A positive move towards creative collaboration

It’s going to be an interesting year for Michael Johnson. Quite apart from sticking to the manifesto he issued last week as new president of British Design & Art Direction (DW 23 January), he takes over from ad man Peter Souter at a time when the organisa

It’s going to be an interesting year for Michael Johnson. Quite apart from sticking to the manifesto he issued last week as new president of British Design & Art Direction (DW 23 January), he takes over from ad man Peter Souter at a time when the organisation faces huge change.

With chief executive David Kester moving over to head the Design Council in April and his successor yet to be identified, D&AD is in a state of flux, despite Kester’s insistence that it’s business as usual. Though Johnson is maintaining a healthy distance on the succession issue, his presidency is bound to be touched by so momentous an event.

Add to this the fact he’s already made a mark on D&AD, not least as co-curator with Professor Jeremy Myerson of the Rewind show, tracking 40 years of D&AD award-winning work, at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and you can see how challenging the task will be if he wants his year to be memorable.

In his manifesto, Johnson flies the flag for ‘integrated creativity’ across design and advertising, something he’s eminently qualified to plug.

It’s also something design groups could benefit from if Johnson is pushing the idea of them sitting in the client’s office alongside the ad agency. There is though likely to be fierce competition from beleaguered ad agencies hoping to pick up design work – something we’ve witnessed with websites, with ad agencies offering the work for free to clients, to the detriment of dedicated digital design groups.

Of course, coming from Johnson, the assumption is that any integration will be on the communications side – posters, ads, branding and digital manifestations, that kind of thing. Indeed, some of the best examples come from communicating intangible services. Johnson, for example, cited the Orange phone network to Design Week, where Wolff Olins and ad agency WCRS were locked in a room by client Hutchison Telecom until they could agree.

But true collaboration can go much further, even involving product design, as companies such as Apple Computer and Dyson Appliances have shown. Johnson acknowledges this, having D&AD past president and product design champion Richard Seymour on the panel for judging the planned ‘integrated creativity’ category for the D&AD Awards. But let’s hope Johnson and friends take it far enough to make a difference.

This is the chance for design to boost its position within the creative services mix. From an industry perspective, it also gives D&AD the opportunity to unite its membership in a way it hasn’t previously managed to do. Surely, the idea’s a winner on both counts.

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