D&AD brief is not appropriate to the subject of homelessness

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I am a student studying Graphic Communication at Falmouth College of Art. The following is an extract from my end-of-project report.

Title: Typography brief, The London Connection Calendar

Brief set by: Real Time Studio and the British Design and Art Direction

Their brief: Combine the issues of time and homelessness within a calendar due to run from June 1998 – Jan 2000.

My interpretation of the brief: “What can we do for charity? I know of a charity, erm… erm… hmm, yes, yes, The London Connection! A homeless charity, good. Makes us look as though we’ve got our heart in the right place. What shall we produce for them? I know a CALENDAR, just what everyone needs. How shall we combine homelessness with a calendar? It is not the standard ‘lovely-photos-with-layered-type’ subject matter?”

“I know,” (says a bright spark) “what about the theme of time… The London Connection makes an appropriate subject for a calendar. Homelessness has a lot to do with time. Time passing aimlessly when there is no purpose to life. The need to get young people off the street within a couple of weeks, before they become habituated to it as a way of life.”

“Hey, that sounds really good. It sounds as though we care.”

“Do you think the people at the centre will go for it?”

“Yeah, these charities always do. Ask them to send some copy, like quotes from the homeless themselves. Okay, meeting adjourned.”

[The whole process taking 5 mins]

My reservations about the brief as set are as follows. The problem of homelessness is embedded deep in social and economic circumstances. Trying to address these interlocked causes with a calendar is nonsense.

The target audience of the calendar has not even been mentioned, and why would anyone want a calendar of a homeless charity in London, when there are many national homeless charities with bases across the country?

There are places in the UK other than London. Why not Crisis or initiatives already in place like House Our Youth 2000?

Is it perhaps that the people at D&AD, didn’t even know about them? Or is it because these charities had the common sense to back out of such a project?

Defining “time to a homeless person” and then trying to translate this to the outside world is also farcical. The idea of time passing aimlessly when there is no purpose to life is just a generalisation.

Being homeless is a struggle to survive. The faces of homeless people are different everywhere. Some regard themselves as new age travellers, and because they have a tent, tarpaulin, van (or other vehicle), don’t see themselves as homeless.

Families in temporary accommodation are also homeless, in the sense that they have no fixed abode. Mentally ill patients in hospital are sent out into the community. Children leaving home or care, with no support can end up on the streets, all of these under one banner of homelessness.

The reason for my anger is the seemingly blissful ignorance of a design organisation to the harsh realities of life. When will they ever learn to get off their pedestal?

I know people will say: “Then why do the brief, if you don’t like the way it’s set?”, and I’ll answer. “I did the brief to my own principles and altered the brief, so my project complied with the brief, but also said something about my anger.”

CL Adams

Falmouth

Cornwall TR11 3NJ

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