Design should be both creative and effective

Design has long laid a claim to creativity. Now everyone’s at it. With the Government still flying the flag for Creative Britain and Culture Secretary Chris Smith publishing a book on the subject, the notion of creativity is being challenged – and rightly so. As I have said in this column before, creativity is about thinking and innovation and is as much the province of scientists and management gurus as of those of us in advertising and design.

It is no longer good enough for designers to turn out exquisite visuals with beautifully crafted type or a neat bit of product styling. Design has to work. On the one hand, it must be seen to swell the client’s coffers or enhance what, in marketingspeak, has become “the customer experience”; on the other, it has to make a difference through innovation, strategic significance or sheer wit.

These two requirements sum up the traditional difference between awards for the effectiveness of a design and prizes most often bestowed by industry peers for creativity. The one is supposed to impress clients, the other to build reputation within the design industry and help to attract the best creative staff.

Both do this – though with the current shortage of experienced middleweights, even our awards champion

The Partners (see chart, page 20) has had a tough time finding the right designers for its expanding team. But there’s no good reason why creativity and design effectiveness should be mutually exclusive – and even less reason why lower standards of creativity should be accepted by judges assessing commercial performance. The two should go together, which is why our main UK award-winners chart covers the three top prize schemes: Design Week, D&AD and DBA Design Effectiveness awards.

Effectiveness and creative awards schemes already overlap. Certainly, Design Week Awards judges have the experience to know what works in the marketplace and, though they’re not called upon to prove it, this inevitably informs their view of good design. Likewise, DBA Design Effectiveness Awards juries have picked projects loved by “creative” judges. Lewis Moberly’s own-brand packs for Boots hosiery and Dyson Appliances’ products, for example, have found favour with judges in both camps.

With creativity such a key commodity, design should be doing all it can to promote excellence within its own ranks and to the wider world. Awards help to do this, through the publicity they attract and the spirit of competition they encourage. Let’s have more evidence that only the very best work wins prizes, whatever the main judging criterion.

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