Acknowledge and celebrate achievement – of rivals too

With British Design & Art Direction releasing its 2002 D&AD Awards shortlist this week, it’s a good time to reflect on the achievements of design and the creativity that sets it apart from most other industries.

With British Design & Art Direction releasing its 2002 D&AD Awards shortlist this week, it’s a good time to reflect on the achievements of design and the creativity that sets it apart from most other industries. It’s great not to be dwelling on the downside of the business for once, bemoaning the streamlining that continues within the bigger groups and the tough battle to win work that faces many a consultancy.

Like the Design Week Awards, D&AD seeks to celebrate creative excellence in design, taking account of innovation and elegance of execution, but really focusing on the big idea. Of course, there’s an element of back-patting in all this – and why not? – but there is also inspiration and insight to be drawn from the results.

It’s by getting back to the idea of quality work that consultancies, taking more of a confident, proactive stance with clients, can really start to build design’s reputation, however tough the economic climate. Financial experts versed in the design business are cautiously forecasting an upturn later in the year and it would be fantastic if an influx of new clients found design groups ready to take on projects with renewed creative vigour.

The smaller independent groups have been banging the gong for excellence for sometime. D&AD president-elect Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks, for example, rivals the likes of The Partners and other creative giants in the quality of his group’s work, though he employs only a handful of designers. By the same token, Ziggurat took on Allison Miguel last year to rekindle its creative spark. Meanwhile, CDT Design, whose erstwhile creative partner James Beveridge led the independent rally cry at the end of last year, has boosted its design strength by promoting Christian Altmann, Gene Cooke and Stuart Youngs to the position of creative associate.

But it’s not just the independents that are pushing for creative quality. Creative heads at Enterprise IG and Landor Associates, both part of WPP Group, as well as Cordiant Communication Group’s flagship Fitch Worldwide are all striving to motivate their design teams to create or enhance a reputation for doing great work. We hope that effort pays off, as everyone in design will gain from improved quality.

But to achieve something really special, design needs to engender a spirit of generosity, in acknowledging great work even from a rival group, and celebrating achievement. This is where awards can play a significant part, from the judging process onwards. So let’s look forward to celebrating the D&AD Awards winners on 22 May and leave off the over-critical appraisal. We’ll all be bigger for it.

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