to broaden out the creative survey to take in digital awards the Webbys and the Bimas has had on the rankings.

No one can doubt the creative prowess of the likes of The Partners, which has topped the charts more often than any other consultancy. However, we believe that it is time to draw interaction design more closely to the heart of design, rather than leave it in the wasteland between design and advertising. It makes our trawl more comprehensive and indicative of the future of design.

The upshot is that 13 digital groups make their entrance this year. This demonstrates the talent the UK has in digital design, given that most interaction awards are international. The proliferation of new names, meanwhile, indicates how important award wins are to that sector. Interestingly though, Imagination’s chart debut can be directly attributed to its digital strength, as can Guardian Media Group’s.

But it’s not all about digital, and it’s good to see branding and print group Purpose making its way into the charts. Consistently good work for clients such as English Farming and Food Partnerships has paid off for Rob Howsam and his team. Manchester group Music, meanwhile, had a bumper year, particularly in the Design Week Awards and Benchmarks, to earn its 19th position, while Scotland’s creative giant Tayburn makes its debut mainly through a string of wins in the Scottish Design Awards.

Over in the UK charts, Hat-Trick Design leapfrogs both The Partners and Apple to claim pride of place, Turner Duckworth storms into fourth place and Williams Murray Hamm makes a steep ascent up the charts to claim joint fifth position with Johnson Banks. One of the main drivers of these changes is the fact that this year we have included the Benchmarks alongside the more established Design Week and D&AD Awards. This is on the grounds that it is, if anything, harder to achieve creative quality across a branding programme or campaign than in the single piece of work that has more likely been honoured by the Design Week Awards and D&AD.

Hat-Trick has virtually cornered the market for Benchmarks wins over the past couple of years, with projects such as the British Heart Foundation’s outstanding Small Creature campaign which helps children face bereavement over loved ones through heart disease. This is reflected in a massive hike in points this year and new-found supremacy.

Similarly, Turner Duckworth owes its impressive leap up the charts to the success of the Coca-Cola rebrand in the Benchmarks, having already taken honours last year in the D&AD and Design Week Awards. Williams Murray Hamm, meanwhile, is back with a bang after a couple of years of relative quiet, partly because of its work on Jamie Oliver’s Recipease food and kitchen shop where people can learn to cook, which did well in a couple of award schemes including the Benchmarks.

Particularly welcome in the UK awards chart this year are London architect Muma – which simultaneously makes its debut in the ’all awards’ listings – and architect-cum-lighting genius-cum-environmental artist Jason Bruges Studio, which makes its chart debut. We don’t see enough interiors and exhibitions teams making the grade, partly because there are fewer awards schemes in these areas.

Muma notched up extra points by winning a D&AD Yellow Pencil for the prestigious Medieval & Renaissance Galleries at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum – a rare feat for a UK design group these days. Jason Bruges Studio’s successful projects, meanwhile, included Mirror Mirror, again for the V&A with moving image event pioneer Onedotzero.

Product groups are rarer in the main charts, with even Apple owing much of its success this year to its D&AD Black Pencil-winning website and Virgin Atlantic Airways, now bereft of Joe Ferry, who has moved to Intercontinental Hotels, largely resting on past laurels. Pearson Lloyd and Seymour Powell continue to feature in the UK awards charts, but are eclipsed by digital consultancies in the broader table. Again, there are very few awards schemes for such groups to enter.

In terms of geographical spread, Northern groups appear to be doing well at present. Manchester’s Love, Mark Studio and True North have, for example, become chart-regulars, alongside Leeds-based global group Elmwood, which enters the UK awards chart this year, and Coy Communications run by Manchester’s hugely creative, if a tad eccentric, Mark Denton. But it is good to see the tiny Leeds-based B&W Studio shooting into the UK charts for its work for homelessness charity St George’s Crypt, which won Best of Show in the Design Week Awards. It is also heartening to see Music, from Manchester, with a portfolio of award wins that clearly demonstrates that its superb pale blue branding for Manchester City Football Club and its Eastlands stadium wasn’t just a one-off.

Many of the top groups in these charts are relatively small, challenging the might of the likes of Apple, and most are independent. But the bigger groups and conglomerates are picking up. WPP’s creative supergroup The Partners is joined this year by stablemates Fitch, Landor Associates, The Brand Union and Lambie-Nairn in the UK charts and Fitch and Landor in the general table.

It all goes to show that size and location don’t have a direct bearing on creative talent or awards success. That can come from anywhere, as long as designers are sufficiently confident in their work to submit it for the scrutiny of their peers.

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