Let’s face it. If you were in a room full of people who represented all the august bodies that champion the cause of design, you would recognise the one from British Design & Art Direction because they would have the most interesting haircut. D&AD stands for style and creativity, as opposed to the business stance of the Design Business Association, the academic appeal of the Chartered Society of Designers, or the political positioning of the Design Council.
OK, now try this, what item of clothing best represents each of these bodies? It would have to be a tie for the DBA, a bad pair of shoes for the CSD, a charcoal grey suit for the Design Council. And there’s a really loud shirt for D&AD.
Even after 40 years, D&AD is still perceived as the epicentre of creative excellence. It represents the guys and girls you were jealous of at art college, the designers who make it work with one beautiful idea, who appear to have clients who love them to bits. If you talk to people in the design industry, D&AD is mentioned in hushed, reverential tones, like some kind of secret society.
And who would have believed it? It’s 40 years old. That means it was started before Letraset. It was about the time when the Rolling Stones were just hitting the charts. Was there colour television then? I don’t think so. Cinema advertising at that time was about extremely dodgy Indian Restaurants and cheesy hair salons. There were no music videos, no website design and branding was something to do with ranching and cowboys.
So what is it that makes D&AD so interesting? In my humble opinion, it has maintained its credibility because it is a club. It’s a club, which has a waiting list, no rules, no dress code and lots of fun. It’s London’s Met Bar with attitude. Well, look at the judges of the awards this year… Mary Lewis, Michael Johnson, Richard Seymour, even John Rushworth the Pentagram partner.
Hang on though. There’s the difference. D&AD is about an awards ceremony. Despite its education initiatives, it is still perceived as being an awards ceremony. It has little influence over how things are done in the design world, but it does have a great deal of influence on what is done.
We know the criticisms from the design world: ‘It’s too biased towards advertising’; ‘Design is seen as the poor man of the organisation’; and ‘It’s an exclusive club that doesn’t acknowledge effectiveness as a relevant benchmark for the judgement of good design’. But as someone who has been involved in the DBA’s International Design Effectiveness Awards, the CSD, the Design Week Awards and the board of the DBA, I believe no organisation in design has ever managed to maintain the credibility of D&AD.
What is very intriguing is that the design part of D&AD is suddenly becoming more important, while the art direction part is struggling to justify its existence. Look at the current state of WPP Group’s profits and you will see that the advertising sector is looking longingly at the design sector as suddenly being more relevant to brands than TV commercials.
Of course, all of us in design realised that anyway, but here is an organisation that gets us noticed. So here’s a plea from the heart. Can the DBAs, the CSDs and the Design Councils of this world please wake up. There’s a word that should urgently be considered by all three as part of their new mission statements. That word is ‘creativity’.
Yes, let’s do something creative, unpredictable even. At D&AD that’s the starting point, love it or hate it. Will it last for another 40 years? I hope so. Life in the design world would be very boring without it.
Callum Lumsden is managing director at Lumsden Design Partnership. Rewind shows from 7 November until 2 February 2003 at the V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7
The great thing about D&AD is its ability to inspire and engage the entire design community within its chosen disciplines. This is in contrast to other bodies and awards that attract some constituents, yet alienate or fail to seduce the rest. D&AD is the creative accolade that the entire industry aspires to attain. It is the single-mindedness of its focus that makes it so strong. Perhaps this clarity of focus is something that bodies like the DBA should bear in mind. Maybe instead of trying to be a trade body for only half the industry, the DBA should focus on raising the bar on the effectiveness of design.
There are lessons that other bodies can learn from D&AD. Clearly, the brilliance of the people at the helm of the organisation, notably (but not exclusively) executive group chairman Anthony Simonds-Gooding and chief executive officer David Kester, plus the patronage and energies of presidents good and great have made D&AD the powerhouse it is. The CSD, for one, would be wise to take note.
You could argue, that if D&AD has a weakness, it is that some winning work has been work that appeals only to the design community itself and has, therefore, risked perpetuating a myth that designers don’t always work to solve problems for the real world, but work to satisfy their own creative fetish. If this were true however, I would argue that it is a small price to pay for a body of work that, in totality, provides more stimulus and provocation to raise the creative bar year after year than anything else.
Therefore, to pick one piece of work as a favourite would perhaps seem impossible. But for me, it was quite easy. It’s on page 149 of the 1994 annual. I’ve picked it because I thought ‘bloody hell, now that is clever’ when I received one first hand. It’s a Christmas card from The Chase with ten 2p stamps and one 5p stamp arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree, making up the first class postage charge. It’s still the simplest and best Christmas card I’ve ever seen.
Jonathan Sands is chairman at Elmwood and former DBA chairman
D&AD’s key strength is the simplicity of its 40-year-old mission – to promote creativity. When every day is spent journeying towards such a clear objective you don’t waiver.
Another strength is probably a lucky accident. D&AD has advertising people within its membership, they are a different animal, they bring a dynamic tension that a design-only organisation would lack. Designers can be a little quiet.
D&AD’s third strength is its people. Chief executive officer David Kester is remarkable, imaginative and business-savvy with a touch of theatre. He has a supporting cast of 22, a directors’ team including Claire Fennelow, Louise Fowler and Kathryn Patten, who take on tasks that are enormously daunting. For example, in 2003 they are to completely rethink vocational training for advertising creatives and designers; organise the judging of 20 000 items in a week at Brighton; arrange a sit down dinner for 2500 at the awards ceremony just for starters. They are all barmy.
And I mustn’t forget Anthony Simonds-Gooding, who chairs the executive group and who knows precisely how to control their manic ambitions.
And it’s weaknesses? Too much yellow.
Design bodies such as the CSD and the DBA must realise that to change perceptions within our business is strangely slow. It takes three years minimum. They would do well to try to own one area of speciality, and be prepared to change and review what they are doing constantly. It’s vital to ensure that no one person or rule can prohibit change.
As to progressing in the next ten years, design organisations must not amalgamate. I believe a one-stop organisation, however compelling, will not benefit us. It will dilute our individual strengths. It will be rather like only having one design magazine, which would probably have to be called Creative Blue Week.
David Stuart is creative partner at The Partners and former D&AD president
The main strength of D&AD is the energy it exudes, backed with the practice of inclusive working and the mentoring of young talent as it appears, as well as the obvious task of setting standards for the creative industries.
There is an enormous feeling of energy and persistence, a feeling of constant re-energising and the fostering of appropriate affiliations that let us know it is never sitting still. Getting the core offer sorted and then inserting a motivational leader has recently proved a great success – something other design bodies could well learn from.
In the past there have been rumblings that the D&AD has been seen as more of the advertising industry’s body than that of the design world, with some smaller design teams feeling totally overpowered by the enormity of the awards event. Hopefully, the show at the Victoria & Albert Museum will testify that the D&AD’s support has simply responded to the decades’ needs – with a lot of the early award candidates scoring highly on pure design content.
The importance for D&AD’s future as well as that of any design-only organisation is to really consider member benefits. In a difficult economic climate companies will not be signing up for membership to a trade body, or paying into an expensive award process solely based on a sympathetic, shared outlook. The question will be more than ever: ‘What’s in it for me?’.
Hence, clear points of difference are essential if the design world is to have multiple organisations. As an example, the judging of the DBA’s International Design Effectiveness Awards is conducted in a totally different manner to other design award programmes by studying the effect of the design work on the success of the business, not just considering the visual merits of a piece of work – a process that has been an appreciated alternative to potential design beauty parades.
Jon Turner is executive creative director at Enterprise IG
D&AD is a powerful presence. As a student, you want one of those pencils before you know who you want to work for or what sort of work you’ll do to win one.
It’s strength is standing for excellence. It connects students with industry and the industry with students and it’s always with you on both sides of the looking glass. It has depth and breadth; produces outstanding talks, workshops and publications; and is equally at home in inspiring me to be creative and to appreciate craft with Peter Saville or consider issues like sustainability courtesy of Bruce Mau.
D&AD’s biggest weakness is that it’s seen foremost as an awards body and doesn’t build enough on the other, bigger, deeper issues. It should be a more aggressive champion of the industry and should break out of the creative microcosm. If Smirnoff did design industry bodies, then Johnson Banks principal Michael Johnson would be dunking his Hob Nobs with Noel [Gallagher] round at Tony [Blair]’s Number Ten bash and he’d be the life and soul.
D&AD wants to be less of an old boy’s network and more the voice of the new school. It needs to step it up, be more conscious, more critical and more demanding. The lessons other bodies can learn is that there should be more equity in awards and the bodies that present them. Why not focus on being the body that throws the most amazing party or the one that saves the world. To pick a favourite piece is a hard task. The richness of British creativity prevents me from being tendentious.
When it comes down to an award-winning brand, I think Orange is the daddy. I, along with pretty much all my mates, wish we’d done it. And to my mates that did it, hat’s off. It created a new zeitgeist in the entire industry and is a classic example of branding, design and advertising embracing and refreshing one another. For me, that’s what D&AD should look to do in the future, integrate the disciplines and stop banging on about advertising. m
Jon Edge is senior creative at Wolff Olins
1970-1972 first ever president: Michael Wolff 1973 President: Peter Mayle 1974 President: Alan Fletcher 1975 President: David Abbott 1976 President: Alan Parker 1977 President: John Salmon 1978 President: Michael Rand 1979 President: Arthur Parsons
1980 President: Lord Snowdon 1981 President: Martin Boase 1982 President: Marcello Minale 1983 President: Tony Brignull 1984 President: Rodney Fitch 1985 President: Allen Thomas 1986 President: John McConnell 1987 President: Brian Webb 1988 President: Gert Dumbar 1989 President: John Hegarty
1990 President: Ron Brown 1991 President: Martin Lambie-Nairn 1992 President: Tim Delaney. Anthony Simonds-Gooding becomes chairman – marking a new era for D&AD and setting the remit that has helped shape D&AD into the organisation it is today
1993 President: Aziz Cami. D&AD launches the Festival of Excellence and a new education scheme, including Student Expo 1994 President: Adrian Holmes. David Kester becomes chief executive officer. The new team led by chairman Anthony Simonds-Gooding ‘puts new lead in the old pencil’ to borrow a phrase from the then president Holmes
1995 President: Mary Lewis. D&AD launches The Copy Book, the first of its Mastercrafts series 1996 President: Graham Fink. D&AD launches its website, www.dandad.com, as well as a Summer School for college lecturers, now entitled Xchange 1997 President: Mike Dempsey. D&AD becomes secretariat for the Art Directors Club of Europe
1998 President: Tim Mellors. D&AD launches Ampersand magazine 1999 President: Richard Seymour. D&AD has new director of education, Claire Fennelow
2000 President: Larry Barker. Student Expo is renamed New Blood and D&AD Getty Images Bloodbank is launched 2001 President: David Stuart. Former D&AD president Richard Seymour convenes D&AD’s first international creative forum, SuperHumanism. D&AD launches Workout, a development programme for creative professionals 2002 President: Peter Souter. The Victoria & Albert Museum and D&AD celebrates 40 years of D&AD award-winning work with Rewind, a major exhibition in the V&A’s Contemporary Space. D&AD student of the year goes on to win ADCE European Student of Year