Design Top 20: A year of Design Top Five


Posted by: Creative Times on August 30, 2011 13:24

It’s a year since we launched our popular Design Top Five series. In that time we’ve had selections from 20* different designers and agencies, providing a fascinating and entertainingly idiosyncratic look at the best in contemporary design.

So, before we publish our next Top Five, we thought we’d take this moment to look back over the last 12 months. We hope you enjoy it, and if you’d like to be featured in the series, drop us a line at

1. Mercedes Benz SLS AMG chosen by Bill Green
Mercedes have always created slightly feminine sports cars, and whilst not a Porsche 911 or Aston Martin, this car is masculine enough to sit very high on a list of the best sports cars ever produced.

2. Copic markers chosen by Young
We draw every day, and have gone through a lot of marker pens – and although we are biased, they’re probably the best ones we use. They refil, the nibs are replaceable, and the lines it makes are consistent.

3. Light painting with the iPad chosen by Corporation Pop
Made by Dentsu in conjunction with Berg, this film uses stop-frame animation to create the impression of dancing typographic lights. I love the low-tech use of the iPad and the simplicity of the idea, which nonetheless creates a ‘how did they do that?’ end result.

4. Sign Out by Josef Schulz chosen by Trevor Johnson
The very process of design is contrived and superficial, and bores me senseless most of the time. Effective design is about the appropriateness of the provision to its context. If the typographic message is removed, are we able to view what is left in a different way?
View more of Josef Schulz’s Sign Out here.

5. UK Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010 by Heatherwick Studio chosen by True North
A sculptural, organic, architectural form constructed using 60,000 transparent optical strands, each with an individual seed embedded in its tip. Where does art, technology and design stop? Thomas Heatherwick is a designer who continually challenges and surprises; a renaissance man flirting with the title of genius.

6. Onwards TV (Nike), James Jarvis chosen by Dinosaur
Influential British illustrator James Jarvis started out in comic book illustration. He’s since extended his illustrative style into everything from plastic figures and rugs, to this whimsical, non-linear animation for Nike which we can still watch over and over again.

Onwards from AKQA on Vimeo.

7. Ercol/ Timorous Beasties/ Puff and Flock/ Donna Wilson chosen by Mercy
Ercol really is having a moment. Their collaborations with textile designers like Glasgow’s Timorous Beasties and lately the genius collective Puff and Flock and Donna Wilson, are gorgeous and always varied.
Ercol & Donna Wilson

8. Supergraphics, edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy, designed by Spin chosen by Smiling Wolf
Understated design that let’s the content breathe, good use of matt paper stocks, memorable cover and, most importantly, fantastic photography of the subject – super-sized graphics adorning buildings (interior and exterior) dating back to the start of the movement in the 1960s.

9. Zombieland Survival Rules and Title Sequence – Ben Conrad at Logan chosen by Graham Jones
I love film and I love title sequences. I especially love it when typography and design is integrated into the moving visuals of the film itself. With Zombieland, the type responds and reacts to the content and movement of the visuals seamlessly – it’s fantastically gruesome, strangely elegant and incredibly funny.

10. 100 Series watch by Uniform Wares chosen by Black & Ginger
When I first set eyes on the 100 Series model I thought it was as perfect as watch design could get. Beautifully pared down and well crafted, it offers a more grown up alternative to the Toywatch trend. If Josef Müller-Brockmann had turned his hand to watch design, the results wouldn’t be far off these.

11. Liteweit family chosen by Creative State
The Liteweit family was created by Lloyd Springer in 1995 and is a variation on sans serif fonts in the style of Helvetica and Gill Sans. The Regular and Italic versions were designed to be used as a labelling font, providing great legibility at small point sizes. The special Numbers font is fab; you can type numbers and create them in solid or hollow circles.

12. Rug by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec chosen by Design By Day
Designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, this rug is handmade in Northern Pakistan and the Afghan wool is also spun by hand. This subtly random technique makes each rug a unique piece.

13. Dispatchwork project by Jan Vormann chosen by Studio Parris Wakefield
Designers love Lego and we are no exception. We always like seeing new projects using Lego and we instantly fell for Jan Vormann’s Dispatchwork. His Lego bricks ‘restore’ buildings all over the world by filling the gaps in walls. If you are inspired to do some Lego restoration yourself, you can join Dispatchers Worldwide.

14. NYC Manifesto poster by Mike Perry chosen by Cultivate Creative
I’ve enjoyed drawing letters from a young age, and seeing Mike’s work instantly took me back to my childhood. Mike doesn’t focus on type alone, he’s worked across many manual mediums – proof that there’s still a place for truly inspiring craft in this technological world. The featured image shows his highly detailed NYC Manifesto poster, commissioned by BBH and NYC & Company for their This is New York City campaign.

15. The Incident at Tower 37 chosen by Very Own Studio
I’m a big fan of animated CGI films, and I’ve enjoyed watching the industry develop over the last 15 years or so. This ten-minute animated film, written and directed by Chris Perry (formally of Pixar) and produced by students at Hampshire College, was released on World Water Day at the end of March.

16. Sixty by Sagemcom chosen by Ilsa Parry
I’m not usually a fan of regurgitated icon pieces, but this is in keeping with the 21st century in terms of both form and function. Its wireless technology is sympathetic to modern living and the dematerialisation of the casing responds sensitively to the shift in necessary components.

17. Jasper Morrison Shop chosen by Damien Smith, ISO
Tucked away at the back of uber-designer Jasper Morrison’s site is this shop. It contains a small selection of his work and random utilitarian objects he gathers on his travels. From a 60p pen to £2000 watch, it’s all here – simple objects of beauty.

18. The Highline, NYC chosen by Creative Concern
Design should make life better, right? Well, The Highline creates a graceful elevated space amid the frantic rush of the West Village, affording a vital break from the unforgiving intensity of the street; a perfect place to claim a moment’s contemplation. Piet Oudolf’s brutally honest planting designs translate and manifest the space’s previous wild neglect in a powerful essay on decay.

19. New Rail Alphabet by A2-Type chosen by Wonder Associates
The drooling starts every time we go to the website for type foundry A2-Type, a venture of Henrik Kubel and Scott Williams. New Rail Alphabet is a truly stunning revival. We’ll keep going back to A2-Type to fuel our passion for type; definitely one to bookmark.

20. Nick Meek chosen by Uber Agency
It would have been so easy not to choose Nick. He’s been there, won that. Loved, used and awarded, the inevitable fatigue sets in. And then, you get an email from Nick. It contains his latest nose-bleedingly gorgeous piece of personal work. And so the cycle begins again. He’s an evil genius.

*Anyone spotted anything that doesn’t quite add up about our Top 20. If you have, drop us a line at with the answer. A clue? Regular followers of the series should spot it pretty easily.

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