In a city as tech-crazy as San Francisco, one can practically throw a stone in any direction and hit a talented and innovative graphic or web designer. This means that if you are looking for a talented design shop willing to meet your needs and work with you personally to create a great design, you can do worse than to look in San Francisco. Please keep in mind, the following eleven shops are not meant to stand alone as “the best” design shops in the city nor are they ranked in any particular order. Determining “the best” web design shop in a city full of great ones would be near impossible. That said, these shops are some of the most well-known and recognized shops in the city, and TheArtCareerProject.com felt they deserved some recognition for the work they are doing, so enjoy.
Razorfrog Web Design
Started in 2000 by a young designer from the area named Max Elman, Razorfrog has quickly earned a reputation as a great website design shop and one that’s incredibly easy to work with. The team prides itself on openly communicating and maintaining a close relationship with client, while also providing the client with not only aesthetically pleasing designs, but also the coding, the layout, the copywriting, and even IT consulting. With clients ranging from historical societies to radio stations and even auto repair centers, Razorfrog is a dynamic shop that is willing to work with individuals and businesses alike to create a stunning and easily navigable website that is appealing to visitors.
Arin Fishkin Graphic Design
Does it still count as a graphic design “shop” if the shop is really just one woman? And perhaps more importantly, does it matter? With a formal education in art and design not just from the University of Michigan but also the San Francisco Art Institute, Arin Fishkin is a versatile designer and artist who has experience creating everything from logos, to print designs, and even website designs. An avid believer in sustainability and someone with an affinity for working with local small businesses and startups, Fishkin has worked with everyone from Burning Man to the Women’s Foundation of California. Few in the Bay Area can match Fishkin’s combination of artistic talent and design sense, making her a truly one-stop shop for your design needs.
A graduate of San Jose State University, Brian Schwab has been designing websites, logos, prints, tour posters, and more for 15 years. The volume of Schwab’s work is difficult for any design shop to match and he isn’t just effective, timely, and communicative, he also has a strong eye for design and graphics, and his track record of clean, easily navigable, aesthetically pleasing websites proves that. While other design shops branch out into marketing, Schwab has stuck to what he knows, which is fundamentally sound and clean design work. Obviously, based on his reputation, the focus has paid off.
Lettermade Design + Press
Although Lettermade Design and Press isn’t the same type of one-stop design shop as the two aforementioned shops, the ladies at Lettermade Design and Press have made a reputation for themselves for not only being helpful and extremely friendly, but also for consistently creating aesthetically pleasing and interesting designs for wedding invitations, business cards, menus, and thank you cards. Previous clients praised them for their attention to detail and ability to listen carefully to the client to fashion the design that the client had in mind. The shop isn’t large, but that is a good thing, as the ladies at Lettermade Design and Press often go above and beyond their requirements to meet the needs of clients, customer service that can be difficult to find in any type of business.
Check them out on Yelp.
Elative isn’t necessarily a design shop in the truest sense of the word, but that is because not only do they employ a number of designers and developers experienced in creating sleek and gorgeous new websites, but they also provide their clients with a full-service marketing team and strategy to engage your target audience. The team is easily accessible and more than willing to walk clients through every step of the process, and they are also talented and experienced marketing and design professionals who stay on top of the latest technological trends. The team at Elative has earned a reputation across the country for creating brand identities and logos from scratch, and their impressive roster of clients that includes Levi’s, Ann Taylor, and the makers of Guitar Hero, proves that the results match the reputation.
Spotted Dog Graphics
It isn’t easy achieving long-term success in a industry as competitive and flooded as graphic design, but the four-person shop at Spotted Dog has been doing design work in the Bay Area since 1993, which should tell you something about the client experience. Few design shops are able to combine their skills with their passion, but the ladies at Spotted Dog Graphics work primarily with food and wine companies and enthusiasts, which is right up the design team’s alley. They believe strongly in a collaborative process that makes it easy for the clients and designers to work together to take a vision and make it a reality. With experience in everything from brand identity to website design, Spotted Dog offers a diverse range of services while maintaining the cozy, small shop feel that so many clients covet.
The Velvet Owl Design Studio
Coco Tardiff got her start creating gig posters and album covers for friends that were musicians and now has done design work with huge names like Google, Pepsi, Billabong, and Sony Music, proving her Velvet Owl Design Studio isn’t a bad place to start if you are in the market for unique and inspirational graphic design. While those gig poster and album cover designs remain “at the soul of the studio’s art” as she so eloquently put it, she has expanded her design services in recent years and now offers everything from digital illustration to prop styling, and textile design. Tardiff blends vast and diverse experience in the creative industry and dynamic design talent to create one of the more recognizable and popular design studios in the area.
Created in 2004 by designer Leslie Tagorda, Flair Designs is not merely the design shop you turn to when you need a well-designed website; it is also a place you can turn to for creating everything from a brand identity to a marketing campaign, an ad campaign, and even SEO campaigns. The firm is small enough that they are able to offer clients personalized attention to help them turn their vision into a design, but the firm is also big enough o employ a number of talented designers with different types of expertise, allowing Flair to truly be a one-stop shop for its clients. Combining excellent customer service with a positive attitude and a range of talent and skill can be difficult to bring together, but Flair Designs is one of the fortunate few companies that has done it successfully thus far.
Bucktrout Creative is a three-person freelance design studio run by the Bucktrout family, each of whom brings years of advertising and design experience as well as their own unique area of expertise. Founder Simon Bucktrout got his start in editorial design in Scotland and barely a decade later was running a thriving design studio offering clients such as Levi’s and eBay everything from brand identity, to website design. His wife Jen officially join the firm in 2008 and has the digital expertise needed in this increasingly technological world. Now she specializes in custom WordPress sites. The third Bucktrout in the clan, Justin, brings a wealth of design and artistic experience. The shop is tiny by design so the shop can give personalized attention and work closely with its clients, and also so it can remain efficient and flexible, which is important given their wide variety of services. The shop may not be armed with a small garrison of talented designers ready to churn out designs by the dozen, but they do offer a comfortable setting, a collaborative workplace to suit client needs, and years of talent and experience that have helped make the Bucktrout name an easily recognizable one in the design industry.
Ian Vadas Brand Identity Design
Another one-man shop, Ian Vadas doesn’t just work with brand designs. He also helps develop and consult on the brand, and provides logo design, packaging and stationary design, and also web graphics. His one-man shop allows him to be nimble and flexible when it comes to his work, and it allows him to work hand-in-hand with clients to craft designs and brands that are not only aesthetically pleasing and impactful, but also in line with the client’s vision. His work includes creating business cards, wedding invitations, and effective logos that engage the user. He may not have the resources as some of the larger design shops, but his attention to detail and commitment to the client are reflected in his work.
Kaneshige Design Associates
You can look for a long time and it would still be difficult to find a designer with more experience and longevity than Jay Kaneshige. The man has been working in design and advertising since the early 1980s and has built a sterling reputation for his work creating corporate and brand identities. Of course that is not the only type of design work his shop now provides, he and his team also perform website design, packaging design, and print design as well a wide range of other services to its clients. What sets his shop apart from others is the team’s experiences and the nearly endless list of design services it is willing to provide. Whether it is creating brand identity for a massive corporation or creating a website for a small business, Kaneshige and his team have the experience and talent to handle all of it.