Made Thought to form a collective with Universal Design Studio and Map


The Made Thought design office is teaming up with Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office to form a new design collective, after selling a majority stake to digital agency AKQA.

AKQA now owns a majority stake in all three London-based studios, having purchased a controlling stake in interior office Universal and digital design office Map Project Office in 2018.

Its latest acquisition, Made Thought, is a premier branded design studio founded by Paul Austin and Ben Parker.

New collective called The New Standard

The move allows the three studios to come together to form The New Standard, a collective with the ambition to “redefine the contemporary design agency”.

The three companies will remain separate entities, but will come together on projects spanning different design areas.

To enable effective collaboration, Made Thought will move to the Universal and Map office in Clerkenwell, London.

The New Standard is a collaboration between Universal, Map and Made Thought

“Universal, Map and Made Thought are pioneers and innovators with unmatched experience in design excellence, influential and distinguished work,” said Ajaz Ahmed, CEO of AKQA.

“This partnership represents the next wave and sets the new standard. It is founded on the belief that form and substance are inseparable, and that creativity is both revealed and enhanced in an atmosphere of collaboration.”

Inaugurating the “new age of design”

Austin and Parker will remain the principal directors of Made Thought, whose clients include Stella McCartney, Tom Dixon, Adidas, MoMA, Sonos and & Other Stories.

The studio specializes in projects geared towards the future of design. Recent examples include branding the world’s first plastic-free supermarket shelf and a pop-up that merges elements of the physical and digital retail experience.

Made Thought designed a branding for companies like Pinterest, Brewdog and GF Smith

The new standard was born out of the shared belief that “design will play a central role in our imminent future”, against the backdrop of important global events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.

“Creativity is the most important motto for businesses in the 21st century and we believe collaboration is the key to broader and bolder thinking,” said Austin and Parker.

“For us, the merger with Universal, Map, alongside AKQA, is the best way to see in this new era of design.”

Focus on experimentation

This will be the second time that Made Thought has teamed up with industrial designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, founders of Universal and Map.

Made Thought and Universal shared a studio 20 years ago, when Universal was known as Barber Osgerby Associates.

The three studios intend to collaborate “in a collegial manner”, with an emphasis on experimentation and multiplatform work.

Their efforts will be supported by AKQA, which has a global team based in 50 different countries around the work.

Richard Stevens and Jason Holley, directors of Universal and Map, said they plan to use “the power of our collective to stay at the forefront of creative transformation, always challenging the status quo.”

“The new standard will encourage the creative talents of each studio to flourish, while nurturing ideas at all scales and across disciplines,” they said.

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