So who has had a stand-out year? Johnson Banks has continued to provoke and challenge with work that refuses to play safe. Its identity schemes in particular always divide opinion when featured on our website but never fail to get talked about. Music continues to make a mark while Construct’s Claridge’s work was universally applauded. But our winner is a studio that manages that elusive aspiration for many a designer – combining mainstream, paying work with creatively fulfilling self-generated projects.
Browns has two projects featured in this annual, one for Mulberry and another for high-end watch brand Bell & Ross. Both have their roots in the burgeoning artistic practice of founder Jonathan Ellery that not only provides him with an outlet for his own endeavours but also informs the work of the studio. Similarly, it has its own publishing division, Browns Editions, producing high-end books and catalogues for Ellery and others. At the same time, however, Browns works with mainstream clients such as Invesco and Hiscox as well as having created all the material for England’s ill-fated World Cup bid. The studio has had to endure the upheaval of losing partner Nick Jones who was at Browns for seven years, with Claire Warner stepping up to the creative director role, yet the work continues to be of a consistently high standard. For its work and for its way of working, Browns is our design studio of the year.