CR Annual 2016: what will win?

The Creative Review Annual showcases the most significant projects of the previous 12 months in visual communications. Here’s what we predict will be big this year, from VR to digital design, record sleeves and programmatic

Every year in the Annual, we would expect to see the best of graphic design, advertising and branding projects – the brilliant commercials, innovative websites, apps and digital products, fantastic corporate identities, books and music videos. But each year there are always new categories or trends that come through – we’ve picked out a few to look out for this time round.

Virtual Reality
Over the past 12 months we have been bombarded with VR projects as ad agencies explore the potential of the technology. I expect to see a fair few VR installations in the Annual this year (mentioning no names) but one of the Annual’s great strengths is that it has always featured work from beyond the brand marketing world. Some of the most adventurous and interesting VR projects have been created for galleries, by publishers and for the entertainment world. Hopefully the Annual will reflect the best of them too.

Periscope, Instagram, Snapchat etc etc
Each Annual reflects the technologies that were making an impact in the previous 12 months. This year, I expect to see Periscope projects (the Annual isn’t restricted to advertising or branded projects so anyone using Perisope in an innovative way can enter), as well as more Instagram campaigns, now that agencies and brands are getting their heads around the possibilities. Likewise Snapchat.

Diesel Instagram ad by Spring Studios
Diesel Instagram ad by Spring Studios

How will this year’s marketing buzzword translate into the pages of the Annual? For all the talk of programmatic being the answer to a marketer’s prayers, there have been relatively few creatively exciting uses of the tech (the Diesel campaign above, which we wrote about here, being an exception). Those agencies and studios who have managed to crack it will be keen to establish their credentials via a place in the Annual. (If you are interested in the creative potential of programmatic, we are running en event with our sister brand Marketing Week on the topic on March 2.)


Record Sleeves
Record packaging was once one of the mainstays of the Annual, with perhaps a dozen projects featuring every year. As the industry changed and budgets became squeezed, we saw fewer and fewer being entered – studios were moving away from music work and no longer saw the value in showcasing their expertise. However, as our Record Sleeves of the Year post demonstrated, the vinyl revival has seen a similar revival in sleeve design. The vinyl market has gathered momentum in the past year so I very much hope that will be reflected in what we see in the Annual. It would be really exciting to be able to showcase some of this work again.

Stuart Dredge on the streaming wars
Stuart Dredge on the music streaming wars from CR Jan 2016

Digital Services
As the likes of Facebook and Twitter continue to hoover up design talent, I expect to see digital platforms, products and services feature heavily this year. Could be music streaming brands, social apps, food apps and/or TV or film services. We’ll be looking to highlight the best experiences out there. From a UX and branding point of view.

Branded Content
Commercials – they were 30, 60 or, if you had a very agreeable client, perhaps 90 seconds. And that was it. With YouTube, commercial content frequently runs two or three times as long – but is it the better for it? We’ll be trying to answer that in the Branded Content category which seems sure to be one of the most popular this year.

The Pelican Books redesign, a Best in Book winner in the 2015 Annual


What is The Annual?
The Annual is Creative Review’s awards scheme. It’s a showcase of what our judges decide is the most significant work – the work that is conceptually brilliant, superbly executed and makes a difference. Every year when I brief the juries on our criteria, I end up saying that the best test is whether the work is something that they wished they had done themselves, or would be proud to put their name to.

cover_0.jpg - The CR Annual 2015 – Best in Book - 7348
The cover of last year’s May issue, featuring The Annual

How does it work?
The selected work is published in our special, double May issue of the magazine. This year we will also have an online showcase featuring the work and case studies. In the past, we have displayed the work according to the month during which it was first launched, however…

What has changed for this year?
Due to the changing nature of creative projects, it became increasingly difficult to identify a specific launch date for much of the work we feature. The more complex projects would roll out over several months, with different elements kicking in at different times. Also, the fact that we didn’t have categories confused a lot of people and also frustrated those who wanted a particular aspect of a project to be highlighted. It also proved to be difficult for judges used to evaluating projects based on excellence in a particular category.

So this year we have introduced categories for the first time. Selected projects will be displayed in the Annual according to the category that they were selected in.

We hope this will clear up some of the confusion of past years. It also gave us a problem though – how to recognise projects that win across more than one category? As the physical Annual is such a key art of this scheme, we thought the best way to tackle this was to give those multi-winning projects greater prominence in the book – more space and a position closer to the front of the book, reflecting their importance.

As ever, the best of the best will be celebrated in our Best in Book section.


What do judges look for?
A combination of innovation and excellence. A fresh idea, brilliantly done or something that takes a brand or organisation in an exciting new direction. An idea delivered with skill and consistency. But sometimes it can be something that is just beautiful. Or funny. Or daring. The most enjoyable part of judging is having debates about these things and how well an entry delivers on them. Nothing gets in that hasn’t been rigorously debated and challenged by the judges.

The Annual contains work from all levels of the creative industry – from huge brands and tiny start-ups, world famous agencies and individuals who were entirely new to the judges. So, for example, we have honoured the identity for a children’s hospital in Peru alongside a huge Nike campaign, alongside a series of art prints by an illustrator. There’s room for it all.

The deadline for this year’s Creative Review Annual is January 29. Full details on how and what to enter here

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