image It isn’t often that the opportunity comes along to go out and hire the best of the best for your clients.  Certainly, one always strives to have the best bang for the buck when it comes to wisely spending your clients dollars out there, but once in a while you get lucky and you hear the magic words: “Price is no object.”

I heard the magic words, the other day, from a client of mine looking for some front end web design.  It’s been so long since I’d personally handled a high-end design project, I decided to poll my social graph for the best suggestions. What came out the other side of the community filtered list was something akin to what Penelope Trunk described in a blog post the other day at Brazen Careerist: artists who are great at networking.

Here are the results of my query; filtered, ordered and illustrated for your perusal.

image Jeffrey Zeldman / Happy Cog: One of the most recognizable names that leapt out at me from the list was this one. At Robert Scoble’s suggestion, I checked out his firm’s site to figure out exactly what it would take to retain the services of the man who’s been designing high profile sites so long, the Batman Forever movie website is in his portfolio. More recently, they’ve created sites for Books-A-Million, Kongregate, Smartypig, and the United Nations. Incidentally, projects at Happy Cog cost generally $100k or more, though they are occasionally as low as $75k.

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image Zee / WeDoCreative: Zee is someone with whom I frequently see in conversation on FriendFeed and Twitter, and is a central player in the technology creative firm WeDoCreative.

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image Martin Ringlein / NClud: This was one of the suggestions that came from prolific DC-blogger and friend Aaron Brazell. The NClud team has worked on a wide array of social media and Web 2.0 darling sites you’ve heard of, including Mixx, Ogilvy Public Relations, emPivot as well as Animal Planet, Nokia and the Museum of Sex.

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image Ryan Laepple / 3Degree Media: Ryan Laepple was an obvious choice for me, since I at one point was a design mentor of his (before he quickly surpassed me in both ability and client scope as a designer). Given that my social graph includes him and many of his friends, he was a suggestion that was made too many times to ignore.  Based out of East Texas, his firm has an impressive array of clientele ranging from corporate, to local business, to world renowned religious organizations.

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Jesse Thomas / JESS3: Jesse Thomas is another designer that’s probably well known to those who make their virtual residence inside the Web 2.0 world. He’s worked on a wide array of high profile sites and clients, including the Heritage Foundation, Lookery, and AOL.

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image Mark Boulton / hicksdesign: A UK-based design outfit, hicksdesign was probably the most mentioned design firm in my list of artists to check out. There’s good reason for that; they’re behind well known sites and perennial favorites like Mahalo and Miro as well as a cadre of local and religious clients. Whereas a lot of designers with portfolios that match this description have design patterns that are pigeon-holed, hicksdesign seems to have a wide variety of styles in their arsenal, each site with its own unique look and feel.

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image Brent Spore / Synergy: Brent Spore was a suggestion made by my friend and social media giant Chris Pirillo. Brent Spore is a wearer of many hats, both as creative director at Synergy as well as curator of the blog iBoughtAMac, as well as a organizing the PodCamps in Arizona.

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This, of course, only scratches the surface of not just the world’s population of web designers, but the designers that were recommended to me last week.  Very certainly there are talented designers reading this and within your social graph; one of my favorite things to do is to simply admire good work, so if you know of a designer that belongs in the ranks mentioned here, please include them below!