Tuesday , 24 April 2018
Home > Brand strategy & thought pieces > Thoughts on ranking the top 100 design agencies

Thoughts on ranking the top 100 design agencies

ranking the top 100 design agenciesWith the annual update to Design Week’s Top 100 Design Agencies and Consultancies being published in the last few days, I started thinking how lovely it would be to make the list one day, especially as I have worked with five of the top 30 consultancies on the list.

Then, on further inspection I parked that idea as I slipped into a dream-like state at my desk, inspired by an article on Marketing Week saying that 78% of agencies are not ROI driven

I swiftly went to my happy place and imagined a new frontier in ranking the top 100 design agencies of the future (or at least in my head)

My dream started to question fee income as a measure

There is a rather solid school of thought about having to prove that you’re worth your fees, this is something I have to make clear to my clients as much as agencies I partner with have to justify their fees then negotiate based on previous work and what they are about to do for a new brand project.

That is the nature of our business and our industry, but is that what we should be measured against?

Creating commercial client value

Instead of being ranked by what consultancies can charge, remember that quite a few of these will be trading on historical wins and projects that are PR’d out ad infinitum to win new projects sometimes years later, what if we were ranked by the value we create for our clients and their brands?

This would probably never work but in principle it would be a lovely idea of transparency and rewarding / recognising talent and value creation. There are bound to be ways and means to work with clients, maybe confidentially or even with a non-PR clause in contracts, to find out a rough estimate as to the increased value that a project has created for the brand.

For example if a sports brand brought in £23m pa in hospitality then, after a full rebrand and redesign of their hospitality area and offer of the stadium the next year’s income if £46m, it is relatively clear that the project has had a big impact and helped to generate £23m of increased revenue for the client.

Naturally this would rely on a number of factors in order to achieve a reframing of how we view our industry but with some client openness and agency re-evaluation maybe we can start to change the paradigm of how we are ranked and how we sell our services in the future.

This is much more relevant and useful when clients are looking to make decisions about which agencies and consultancies to work with. If I were in charge of a brand strategy I would care a whole heap more about the consultancy that directly contributed to the increase of an analogous brand’s revenue by £23m (or 100%) over the one that will charge me the most to get up the fee income index.

And then I slipped back to reality and started scouring the list to identify new agencies to partner with through to 2014 and beyond… Ooh they must have some budget for freelance support…

Full list of the Top 100 Design Agencies and Consultancies available here


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About GregDillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at http://gdinspires.com. He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched Strat-Talking.com - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic. Feel free to email him at: greg@gdinspires.com or follow on Twitter @StratTalking


  1. HI Greg,

    Thanks for letting me know about this article. I definitely think there are ways other than fee income on which agencies can be assessed, and (if it was possible) I think ranking on the value added from agency work would be a great thing to do. The problem obviously comes down to how to measure this value equally and fairly across different industries, verticals and digital disciplines.

    I’ll keep my eye out for anything else we can measure in the future!


    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for leaving a reply.

      Agree that the measurements are practically impossible given different disciplines and contributions across all channels that goes into a successful brand rebrand or launch… it is pretty much a pipe dream but similarly would be a nicer and more effective way to let clients know what they are getting.



  2. Hi Greg
    The list you dream about already exists. It is called the Design Effectiveness League Table and can be found here:

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