10 Studios & Agencies To Watch
by The Dieline on 12/23/2022 | 8 Minute Read
If we had to ballpark just how many branding studios and agencies from across the globe we've highlighted since Dieline first started, that number would likely go into the hundreds or thousands, making it a near-impossible task to go back and scout the archives for research.
Regardless, we love to celebrate the innovative spirit and ingenuity many of these studios continuosly pump out.
But what's surpising is that we've never actually compiled an official STUDIOS AND AGENCIES TO WATCH piece. So what better way to ring in a new year full of possibilities than by shouting out some of our favorite branding folks that continue to surpise and dazzle us.
Here are Dieline's 10 Studios and Agencies to watch in the coming year.
Watching AWSM Sauce and its line of powdered sauces (add water, and you have instant ketchup) make its way into the world was a sustainable win for consumers who want to reduce their single-use plastic consumption.
But it was also a victory for Brooklyn and Hawaii-based design studio Herefor because they had managed to create a compelling visual identity that told the story of the sustainable brand in such a playful—and educational—manner.
It’s all part of the young studio’s ethos of “making nice things for nice people nicely.” The amount of character they build into every wordmark shows, from their recent work on Toodaloo and MyOva to Joi and Yoi (yes, those are two different products). What’s more, they inject the worlds of these brands with loads of personality, charm, and playfulness.
Hopefully, they’ll let us come to Hawaii for an office share.
You gotta love a studio that’s committed to building sustainability into every project they design, especially when that particular studio has also developed its own open-source materials Index that’s chockful of plastic-free options.
But that’s just what Goods and sister studio Heydays have done. From reimagining Europe’s “green dot” recycling symbol to dreaming up the visual identity for Carrot, a software company that catalogs and repurposes waste, the Norwegian studio designs brands for “people and the planet.”
We hate to bring up all of the stereotypical tropes that are associated with Scandinavian design, but there’s something so clean and welcoming about every brand they work on—take Plateful and its cleverly underlined serif wordmark that gets animated into a captcha-esque, jumbled cluster that speaks to the brand’s repurposing food waste that would otherwise go straight to the trashbin. Or there’s the minimal, custom packaging system they developed for one of Huddly’s new cameras—the flat-packed modular system celebrates raw cardboard and its ease of recyclability.
If you want to know what studios are developing the sustainable packaging of tomorrow, look no further.
If there was one studio’s name that was in everyone’s mouth this year, it was clearly Brooklyn’s Gander. And it’s easy to see why—they were the design agency that redefined cereal with Magic Spoon. So is it any surprise that they continue to do away with the visual language that has long-dominated other entrenched CPG stalwarts? We’ve already seen what they can do with ramen and gummy bears, but what about pasta, plant-based ice cream, deli meats, and pre-packaged sausage?
And let’s not forget Graza. Has olive oil ever really looked like that?
While so much of their work lives within the startup space, it would be amazing to see what they could do with a global CPG player, even though we don’t know if they could deal with the studio’s bold and colorful brand worlds.
Also, some bonus points here—these guys know their 90s Nickelodeon shit and can talk a good game about Pete & Pete.
We had some truly great speakers at our conferences this year, but Madison Utendahl of Utendahl Creative was a genuine highlight. She’s not one to shy away from facts or tackling some of the all-too-familiar issues we hear about agency life—so give them a GRAM follow already, will ya?
The Black, female-owned studio is quickly making itself a well-rested force to be reckoned with. And while they decided to cut back on their social media capabilities, they doubled down on design and branding.
That new focus is evident from their most recent creation for Chris Paul’s entry into the snacks-life sphere, Good Eat’n, a line of better-for-you plant-based treats that looks like anything but green. With bubble letters, smiley faces, and acid tongues, it’s a brand that doesn't take itself too seriously while earnestly going after a Gen Z demographic. On the other end of the packaging spectrum, you’ll find the wonderfully minimal DTC olive oil brand Branche with its earthy palette, textured label, and wooden stopper.
Hell, they even made HR exciting, and that’s plenty hard to do.
When it comes to the women-owned branding studio Designsake, “collaboration and cooperation is [their] love language.”
For any design agency or studio you tie your fate to, that’s kind of the deal. There are plenty of designers that can make beautiful work. But ultimately, you still need a creative partner to bring that to life, and the California studio enjoys getting in the sandbox and playing around to see what they can dream up.
With egg brand Helpful Hens, they were able to tell the story of regenerative farming and pair it with an adorable visual identity and packaging. Orlo Nutrition’s future-forward design promises one of the most sustainable supplements on the market—not only do they offer refills and recyclable glass bottles, but there’s zero secondary packaging. And speaking of sustainability, they helped develop the brand identity for Experiment, a beauty brand that does away with single-use face masks. The editorial-style design brings a youthful feel and 90s-heavy touches to create a brand world equal parts Bill Nye the Science Guy and Nickelodeon.
Led by founder Zipeng Zhu, Dazzle Studio is a creative agency that lives up to its name and mission of making everything dazzling. With bright colors, gradients, lens flares, stars, and chrome, Dazzle has plenty of arrows in its creative quiver and is a sure shot with all of them.
Dazzle recently un-bro’d energy drinks with design work for Pzaz. The colorful, bold, and maximalist approach offers an invigorating change in a space dominated by macho and extreme edgelord design.
In a Pride-themed collaboration, Dazzle worked with hair care brand JVN to create packaging for Air Dry Cream. Zhu, who is also Queer, wanted to add love and pride to the atmosphere, and the packaging does that with moving, swirling rainbow colors that flow and combine on every panel of the box.
Zhu’s studio adds dazzling energy that’s uplifting and positive in all its work. We could all certainly use more sparkle in our life, and Dazzle is consistently fabulous at providing it, which makes them a studio that merits attention.
This summer, writing about Ffups, Dieline’s Chloe Gordon pointed to the snack puff brand’s unapologetically literal and absurd identity and design as a possible harbinger of the end of “blanding.”
Day Job’s branding and packaging work is anything but middle-of-the-road. Projects like Recess, Glonuts, and Taika hits the eyeballs with big, maximalist, and irreverent designs. As big brands continue to flatten and simplify, Day Job adds textures, 3D shapes, and bright gradients. Sometimes, the effect is a throwback to an idealized and slightly removed era of the 1990s and 2000s, one that younger millennials and Gen Z were either too young or not born yet to experience firsthand.
If being an antidote to blanding wasn't enough, Day Job has its finger on the pulse of young consumers, making it a studio to watch.
Brooklyn-based Center is a studio that builds branding using a mix of irreverence, experimentation, and boldness that makes brands stand out, even in crowded categories like skincare.
This year, Center, founded by Coca-Cola veteran Alex Center, showed its design swag with projects like Simulate, a plant-based brand that veers away from conventional vegan and plant-based tropes and dives headfirst into a futuristic, lab-leaning identity that focuses on the science behind alt-meats rather than the environmental and ethical aspects of plant-based foods. Gente is a Brazilian skincare brand that celebrates all body types and encourages healthy skin as a point of pride. The Gente wordmark is playful, the packaging is bright and colorful, and the branding is inclusive, inspiring confidence and redefining “beach-ready” bodies.
Center is ambitious and takes creative risks that consistently pay off. After all, they're also trying to make the “Coca-Cola of Cannabis,” and it's like Butter, baby.
Scandavanian-based Everland is an agency that's adept at creating brand identities for new and heritage brands.
Everland deftly uses typography in expressive, elegant ways. Bellman’s Dapper is an example of how Everland uses type-forward packaging to create a sophisticated look that's as warm and welcoming as a cozy bar.
Rebael is an RTD line of high-end juices, teas, lemonades, and cocktails. Raebel turned to Everland to create an artistic and chic brand identity and packaging.
This year, we also saw Everland work on rebrands for two legacy Scandinavian brands, chocolate brand Guld Barre and orange soda Tuborg Squash. Both refreshes recognize and pay homage to the heritage of their respective brands with a contemporary flare and cross-generational appeal.
Female-led Wonderkind is a team of talented millennial and Gen Z women that have demonstrated a talent for appealing to the same demographic. The Austin-based studio has also had a banner year, creating some terrific food and beverage (F&B) branding and packaging that runs the gamut visually but is anchored in a strong, demonstrable understanding of their generation, especially women.
Jibby is CBD-infused coffee with a playful mascot, lending a lively and approachable attitude to the brand. You Again is a muffin mix that features Ayurvedic ingredients, and Wonderkind refreshed the brand by amping up the color palette, incorporating new typography, and finding inspiration in henna tattoos. Hot Take is a brand of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies that are indulgent and made with premium ingredients—the branding literally smiles at the consumer, and the color palette has strong mall vibes, which is a thing Gen Z is apparently really into as a retail experience.
With more members of the Z class graduating into their influential purchasing age, Wonderkind is a studio to watch if you want to see how to build a brand for up-and-coming consumers successfully.
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