johnson banks Company blurb & biogs

johnson banks has been in business for over twenty years. Like any start-up we couldn’t be too choosy about our projects for a few years, but slowly we began to do what we really wanted – large, significant and important identity and branding projects. Now our client list is spread across blue-chip, government, arts, charity and ‘third sector’ projects – we’re trying hard to keep a wide spread of work, so we can approach each new problem with our eyes wide open, not half closed.


Many of our projects involve complex stakeholders, all with their own unique points of view, all needing careful management and negotiation. Increasingly we carry out the strategic analysis stages ourselves. Normally that would result in work hampered by compromise and committee, but we’re firm believers that good thinking and good design ‘will out’, and so far that’s been proved correct. Identity projects are complex, yes, but complexity shouldn’t remove creativity.

As our reputation grows internationally, we now have regular overseas clients. This began in the nineties with an identity project in Paris for the Parc de la Villette cultural park Throughout the last decade we have worked on projects in Japan, most notably for a new space observatory in Sendai, and have worked on several projects in the USA (including a groundbreaking project for the Pew Center).

We’ve recently returned from Shanghai where we were exhibiting a custom-designed pictogrammic typeface. Increasingly our work crosses all boundaries. Whilst grounded in branding, long ago we moved into the strategic work (positioning, naming, values). We’re now very involved in tone of voice and messaging, perhaps because we’re happy to write as well as design.

In terms of implementation, moving image is a mandatory element, and applying out across typography, print, web, packaging, signage and audio is now the norm. Exhibitions and 3D are just another aspect of what we do. To us this is logical – we look at all the ‘touch-points’ for 21st century brands and supply solutions accordingly.

johnson banks was set up by Michael Johnson. He trained in Marketing and Design and set up johnson banks in 1992 after spending his twenties working in London, Sydney, Melbourne and Tokyo. There was never any intention to become awards obsessed, and we’re not. But, if you’re counting, Johnson and his company have won many (including eight ‘pencils’ from D&AD, 13 Design Week awards and four NYADC ‘cubes’, amongst many others, and has dozens of designs in the V&A’s permanent collection).

He has been cited as one of the most notable British Designers by the Guardian and The Independent, has three times featured in Design Week’s ‘Hot 50′ list of prominent figures in design and edits the influential ‘Thought for the week’ design blog.

In October 2002 Phaidon Press published Johnson’s first book, called ‘Problem Solved: a primer in design and communication‘, now in its 5th reprint, and he is working on two further titles. He contributed to and co-curated the Rewind exhibition and book at the V&A in 2003.

Johnson lectures on design and branding across the world, and for several years has run a highly subscribed branding workshop for D&AD for both individuals and client groups. The company’s work has been exhibited globally, most notably in a solo exhibition at the Creation Gallery in Ginza in 2004.

Johnson is the company’s creative and strategy director, aided by account director Katherine Heaton, followed by the design team which is led by senior designers Kath Tudball and Julia Woollams.

Katherine holds degrees in both Management and Marketing from the University of Manchester and in Literature and Visual Culture from the University of Sussex, and prior to joining johnson banks was client side at CABE (the commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) for over ten years. Kath and Julia both graduated with firsts from Central Saint Martins and have both been at johnson banks for over a decade. Below the senior designers there is team of juniors and interns, but there are rarely more than ten of us in the studio.

We like to keep it small, be beholden to no-one financially and choose our projects carefully so that clients can still get direct access to Johnson and his team.