Designers of any variety are a criminally underappreciated group, especially in today’s increasingly digital world. Few people stop to think about who created the images for a certain ad campaign, or who created the colorful logo for a certain company, or even who created the design of their favorite website. But the truth of the matter is that there is a designer behind each and every one of those things. And without graphic designers the world of advertising, the Internet, and branding would be a lot less interesting and diverse.
So we are here to rectify that problem the only way we know how – by shining our tiny spotlight on some excellent designers of every shape and size and letting them know we appreciate their talents. While you are reading this abbreviated list, please keep in mind, this is not meant to be a comprehensive or definitive list in any way. These designers aren’t ranked in terms of talent or notoriety. There are literally thousands of talented designers across the globe, and to try and claim some are better than others is just silly.
Based in Northern Ireland, Airey has established himself as one of the most well-respected brand identity designers in the world and has the impressive client list (Yellow Pages, Giacom, etc.) to back it up. Airey doesn’t just stick to his designing guns however. He has also written a book on creating brand identities and operates three blogs, including his personal site, where he offers advice on everything from tips for design students to advice on how to walk the fine line between spamming and effective e-mail marketing. Airey has quickly built his personal brand and influence within the industry and will be exciting to watch down the road.
Follow him — @davidairey
Talk about a man who wears many hats, with all the different things going on in his life, it’s amazing Boulton is able to keep it all organized. In addition to being an insightful writer and well-travelled conference speaker, Boulton still finds time to run his own small website design studio, and also independently publish design books on the side as well. As if that wasn’t enough, he has also authored multiple books on design and is an active tweeter who interacts with followers, offers design insight, and occasional humorous observations from his travels. There are few designers with a more diverse set of accomplishments than Boulton.
Follow him — @markboulton
A A freelance designer & consultant, HTML5 fanatic, and 20-year veteran of the design industry, Simmons combines in-depth subject knowledge and an expansive web presence to make her one of the more influential professionals in the design space. Simmons’ design experience extends beyond the web and into film, and she has extensive experience as a media arts teacher at both the collegiate and the high school level. She is perhaps best known for her popular podcast, The Web Ahead, on which her and her guests discuss evolving technologies and the future of the Internet in a very engaging manner.
Follow her — @jensimmons
As the former design director for NYTimes.com, Vinh is a talented graphic designer with unique insights on the increasingly digital world of news consumption and how presentation and design plays into that consumption. But his career as a graphic designer encompasses much more. Most recently, the company he founded is responsible for the social collage app, Mixel, which allows amateur artists create their own images and share them with friends. If you still aren’t satisfied, Vinh writes often on his website where he offers opinion on the new iPad and gives nuanced advice to fellow visual designers.
Follow him — @khoi
Kellum is a front-end developer currently lending his HTML and CSS expertise to creating dynamic templates for Treesaver.net, in-browser technology that makes publishing and consumption easy and aesthetically pleasing. A graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, Kellum blends both old and new school design methods. His previous work includes time as a typeface designer and his design experience and interests extends far beyond his work as a front-end developer.
Follow him — @scottkellum
An artist in the truest sense of the word, Hansen combines his impressive design work with a budding career as a musician, making him one of the more intriguing designers on the web. We still avoid the music since we can hardly be considered experts on the subject and just say that his design portfolio – which can be found on clothing, in print, and on his blog – is filled with fascinating color schemes and styles that show his immense talent as a designer of any variety.
Follow him — @ISO50
Like many of the designers on this list, Frost is an artist in more ways than one. In addition to his impressive work as a mobile designer and front-end developer, Frost is also a bassist (who can play other instruments) and a painter (who can draw using other tools). His best work can be seen in his wide portfolio of sites he created, but he is also a talented writer with plenty of opinions of the future of the web and design.
Follow him – @brad_frost
One of the most accomplished and experienced designers on the list, Terrett currently serves as the Head of Design for the Government Digital Service, an office within that UK Government that delivers digital public services. Terret’s career as a big wig or board member for some of the most well-respected design agencies and companies in the world has made him an influential voice in the world of design. If you are looking to find out what that voice has to say, his blog is filled with sometimes-random musings and observations on designs, logos, and anything else from his travels.
Follow him — @benterrett
An independent graphic designer and developer, Spooner has carved out a niche in the industry by combining excellent graphics and design work with handy design tutorials and advice he offers up from his blog. Few designers seem to love vivid colors as much as Spooner, but he seems to be best known for his incredibly popular tutorials on diverse subjects within the world of graphic design. His sites are a must-read for aspiring designers looking for tricks of the trade.
Follow him — @chrisspooner
There are few designers in the world who can match the experience, expertise, and diverse portfolio of Millman. The president of the design division at Sterling Brands, Millman is a respected voice in the world of branding, but she doesn’t stop there. She has also penned five books, writes about design for FastCompany.com, hosts a popular radio show, and chairs the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. It is safe to say that if you are immersed in the world of design, you already know who Millman is. And if you don’t, you probably should familiarize yourself with her work and career.
Follow her — @debbiemillman
Swan is a freelance web designer and developer who made the list not only for his insightful and snarky writing, but also for his work as the creative director and co-founder of Durocast. An experienced and talented web designer and template creator, Swan co-founded Durocast in 2009 and the startup has grown rapidly since. The idea is to aggregate great radio stations from across the country, giving listeners a chance to hear and experience music and radio programming from across the country, and giving radio stations a chance to increase their listenership and enlarge their footprint across the country.
Follow him — @elliothere
Stephanie and Bryan Rieger
We can confirm the Rieger duo are, in fact, two different people, but they are both designers, working together to create some of the more compelling mobile website designs and interactive media platforms on the web, so we will count them as one. In addition their work as mobile designers, they also spend a great deal of time thinking about the future and evolution of mobile design, thoughts they convey intelligently in both presentations and writing.
Follow them — @yiibu
The founder and principal consultant of Easy! Designs, Gustafson has become one of the more well-recognized designers on the web thanks to his business, his active social media presence, and his expertise in multiple aspects of website design including languages and architecture. In fact, if you are interested in website design, it can’t be difficult to avoid Gustafson, whose writing, opinions, and advice are strewn about the web. If you are interested in learning more, you are in luck, because Gustafson’s passion for website design is only equaled by his passion for passing his knowledge on to others.
Follow him — @aarongustafson
David N. Brooks
An audio producer turned visual arts connoisseur, Brooks is a talented designer from the Midwest whose design studio, Northward Compass, has built its reputation with simple and elegant websites, logos for branding, and colorful and diverse photography. His most recent project, the app Thousand Wires, is an innovative and visual aid for musicians looking to get organized.
Follow him — @davidnbrooks
With a knack for creating excellent brand identity designs and a client roster that spans the globe, Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST Creative design studio, has established himself as one of the preeminent brand identity designers in the world. Working with the likes of Nike, Jerry Seinfeld, and Capcom, the Australia native has the luxury of working for himself and still securing plenty of big-name clients and high-profile work. He also is more than willing to share his opinion on graphic design and brand identity via his writing on his blog.
Follow him — @justcreative
Tina Roth Eisenberg
The aptly nicknamed “Swiss Miss” moved to New York from Switzerland before the turn of the century and has been honing her work as a designer in the Big Apple ever since. A veteran of some of the city’s best design firms, Eisenberg isn’t taking on any client work right now, but that hasn’t stopped her from posting her musings and favorite designs to the 900,000 visitors she gets to her blog each month. Few designers are lucky enough to even be able to dream about accruing that sort of following, luckily Eisenberg has the experience and skill to back it up.
Follow her — @swissmiss
A design and CSS wizard, Pieters boasts some of the most vibrant and visually appealing designs of anyone across the Internet, and her portfolio is vast. The Belgian native has been doing print and web design since the early 1990’s and has earned her reputation as one of the best designers in the business, even taking the time to design the cover of Aaron Gustafson’s book on adaptive design. This multi-disciplined designer is a name to remember as she continues to pump out colorful designs and offers tips and advice on her blog.
Follow her — @vpieters
An experienced web and graphic designer, Surtees is the principal and creative director at Gesture Theory, a small design studio most recently known for creating Deckpub, a tablet publishing platform. But it’s his writing that makes him such an interesting designer to follow. Surtees created and runs DesignNotes, where his passion for design is on display. He writes about designs and advertisements he sees on the street, he writes about the everyday interactions between people and design, and he writes his opinions on new technology as they relate to design. Some designers don’t transition from visual to written storytelling particularly well; Surtees is not one of those people.
Follow him – @MichaelSurtees
A former journalist and producer for BBC, Acosta has combined his love for storytelling and his love for design to co-found Designing Stories, an aptly named storytelling and web design studio that helps businesses tell the story of their company or product in an appealing fashion. The London-based studio Acosta helps run has the reputation of a full-service studio that doesn’t just design an excellent website but also takes the time to learn the client’s story and use even the minutest details to enhance that story.
Follow him – @sergioacosta
A Netherlands transplant and California native, Hay has been working in the design industry for the better part of two decades. He has used that extensive experience to start a web design consulting business, Zero Interface, where he helps clients with the creative strategy and design for their website. Hay has translated his experience and success into a number of speaking engagements where he lends his expertise to thoughts on CSS and web design in general.
Follow him — @stephenhay
A former model and Miss USA contestant, Meek is more than just a pretty face; she is also a talented web and visual designer with plenty of experience and a diverse portfolio of paintings, sculptures, and digital designs. While she doesn’t accept freelance work, she is a creative director for AgencyNet, so it’s safe to say that her best days of design are still ahead of her.
Follow her — @larissameek
A native South African, Ellse is a talented web designer who focuses on interface design. One look at her website and you can see that her website portfolio and client list is extensive and her designs show skill and creativity. Some designers will try to create such an amazing web design they end up falling flat on their face, Ellse on the other hand creates simple yet effective designs that improve the user experience while also maintaining a visually appealing design.
Follow her — @designspace
A native of Northern Ireland who moved to California, Munroe is the latest in a long line of multidisciplinary designers who specialize in user experience and user interface designs for everything from mobile to desktop apps. In addition, his writing on web design can be found all over the Internet and his passion for web standards is clear in his work. Like Ellse before him, Munroe’s philosophy seems to be that simple is better than complex, and his interface designs reflect that philosophy.
Follow him — @leemunroe
Last but certainly not least, Taylor calls the island of Cyprus home and after designing and branding an enormous lifestyle magazine on the island, Taylor decided to take her web designing talents elsewhere and began taking on freelance work full-time. A web standards enthusiast like so many of her colleagues on this list, Taylor has built quite the portfolio of clean, effective website designs that not only aid user experience but also create a strong brand identity for the client.
Follow her — @emtaylor