Hockney exit is a chance for D&AD to boost UK design

The departure of D&AD chief executive Michael Hockney on the eve of the association’s annual Congress has prompted speculation in certain quarters of the industry.

The departure of D&AD chief executive Michael Hockney on the eve of the association’s annual Congress has prompted speculation in certain quarters of the industry. The official line that his move was planned rings a little hollow, despite the fact that D&AD chairman Anthony Simonds-Gooding has dismissed as totally unfounded reports of a ‘power struggle’.

The truth will no doubt filter through, but in reality it is unlikely to cause many ripples in design. Apart from a small coterie of D&AD activists, there appear to be relatively few aficionados of the charity, whose mission is to promote creative excellence throughout the creative industries.

Hockney’s predecessor David Kester did much to foster design within D&AD, aided by designer presidents like Mary Lewis, Richard Seymour and Michael Johnson. But UK designers have never felt equal to the dominant advertising members and much of the goodwill built by Kester appears now to have been lost. The focus for the D&AD Awards has, for example, become more international and the shock of the new is said to have swayed some juries away from UK design.

The presidencies of Seymour and Dick Powell have boosted product entries. But the interiors community has no strong allegiance, and with graphics generally going through a creative dip and digital design only just coming on to D&AD’s radar we can’t expect much of a showing for design for a while.

D&AD does great things, particularly in education. Its student programmes are exceptional as is its work with tutors – and its creative workshops for practitioners are also deemed to be good.

But until it gets to grips with the UK design community it will continue to be regarded as an adland network. Simonds-Gooding, president Tony Davidson and president-elect Simon Waterfall have a lot of bridge building to do before they can claim D&AD is representative of the creative industries as a whole. The choice of Hockney’s successor is crucial if this is their aim.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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