The D&AD Awards recognise design’s power for good

If there’s one thing that unites the four design Black Pencil winners at this year’s D&AD Awards, it’s that they’re all explicitly created to improve people’s lives.

NS/ProRail, by STBY Amsterdam and Edenspiekermann
NS/ProRail, by STBY Amsterdam and Edenspiekermann

There’s an information design system by STBY Amsterdam and Eden Spiekermann that aims to make Dutch rail commuters’ journeys easier.

The Calgary Society for Persons with Disabilities annual report

The annual report for Calgary Society for Persons with Disabilities has been designed by WAX Partnership to be hard to read, referencing the fact that ‘being handicapped is hard’. A somewhat facile insight maybe, but still an admirable design concept.

The Most Powerful Arm
The Most Powerful Arm

The Most Powerful Arm, a campaign from Finch with Havas and Reactive Sydney in Australia, aims to raise awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy through a brilliantly imaginative campaign.

GravityLight, by therefore
GravityLight, by therefore

And – in the most obvious example of design for social good – UK consultancy therefore has created the gravity-powered GravityLight to bring a safe and environmentally-sound lighting to developing countries.

D&AD has come in for criticism from the design community in the past for an apparent stinginess in rewarding design projects. This year it would be difficult to make such an accusation – 26 of the 56 pencils awarded have gone to projects in design categories, and studios including Hat-Trick Design, Magpie Design and Rose are among those picking up pencils.

Looking at the Black Pencil winners in particular, it’s notable that D&AD design juries seem to be going down the First Things First design-for-social-good route, recognising projects outside the traditional commercial design sphere.

The Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Awards also seem to heavily favour this sort of project, with this year’s Graphics prize for example going to James Bridle’s Drone Shadows initiative, ahead of more ‘commercial’ projects such as the Whitney or Serpentine Gallery identities.

As winners like this become more common, is there a danger that such projects might become the ‘easy’ choice for design juries to make, ahead of more obviously (but equally valid) commercial work?

Or should we celebrate the fact that major design awards now seem to be recognising not just design’s ability to create something beautiful or to affect a business’s bottom line, but also its power to make people’s lives better?

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  • noel douglas November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Well, seeing as massive sea level rises will now, inevitably be on their way thanks to Climate Change melting the glaciers in the Antarctic, a melting that is being driven by ‘the bottom line’s need to burn more and more fossil fuel to make stuff no one needs and that so many Designers spend their lives trying to make desirable as part of the mainstream ‘design for social ill’ industry, it’s good to see a small shift in outlook considering the stakes…ain’t nothing ‘easy’ about the destruction of the Planet that supports us!

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