Two directors leave Universal Design Studios in restructuring

Universal Design Studio is restructuring amid difficult financial conditions, resulting in the departure of two of its directors, Design Week can reveal.

The interior and architecture design consultancy, founded by Jay Osgerby and Ed Barber in 2001, has cut its expectations for growth for 2009 by 30 per cent because of the austere economic climate, rendering its five-strong management team unsustainable.

As a result, directors Dan Higgott, who joined UDS last year from the BBC, and Jonathan Clarke, who has been with UDS since 2002, have both been made redundant, with immediate effect. The remaining directors comprise founders Osgerby and Barber, and the consultancy’s Melbourne director Mark Simp son. The 20-strong studio eam in London remains unaffected, according to Osgerby.

We appointed two additional directors [Simpson and Higgott] to help deliver our third year of anticipated 40 per cent growth. Due to the economic environ – ment we are planning only 10 per cent growth this year, and consequently we felt we had to shed two directors, returning to our 2007 management level,’ says Osgerby. ‘Our Australian office is performing better than we planned and we anticipate some growth there this financial year into next,’ he adds.

In response to Clarke’s departure, he says, ‘Jonathan’s been here six years and has had a lot of client contact. It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of those things you have to do.’

UDS’ existing contracts, such as those with retailers H&M and Mulberry, will stay intact. Osgerby says the consultancy is also looking to build its credentials in exhibition design, capitalising on its work for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Cold War Modern exhibition earlier this year.

Clarke adds, ‘Ed and Jay want to see Universal rebuilt, and so do I, and the only way we can do this is to keep it trading – be it in a skeletal situation – and then rebuild it when the economic climate is better.’


1997 – Barber Osgerby Associates established as Barber Osgerby’s interior and architectural design arm
2001 – Universal Design Studio established as a separate offer from Barber Osgerby, and replaces BOA. UDS offers client collaboration, while BO offers the design duo creative freedom
2002 – Jonathan Clarke joins UDS as director
October 2007 – UDS appoints former BBC corporate property chief Dan Higgott as director, adding a fourth member to its board, in a bid to diversify into other design sectors
April 2008 – UDS opens Melbourne office, targeting Pacific Rim countries, headed by Mark Simpson. Cold War Modern opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum, with exhibition design by UDS
September 2008 – UDS wins contract with Mulberry to develop a new store concept, replacing Four IV

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