The culture of mentors adds heritage to a young industry

There was a poignancy at last week’s D&AD Awards when Garrick Hamm bestowed his President’s Award on his one-time employer Michael Peters. Peters, mentor to so many, richly deserves the honour, which made it particularly sad that illness kept him from stepping up to collect it.

But the poignancy was provoked by more than Peters’ absence. Collecting the trophy on his behalf was Glenn Tutssel, now of The Brand Union, but for many years Peters’ right-hand creative, who arguably first spotted Hamm’s incredible talent.

Three generations coming together in one moment of glory says a lot about design. However ‘important’ an individual becomes, they invariably owe their success to someone who gave them the encouragement they needed. We in design are more generous in acknowledging that link than many in other industries.

Links with the past are vital. Design is relatively new as a business sector, but a heritage that includes the likes of identity trailblazers Wally Olins and Michael Wolff, awarded the President’s Award by their alumnus Michael Johnson during his stint at D&AD, and the late Alan Fletcher, who inspired so many, shows that the notion of ideas meeting craft can make commercial sense – and add delight to the end result.

New graduates should learn from such examples. However tough the journey to get and create work, talent will out as long as they retain the passion their forebears continue to display. It might, though, take someone like Peters, Tutssel or Hamm to give them that first chance.

Practitioners might also ponder on what makes work by those mentioned here memorable, yet commercially viable. In hard economic times it can be more difficult to make a difference through design and, while awards schemes are but one measurement, judging by the D&AD results few are rising to the challenge.

It wasn’t a vintage year for design, yet we are told that creativity thrives in adversity. It’s time to focus on the work again and wow those clients.

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