Looking for that next opportunity? Then make a considered change to your creative path. We list some of the best places to work as a designer in the UK, according to Shillington and its graduates.
You spend most of your life at work, so you want it to be enjoyable, satisfying and rewarding, as well as well paid. Not much to ask, right? Thankfully, good designers are in such high demand right now, it's quite possible to land that dream role.
So if you're looking to progress your career, find a new adventure, or just move on from being stuck in a rut, it's important to look beyond just the headline salary, and examine the entire experience a company is offering.
Shillington, which provides intensive graphic design courses in the UK, US, Australia and online, knows a fair bit about the subject, as they've been helping their graduates enter the profession for 25 years. So to get you started on your next career step, we've teamed up with them to bring you a list of 15 fantastic places for designers and other creatives to work.
One of these is, of course, Shillington itself, which is constantly looking for experienced practitioners to share their passion for graphic design with others. You'll find information on becoming a full-time, part-time or online teacher with Shillington here.
1. MadeBrave, Glasgow
Launched in 2011, MadeBrave is a global strategic brand agency that describes themselves as "amigos without egos: alone, we're guacamole, chicken and rice, but together we're a tasty burrito with hot sauce on top. We always work as a team and leave our egos at the door".
They also believe there's more to life than work and offer family-friendly benefits like flexi-time, enhanced maternity and paternity, a work-from-anywhere policy and a cycle-to-work scheme. There's fun stuff, too, including team away days, surprise-free lunches and bring-your-dog-to-work day.
But the best thing about working at MadeBrave? "Without a doubt, it's our people," says Hannah Davidson, head of people & culture. "Throughout my time at MadeBrave, one thing that consistently amazes me is the genuinely remarkable people we have, and have had, on our team. And I believe that's what makes MadeBrave such a special place to work.
"As a team, we are all connected by a shared purpose, from the type of work we want to create through to how we treat each other," she adds. "From day one, our vision here at MadeBrave has always been to create a place where you can truly be yourself, create extraordinary work and most importantly, have a good time along the way."
2. Code Computerlove, Manchester
Founded in 1999, Code Computerlove is a design-led transformation and tech company that offers a hybrid-working model, with flexible start/end times and home working available for everyone. Its Manchester city-centre office space reflects the collaborative way they work, where they've purposely crafted studios and working environments that let creativity flourish.
The company is proud to be certified as a Great Place to Work® – a globally recognised benchmark for employers offering outstanding employee experiences. Staff benefit from personal medical insurance, a wellbeing allowance, a £500 training budget, generous maternity and parental leave, and a Christmas party abroad. Friday afternoons, meanwhile, are set aside for personal work. On what they call Make Change Fridays, there's only one rule: use the time how you see fit, as long as you're developing yourself, your discipline or Code Computerlove.
"We encourage a culture of autonomy, continuous improvement and generally being a good egg," says Commercial Director Gemma Handley. "Our Computerlovers are empowered to make their own decisions, with the guidelines to ensure we deliver value for our clients. We have a rule of 'no brilliant jerks'. That means, no matter how good at your job you are if you're a jerk, you won't enjoy it here."
3. Crown Creative, Belfast
Located in New York and Belfast, Crown Creative is a studio of designers, writers, artists and strategists passionate about the space where hospitality and design meet. Founded in 2018, their experience extends from Michelin-Star restaurants to global hoteliers, coffee shops, pizza slice stores and everything in between.
Working at Crown Creative means the opportunity to travel, work with international clients and conduct hospitality research: in other words, a lot of eating and drinking out! Other benefits include early office closure, an Education & Wellness Stipend, and travel expenses, including flight, accommodations and meals covered for education, training and conferences.
"Crown Creative is unlike any other studio I've worked for, truly placing creativity first," says Senior Designer Kate Tracey. "Despite being a small team, we all come from very different backgrounds, from strategy and hospitality specialists to brand and design right through to interiors and realisation. This diversity of thought and skillsets allows us to approach projects holistically and be involved creatively from start to finish – a dream for any designer!"
4. Ragged Edge, London
Ragged Edge describes itself as "an open-minded, collaborative, ideas-driven studio where world-class creative comes without creative prima donnas." Since its founding in 2007, it's been elevating talent over ego and offering as much emphasis on personal wellbeing as on career development. Committed to building a diverse, inclusive environment, they encourage applications from "people who may not necessarily fit the typical branding agency mould".
"We've tried to build somewhere we'd want to work," says Co-Founder Max Ottignon. "That means being intentional around our culture. It means taking a people-first approach and ensuring that it drives every decision we make. And it means empowering the team to push us forward and make us better, one day at a time."
5. Accept & Proceed, London
First launched in 2007, Accept & Proceed is a team of designers, strategists, thought leaders and industry innovators based in east London who works together to use design as a force for good. Here, they say, "every single day, you will contribute to the success of a team and feel the energy of being a vital part of shaping the future".
All team members receive healthy salaries, training, a great East London location, travel opportunities, time to creatively explore every other Friday, and excellent career progression.
"Working at Accept & Proceed is so special thanks to our collective drive for positive change," says Design Director Alison Haigh. "We aren't afraid to push boundaries both in our work and how we run the studio. Our independence allows us to introduce new initiatives like our 9-day fortnight, which ensures we all have the time to explore and relax every other Friday."
And if that wasn't enough? "Each year, we come together as a team to question what the studio of the future could be and how we could further increase our impact in the world as a B Corp," adds Alison. "We consolidate these ambitions into our Living Business Plan, a nature-inspired framework we use to ensure we continue to put People and the Planet before Profit."
6. Peter & Paul, Sheffield
Founded in 2005 by Peter Donohoe and Paul Reardon, Peter & Paul is an open and collaborative studio producing multidisciplinary design, branding and strategy for the physical and digital world. They believe in the value of shared and cultural experiences to drive change and innovation, new ideas and new possibilities.
As Brand Strategist Rachel Wakelin explains, the agency focuses on helping employees achieve their full potential. "I've been here over four years now and have been able to shape my role into what I'm interested in," she says. It's never been a case of, 'that's not the role you were hired for,' but more, 'how can we help you get there?'
"Everyone is involved in most projects, and you get a say no matter your job title. It makes for really creative collaborative work that we all feel a part of. Plus, we're in a nice spot on the river in Kelham Island – there aren't many studio spaces like this!" That space is housed in an old converted school that the agency itself named, branded and helped launch, inviting an artist to draw on the walls and bringing Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley along to DJ.
7. Spotify, London
First launched in 2006, Spotify is now the world's leading music streaming service and takes design very seriously. The company's mantra is "Don't just work here, belong here", and they say: "Our platform is for everyone, and so is our workplace. You're welcome at Spotify for who you are, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or what's playing in your headphones."
As well as being open with their diversity data, Spotify is working to create a safe, stigma-free environment that's open and caring about mental health issues. Employee benefits include an employee assistance program and self-care hub, generous global parental leave, learning opportunities through a dedicated team, flexible public holidays and the chance to join your colleagues on trips to industry festivals and events.
8. 383 Project, Birmingham
Founded in 2006, 383 is a digital product studio comprised of specialists in digital strategy, product management, UX and UI design, and engineering. "We care about each other, we care about the work we do, and we care about the world we live in," they say. "We understand that we all have lives outside the office and that our impact goes beyond the products we build."
Client Services Director Liz Hemes says this about working at 383 Project: "Is it the perfect job? Absolutely not. It doesn't involve swimming with sea turtles or lying on a beach whilst people bring me cocktails – that's a job, right?! But whenever friends and family ask about my work, my answer is always the same: 'I love my job'."
9. Wash Studio, Preston
Wash opened its studio doors in 2003 and has become one of the North West's most respected creative studios. They describe themselves as typical straight-talking northerners, which makes for warm, open communications with clients and collaborators.
"We're immersed in the arts, not just avid consumers of the latest art, music, film and more, but active creators and a leading voice in the region's cultural conversation," they add. "You'll find us at the talks, the openings and the new exhibitions, seeking inspiration and exploring new ideas."
10. Kingdom & Sparrow, Falmouth, Cornwall
Founded in 2012, Kingdom & Sparrow is an award-winning branding agency. Consisting of a multidisciplinary team of strategists, illustrators, designers and writers. It's proud to be a B Corporation: a company verified by the non-profit organisation B Lab to meet high standards of social responsibility, environmental performance and transparency.
Why work there? "Ultimately, we try to do tangible things that show our team we're a B Corp certified agency that puts people at the heart of our company," says Client Director Sophie Cowles. "Plus, being by the coast helps! We value work-life balance, and it makes for a happier, healthier, more creative team. We have several things in place to support that, like a free gym membership, profit sharing and finishing at 1pm for a sea swim or a Friday pint."
11. Blue Stag, Cardiff
Award-winning creative and digital agency Blue Stag work collaboratively to deliver high-quality projects for clients. They're always on the lookout for talented people who are passionate about what they do and driven to lead the way in their specialism.
"It's the people that make Blue Stag a great place to work," says Creative Director Dan Sargent. "We work with nice, honest and talented humans who care deeply about what they do. They all contribute to the culture and environment that makes Blue Stag a special place to work." Employee benefits include remote working and flexible working hours, courses and learning opportunities, regular social events, a cycle-to-work scheme and gym membership.
12. Shillington, London
Shillington is an integral part of the creative industries. Since 1997, its short, intensive courses have offered an alternative way into graphic design to a three-year degree and have brought generations of fresh talent into the profession.
If you're a graphic designer with at least four years of experience, then why not consider teaching with Shillington? With campuses in the UK, US and Australia and also offering online courses, it's a fun and inspiring place to work where new ideas are championed, and close friendships are made.
Plus, best of all, you'll be helping to transform the lives and careers of your students. No teaching experience is required: just a passion for design and mentoring. You would be working with an experienced teaching team and be trained in how to teach. Marssaié Jordan, a creative director and brand designer living in London, did just that, and couldn't recommend it more highly.
"Teaching at Shillington is a wonderful exchange in which I get to share my experience and insights," she says. "And in return, students inspire me with their fresh perspectives and limitless ideas."
Kim Melvin, an art director and graphic designer who's a lead teacher at Shillington New York, tells a similar story. “As a past student of Shillington, I always knew I wanted to return to the classroom as a teacher," she explains. "I teach at Shillington because I truly believe everyone is creative, and I love that design gives you the keys to creatively express yourself, both professionally and personally.”
You can apply to become a teacher at Shillington here. For more details, read: 11 Reasons Why Graphic Designers Love Teaching at Shillington.
13. DixonBaxi, London
Founded in 2001 by Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi, DixonBaxi is a global brand agency with some huge clients, including the Premier League, Capital One, Netflix, Channel 4 and the V&A. Simon describes his vision for the studio as containing the following elements: "Conviction in your beliefs. Good people who care about others. Pride in making the most inventive work. Pride in work that works. Collaborating with like-minded people. An inspiring and nurturing environment. Giving something back."
More specifically, DixonBaxi offers its employees a 4.5-day working week, a Friday family lunch and summer and Christmas parties, access to free professional support – be it mental health, financial, legal or any other advice – a cycle-to-work scheme and an extra day of holiday for each year you work there. The entire team was taken to OFFF Barcelona for their annual cultural trip, too.
What's more, DixonBaxi has just given the entire team a 10% pay rise to counter the cost of living crisis. And there's even a £500 weekend bonus to take a trip to see a new city. For those looking to get a foot in the door, the DixonBaxi Academy pays 10% above the London Living Wage for interns – many of its former recruits have since become senior executives at the agency. What's not to love? But don't just take our word for it; read the experiences of some of its team here.
14. Halo, Bristol
Halo is an independent, multidisciplinary creative agency that is proudly B Corp certified. They strive to create an environment where its employees feel comfortable bringing their real selves to work, saying: "We welcome the unique contributions that you can bring in terms of education, culture, ethnicity, race, sex, gender identity and expression, nation of origin, age, languages spoken, colour, religion, disability, or sexual orientation and beliefs. Difference is interesting; diversity is strength. Come and be you, with us."
Client Partnerships Director Hannah Williams adds, "As a certified B Corp, Halo is a business focused on continuous improvement and doing the right thing by people, planet and profit. We have a hugely talented team that encourages collaboration and development. It makes for an empowering space to learn and helps us create our best work."
15. Sail Creative, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Sail is a women-led, B-certified, creative practice with Northern roots and national reach. With a five-year track record of long-term partnerships and creating effective, award-winning design, they state: "We are not bound by convention, and we don't sell our souls for projects that don't get our fire burning." Their work encompasses branding and identity design, visual storytelling, campaigns, strategic workshops, animation and digital design.
The company offers employees an autonomous, supportive and inclusive work environment, a safe space to grow, and competitive benefits. An equal opportunities employer, they strongly encourage submissions from women, people of colour, people who identify as LGBTQIA+, disabled people and those from a working-class background.
"I was drawn to work here by the culture and value-led approach," says Senior Designer Ruth Irvine. "This has been evidenced since I joined the team, such as becoming a B Corp, our strong focus on equity and accessibility, and the compassionate, supportive, and people-first management approach. Sail lead by example and address social issues through their work with empathy and integrity. It's a positive place to be a part of!"
Come work at Shillington!
Shillington is currently looking for talented, friendly and industry-experienced graphic designers to work as full-time, part-time and online teachers for its campuses around the world. This is an amazing opportunity to mentor and guide students, enabling them to master design software and graduate with a portfolio of their very best work.
What's more, there are eight weeks of holiday, including six over the summer period, plus an amazing team environment with travel opportunities and a professional development budget. There's also a pension scheme, an employee assistance programme, in-house design opportunities, and the incredible satisfaction of helping someone change their life! Find out more and apply to work at Shillington here.