D&AD awards show design can gain on advertising

It wasn’t a vintage year for D&AD (see News Analysis, page 9). Two prestigious Gold awards notwithstanding, several categories, particularly in design, were glossed over, as ‘no award’ was announced on the night.

It wasn’t a vintage year for D&AD. Two prestigious Gold awards notwithstanding, several categories, particularly in design, were glossed over, as ‘no award’ was announced on the night.

Some blame the inconclusive ‘secret’ ballot approach to D&AD judging, designed to prevent ad industry judges from tactical voting in a contest that earns serious points for their agencies and a guaranteed pay rise for the creatives involved. Design is invariably more complex and demands a more discursive system to get the best results.

But bad years happen, especially when times are tough and consultancies are pressed to persuade clients into taking on new ideas. The outcome is too often ‘safe’ work that doesn’t doesn’t push boundaries or impress award judges.

The best judges, rightly, won’t drop their standards to accommodate a ‘lean’ year, which makes it all the better for those who win through. Mark Porter and the team behind The Guardian redesign are, therefore, to be doubly congratulated for winning a Gold for their efforts.

One thing that did shine through the D&AD results was that advertising is no longer the dominant force in the creative industries. Even its staunchest fans professed boredom on the night, as lucklustre ad followed lacklustre ad as contenders for top honours.

Those that have been charting design’s financial performance over recent years, in the context of the marketing services industry, find it slowly gaining ground on advertising. The move by some consultancies from creating artefacts and communications collateral towards designing companies and services can only build on this. Add the resurgence of digital design, beyond the website, and there is cause for celebration.

Cross-discipline awards, such as D&AD, are only one barometer of change, focusing solely on creativity. But this year’s outcome is still very interesting. If design could gain confidence from the situation, we’d be on to a real winner.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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