Design Week Top 100

Growth rates among the Design Week Top 100 consultancies are very similar in 2016 to last year.

A total of 72 consultancies in this year’s Top 100 were also ranked last year and among these returning groups the average change in fee income shows a 7% growth.

This is almost the same as last years average of 7.2% growth but is someway short of the 13.6% recorded in 2014 and the 14% recorded in 2013.

The 2016 figure is also slightly skewed by the massive 91% fee income decline shown by BWP Group, which is due to the consultancy splitting its income figures in a different way this year and therefore assigning a lower amount to its design fee income.

24 consultancies report growth of more than 10%

This average is supported by a swathe of impressive growth figures. A total of 24 consultancies report growth of over 10%, while 15 record figures over 25% and five have growth of more than 50%.

The highest reported growth figure reported this year comes from CircleSquare, which reports a fee income rise of 81% – from £2.7 million last year to £4.9 million this year.

Other impressive figures come from Jellyfish – which has a fee income rise of 77% and PsLondon, which has achieved a fee income rise of 68%.

The growth figures recorded in this year’s Top 100 tally similarly with the 9% average revenue growth reported by the top 30 design and branding consultancies in accountant KingstonSmithW1’s annual survey for 2015.

In its annual report, KingstonSmithW1 hailed the increase in revenues, but warned that the ratio of employment costs to gross income was “too high”.

Imagination and Design Bridge lead

Imagination and Design Bridge take the top two spots in the 2016 Top 100 survey, as they did last year. Both show a slight rise in fee income – 5% for Imagination and 2% for Design Bridge.

Just below them though is Ustwo, which has rocketed into third place, with an impressive fee income growth of 38% – up from £16.5 million last year to £22.7 million this year.

Ustwo has leapfrogged from fifth to third spot, over Checkland Kindleysides remains in the fourth place it occupied last year.

Equator Design moves into fifth place, with a fee income of £16.7 million. The consultancy didn’t enter last year’s Top 100, but was in the 2014 survey, where it showed a fee income of £8.5 million, meaning it has nearly doubled its fee income in the past two years.

Fee income down

Discounting BWP Group’s 91% drop in design fee income, which the company says is down to the way it attributes its fee income, there are still a few notable drops.

Assembly Studios has recorded a fee income dip of 43%, while WonderlandWPA shows fee income down by 32%. Both predict fee income rises for next year however, with Assembly predicting an 11% rise and WonderlandWPA predicting 20%.

Another five consultancies – Open Agency, So Design Consultants, Good, Small Back Room and Make it Clear – record fee income dips of between 20% and 30%.

There are a couple of notable absences from this year’s Top 100 survey. Portland Design, which occupied the 52nd place in last year’s survey, was acquired last year by US architect Perkins+Will and is therefore ineligible for the Top 100 survey.

Smith & Milton, which was one place below Portland last year, with a fee income of just over £2 million, put its London business into liquidation earlier this year. Founder Howard Milton says he is now focusing on his Bristol-based business, Smith & Milton Brand Ltd.


There are 28 newcomers to this year’s Top 100, although a number of these are consultancies which have entered the Top 100 in the past but didn’t enter last year. Among these groups are the previously mentioned Equator Design, as well as BrandOpus and Springetts.

Other newcomers include Universal Design Studio in 37th space and its sister company Map Project Office in 80th place.

New consultancies Friend and Missouri Creative, both established in 2013, come in at  46th and 64th place respectively.

Projected growth

There are some confident predictions for future growth in this year’s Top 100. The most bullish consultancy is Together, which predicts an 80% growth in fee income ­– having shown a 12% dip this year.

Platform Group predicts a 60% rise while Rare Breed is predicting a 50% rise in fee income.

The average predicted fee income across the table is 15% which, if it comes to pass, would see a record Top 100 growth rate set for recent years.