Could the meanness of the D&AD juries benefit design?

The 2008 D&AD Awards are set to become the stuff of legend, not because it was a vintage year for design, which it certainly wasn’t, but because the organisers somehow missed the point about what the awards are about.

Lynda Relph-Knight

The 2008 D&AD Awards are set to become the stuff of legend, not because it was a vintage year for design, which it certainly wasn’t, but because the organisers somehow missed the point about what the awards are about.

London’s Royal Festival Hall was an inspired choice of venue. What better place to celebrate creativity – though D&AD is no longer largely about British creativity – than on the site of the 1951 Festival of Britain, long associated with innovation and design.

But it was hard to celebrate in a format that had successful teams strung out along the rows of the auditorium. The presenters cracked through the winners at breakneck speed, hardly giving the work the prominence it merits.

More important, it was the year when the legendary meanness of D&AD juries took its toll, especially in graphics, where craft was king, ideas counted for little and awards were minimal. There are years in all awards when some categories are thin – take the Design Week Awards a couple of years ago when print and packaging made a poor showing – but D&AD design judges said this year that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Given this scenario, all credit is due to The Partners for winning a coveted Black Pencil for its National Gallery Grand Tour. Interestingly though, the project’s Yellow Pencil came from a win in the poster advertising category rather than for design.

We hear constantly of convergence between advertising and design, but it is still interesting to see advertising honour one of the best design ‘ideas’ in recent years. Given the esteem in which creative awards such as D&AD are held in adland, where a win can amount to promotion for those concerned, can we expect Sir Martin Sorrell to be doling out the bonuses at The Partners?

The win has brought to a head the traditional conflict between advertising and design, only this time design has proved the clear winner. Let’s hope it marks a turning point in the debate and that design gains confidence as a result.

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