Our panel this month: Frazer Jelleyman, creative director at TBWALondon; Philip Hunt, director and creative director, Studio AKA; Mark Blamire, aka “Blam”, creative director, Blanka; James Cooper, creative director, Dare. For a full list of this year’s winners, see www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog
CR: How do you feel about D&AD – what does it mean to designers and advertising creatives today, and has this changed over the years?
Frazer Jelleyman: A D&AD Gold is the highest accolade you can be awarded.
Philip Hunt: You expect everything on the winners’ list to be really good, full stop. You expect something that’s won a black pencil to be knock-your-socks-off, exceptionally good. But all these things are subjective aren’t they?
Blam: Personally for me it’s always been a career ambition – winning a pencil has been a box I’ve really wanted to tick. I’d only submit work I’m particularly proud of as otherwise it’s a waste of my entrance money – I’d even check out the jury to see that there’s a graphic designer on there that would get my style and way of working. Looking through an annual and seeing a bit of work that you feel is below par is a bit painful.
James Cooper: When I was at advertising college in Watford about ten years ago, ploughing through the D&AD annual was very much something we did a lot. We didn’t really look at Cannes stuff or Eurobest – D&AD was the one you realised you were striving to win. Ten years ago, every single thing in the book I would have killed to have done – whereas now I’m less inclined to enjoy every single piece of work.
FJ: Do you think though that that’s because the work’s got worse or that you’ve got more cynical?
JC: I dunno, to tell you the truth I think maybe it’s a bit of both. I don’t want to be cynical!
FJ: The way we look at things changes…
PH: I think it’s the entrance criteria. I know a number of exceptionally good graphic designers who never enter – almost on point of principle. It’s like with Woody Allen and the Oscars. It doesn’t mean anything so why should I bother?
I agree with James, as a student you kind of use it as a cornerstone to an industry you’re coming into – to check out the levels that you hope to rise to. And it is a snapshot – a time capsule of that particular year. As your memory fades of the work of 1992 or whatever, you can look back through the pages of the relevant D&AD book and go, OK, that campaign was done then. I do kind of worry about the work that never gets in because designers and agencies don’t enter them.
It’s quite nice where you have competitions where you’re nominated. I’m always incredibly flattered when we’re nominated for something without knowing it. And to be honest that kind of recognition by your peers means an awful lot more than the self-promotional type of award-entering activity.
B: Like the Creative Review Peer Poll that you used to run. If you’re voted into the top three designers by your peers, it’s a major achievement.
PH: Absolutely, the main thing is the acknowledgement from your peers that what you’re doing is OK.
JC: The Webby awards are a classic example of awards working like that. You get nominated and then, via an internet site, people vote to decide what’s the best work.
PH: It’s kind of scary – we get excited when Studio AKA work is picked up by blogs or newsgroups and we’ve had nothing to do with it arriving there. When someone out there on the web writes an amazingly glowing review of your work and it bounces around the web… Of course with that you get the flipside: someone picks up on something you’ve done and says “what a load of shit”. But that actually makes it more exciting. Imagine if at D&AD, your entered work could be nominated for public humiliation. And you get pelted with rotten fruit. I think I’m on to something… The fact is, it’s lovely when you win and it shouldn’t matter a fig if you don’t.
FJ: I think the intention of the D&AD Awards and book has been, still is and probably always will be that it recognises and establishes the benchmark for good work. What’s in the book is a record of what’s been out in that year that people think is great. What gets a pencil should be exceptional and what gets a black pencil should be super-exceptional…