Can D&AD change for good?

Under Neville Brody’s presidency, D&AD is undergoing some important changes to the way it’s run and what it hopes to achieve. Will they be enough to reinvigorate an organisation which marked its 50th year last week?

Under Neville Brody’s presidency, D&AD is undergoing some important changes to the way it’s run and what it hopes to achieve. Will they be enough to reinvigorate an organisation which marked its 50th year last week?

When you think of D&AD what do you think of? For most people, it’s awards and that’s a problem. Not that D&AD doesn’t want people to enter its awards. The problem is that it wants to be thought of primarily as an educational charity, using the money it generates from all those awards entries (over 20,000 per year) to nurture the next generation of designers and creatives. To do good not to slap backs.

The link, between the money-making and the money-giving, where that money goes and the good that it does, has not been made clear enough. This has been allied to and connected with a background of, particularly in the design community, a growing sense of disillusionment with D&AD and the feeling that it is no longer relevant.

But what if there was an organisation which supported needy students who are struggling to pay tuition fees in these difficult economic times with bursaries or scholarships? An organisation that was helping to break down the homogeneity of the creative industries by offering financial help to students with disadvantaged backgrounds? Making sure that industry and academia talked to each other and supported each other? Supporting graduates coming into work, providing training and networking? While at the same time performing a valuable role in the professional community by championing the best of its community’s work, reinforcing the value of what it does and acting as a forum for debate and the exchange of ideas. That’s what D&AD wants to be known for and, in large part, it’s what it already does.

Somewhat lost amid the hoopla of its 50th birthday celebrations (top), D&AD has announced a significant change – the launch of the D&AD Foundation. D&AD is being re-organised to separate the awards and professional services side of what it does from its educational activities. In future, the ‘business’ side of D&AD will concentrate on making as much revenue as it can from its awards and professional training courses. The Foundation will be funded and supported by the profits generated by these activities.

The Foundation’s cash will support students through their education and then, through internships, apprenticeships, mentoring and activities such as the Graduate Academy, through the first years of professional life until they are in a position to be entering – hopefully winning – the professional awards themselves. At that point, D&AD will expect the circle to become complete as those who have themselves benefitted from D&AD’s support, offer their own to the next generation, perhaps through endowments or gifts but certainly through entering the awards

This clarified agenda for D&AD is being driven by its chief exec Tim Lindsay and incoming president Neville Brody (subscribers can read a revealing interview with them both in the supplement with the October issue of CR, shown above). Both also recognise the need for D&AD to grow its membership if it is to genuinely represent the industry and offer more to professionals than just the chance of winning an oversized pencil.

“D&AD is often accused of being less relevant today,” Lindsay admits in the interview, “but the way you make yourself relevant is to make yourself useful and the way you do that is to provide a product and a service that people find they need recourse to frequently. You need to take a look at yourself and ask whether what you are doing is right for the emerging generations. I think D&AD has done quite a good job on students and quite a good job at the more mature end of the industry but it has missed out the middle. We can disconnect with people when they’ve been in the business for two or three years until they win an award.”

But is winning an award even that important to younger designers and creatives? “If awards are about peer review and peer approval then you get that much more widely and rigorously and instantly by putting something up on YouTube than you do by entering an awards show,” Lindsay concedes. “We have to be much more than an awards show. We have to offer great training, great speakers, to be a great place to have discussions. And, most of all, we want to make money to put into the Foundation.”

Brody also wants D&AD to be more vocal in the interests of its members. “We’re not going to be shy of raising our voices more politically,” he promises. “What this government has done to creative education in this country is an absolute fucking disaster. They’re shooting themselves in the foot. A huge amount of UK income comes from the creative services, so what possible good can come out of killing creative education? I don’t support the idea that industry should be paying for education but we have no choice, so let’s formulate a positive response, make it work and stick two fingers up to the government.” D&AD, he says, “needs to have a more strident voice to defend the profession we represent and to help protect students who want to go into creative education.”

Lindsay and Brody are promising a more active, engaged D&AD that has a clear remit to support education in practical ways. The Foundation, they hope, will set out where D&AD’s priorities lie, to an extent not seen in its previous five decades. That sounds to me like something worth supporting, but what do readers think?

A lot of people have been very critical of D&AD in the comments here: What do you want from D&AD that it currently fails to provide?

Where should it be concentrating its energies?

How would you like to see it change?


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CR in Print
In our October print issue we have a major feature on the rise of Riso printing, celebrate the art of signwriting, examine the credentials of ‘Goodvertising’ and look back at the birth of D&AD. Rebecca Lynch reviews the Book of Books, a survey of 500 years of book design, Jeremy Leslie explains how the daily London 2012 magazine delivered all the news and stories of the Games and Michael Evamy explores website, offering “data-driven insights into logo design”. In addition to the issue this month, subscribers will receive a special 36-page supplement sponsored by Tag celebrating D&AD’s 50th with details of all those honoured with Lifetime Achievement awards plus pieces on this year’s Black Pencil and President’s Award-winners Derek Birdsall and Dan Wieden. And subscribers also receive Monograph which this month features Rian Hughes’ photographs of the unique lettering and illustration styles of British fairgrounds

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