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

Design office Made Thought is joining forces 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 bought a majority stake in interiors firm Universal and industrial design firm Map Project Office in 2018.

Its latest acquisition, Made Thought, is a leading brand 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 into Universal and Map’s offices in Clerkenwell, London.

New Standard’s logo features three circles to signify the three studios

“Universal, Map and Made Thought are pioneers and innovators with an unrivaled track record for 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 creativity is both revealed and enhanced in an atmosphere of collaboration.”

Ushering in the “new era of design”

Austin and Parker will remain senior 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 aisle and a pop-up that merged elements of the physical and digital retail experience.

thought done
Made Thought designed the brand for companies such as Pinterest, Brewdog and GF Smith

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

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

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

Focus on experimentation

This will be the second time Made Thought has partnered with industrial designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who are the 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 way”, with an emphasis on experimentation and cross-platform 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 normal will encourage the creative talents of each studio to flourish, while nurturing ideas at all scales and across all disciplines,” they said.

Joseph E. Golightly