D&AD: Your Questions Answered

The 2008 D&Ad Annual, designed by Research Studios
Since last year’s awards, there has been a lot of discussion on this blog about D&AD (see here and here), its role and its relationship to the professions it serves. Its new president, Garrick Hamm of Williams Murray Hamm, has just started his term of office so we asked CR Blog readers to voice your concerns by submitting questions about the organisation to him. Here are his answers…


The 2008 D&AD Annual, designed by Research Studios

Since last year’s awards, there has been a lot of discussion on this blog about D&AD (see here and here), its role and its relationship to the professions it serves. Its new president, Garrick Hamm of Williams Murray Hamm, has just started his term of office so we asked CR Blog readers to voice your concerns by submitting questions about the organisation to him. Here are his answers…

Why D&AD? action man
In the end D&AD is about the pencil and that’s why it was created – to have that gold standard to aim at. But the other things D&AD does don’t get talked about enough. We are forever being compared to Cannes and yes we are an awards show but we’re also about giving back, trying to help the young generation through into professional design and advertising. We need to do a better job of communicating that, which is one thing I’d like to think D&AD is doing this year. The awards is our big event but it’s the charitable side, the fact that we put £2 million back into the industry each year [that we need to communicate]. This year we had 120 colleges at New Blood, with 7000 people coming in. Those things – the Talent Pool, Student Awards, the President’s Lectures, they just cover costs, we don’t make money on them. D&AD is passionate about giving something back, inspiring both youngsters and people like me.


Jason Holroyd from Nottingham Trent was one of the graduates whose work was on show at D&AD’s New Blood event this year

What is the point of awards generally? CR
Getting in the D&AD Annual is like getting applause for a good piece of work. It enables you to feel great and gives you confidence that you’re in the right business and to go on to do something more. Some people say ‘I don’t need anyone to tell me I’ve done a good piece of work’ and that’s fine, but there are plenty of people out there, like myself, who do like other people saying ‘good job’. The first piece of work I got in was something I did with Joe Duffy at Michael Peters. I haven’t got that piece anymore but it’s in the Annual and it’s great I can refer to it and someone in Tokyo or Minneapolis can pick it up and see my work: it’s great promotion for me and my work. People talk about it getting you a better salary – that might still exist in advertising, I’m not so sure, but if you’ve won a yellow pencil you definitely have a better chance of getting in to see somebody at an interview because it acts as a filter. People are forever looking for reasons why they shouldn’t see people. Winning an award doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it does help to get you in the spotlight, especially for students.

D&AD why are you leaving us? Don’t you love me anymore? Is it something I did? James Yencken
We know there has been a problem with graphic design [there were no awards in that category and many designers have expressed disenchantment with D&AD as an organisation, see CR Blog passim]. We’ve listened to people and we are trying to address that. We’ve had a number of forums with graphic designers [to discuss their complaints], with another one in November where we have invited 120 graphic designers to talk about certain pieces of work that got in last year and to nominate pieces from this year – we will go and ask the designers of that work to enter. We’ve also reduced [the entry fee] in graphic design so it’s in line with other competitions and we hope that will encourage smaller studios. Also the judging in graphic design will be by one group rather than three – everyone gets to judge everything so I hope that will bring people together and hopefully they will be a bit more positive. D&AD is really keen on hearing from people who think we’ve left them behind. Write to us. Talk to us. D&AD is not the beast you think it is. It’s full of genuinely nice people who want to do what’s best. Go down there, have a coffee with them , tell them what you think and they’ll be happy to listen to you.

Recent annuals have got very repetitious, often the same piece can appear in the book half a dozen times. Should the number of categories you can enter be limited to stop this? Sean Thomas
Work is entered into individual areas. If it wins in, say, two categories it has met the standard in both. It’s been judged separately by separate juries so I think that’s fine. We shouldn’t stop good work getting in.

I would like to see all work be real paying client work in all awards. So much of the entries are for spoof or non-existent clients run in few places as a favour to get into award shows. bclgrh
D&AD has really strict rules on illegitimate work. Before people judge, the foremen remind everyone that it’s all about craft, excellence and context. We do our best to stop scam ads, we can’t stop it entirely but we do as best we can. One of the reasons why it takes time for work to come out from the nominations to the book is because we check stuff. We do throw things out, we threw something out last year.

The computer games section, in previous years, has been a real waste of space. The titles in there are often far from the industry’s best, or more often than not merely the ones with the larger production values. Either D&AD needs to drop the section in my mind, or work harder to attract those smaller, better developers into entering the awards. Sean Thomas
D&AD has been doing Gaming since 2000. It’s a huge industry with a lot of good stuff but we have decided to drop the category. We want to concentrate on what’s core – we can’t do everything. We have a couple of new categories, like digital installation, those sort of areas are still growing, but Gaming is no longer.

It seems that a disproportionately large number of British advertisers are scooping up the bulk of pencils and nominations. Do you agree? If so, could you please elaborate on what you think may be causing this trend? Across the pond
33% of entries come from the UK, 19% from the US and 8% from Germany, but 46% of the work in the annual is UK. We’ve tried to get overseas jurors because it’s only fair, but it’s about getting the balance which we’re trying to work on this year – 40% of jurors will be from outside the UK.

Might D&AD consider paying more heed to architecture and environmental design? perhaps as a way to provide a somewhat needed breath of fresh air? Bayar
We did have an Architecture category up to 2005 but we pulled it out because of the judging – you need to go and see the buildings and that proved impossible. If you’re going to do architecture it’s got to be the best and that takes an awful lot of organising, plus it has to have a connection with the rest of our community –the Environmental Design category is great for that as is Digital Installations.

There were a lot of grumbles about the awards night last year – what are you going to do differently next time? CR
We’re looking for a different venue because the Festival Hall was great to go to but just too big. There aren’t an awful lot of places with a capacity of around 1000 which is what we need. We think we’ve got a great venue this year that has its heart in the right place, is well linked with charity and represents a good partnership. We will be bringing back the dinner because people want to take clients, go and sit and have dinner. We know we need to cut down on the length of ceremony, to find way of editing it down. We also want to keep the live music and the after party because that’s been better – it’s made the event less of a stuffy hotel do with gold chairs. So we will continue to give it a younger party feel. You have to satisfy two camps really, – younger people who want to party and older ones like me who want to have dinner.

Budget given by client to produce the work should be a factor in each category. How can small agencies compete in the same category as a BBDO for example, who may have had a £20k plus budget as opposed to 2K budget? Brilliance is more easily accessible when you have huge budgets & huge clients. Just Someone With A ‘Pinion
If you look at something like the National Gallery [Grand Tour campaign, shown below, winner of a Gold award] it wasn’t a big budget job. Wherever you are, small or big agency, you still have to do great work, it doesn’t matter about the budget. It comes into play when you can put it into lots of different awards in different areas, but sometimes the bigger the agency, the tougher it is to do good work.

Please stop giving Apple a couple more of our precious trees every year for merely shaving 2mm off the current iPod’s girth.Sean Thomas
It is fair to say that Apple have had a fair share of awards but they do fulfil the criteria of brilliant ideas brilliantly executed. The iPhone completely changed what the mobile phone is about. It’d be crass to say it doesn’t warrant a Black Pencil: it’s everything the black Pencil is all about.

Why do you have to be a member to get a book, why cant you buy them? Vicki Legg
The book will be for sale again next time round. For the first time ever you can see the annual online now, which is great, but it should be in bookshops. I love the annual, I think there has to be one, whilst I’m there, anyway. Some might say they don’t need one but there are lots who do. I don’t necessarily look at last year’s, the ones I look at are from 10 or 15 years ago. I don’t think people necessarily refer to it for inspiration as they used to because there are so many other places to go now but I do think they come back to it.

Could D&AD take a more active stance on the issues that are affecting the industries day by day – providing the latest information, analysing that information, and then suggesting ways forward? Alistair Hall
The Design Council and the IPA do a better job of lobbying on behalf of their industries than we could. D&AD is already overstretched. I like the idea of it in future but at the moment the awards and education is where our focus is.

Would there be any merit in creating individual subsections of D&AD for the different sections of the industry? Alistair Hall
This comes up quite a bit. D&AD is all about coming together. People disappearing off into different sections is not what the future is about – the blurring of edges and all of that is true, it’s very different to where it was 20 years ago. D&AD should keep advertising and design together.

CRBlog is something of a hub for designers, why not D&ADBlog? Ed Wright
We have a blog and we’re investing more in it this year to try to use it to reconnect more with the younger generation. We’re trying to have more of an open dialogue with people. We’ve talked about moving to a new building, and that it would be great to have a place where people can come and see us, but in the meantime, with the blog people can be inspired, make their comments and have a two-way conversation with us.

Why be a member of D&AD? CR
I think it’s the feeling of wanting to give a little bit back through things like our, portfolio surgeries and workshops. Once you become a member you can start to become more interactive with D&AD and contribute. You have to get work in the annual to be member: it will always stay that way because there has to be some sort of filter. There are lots of people who can’t take up their membership because of cost – if we reduce that I think younger people who want to be a part of it will do so. I want to re-launch membership and make it dramatically cheaper. The reason it was so expensive was because it included the annual. Let’s go back to what most organisations do and have something that’s relatively cheap.This year is all about trying to clarify what D&AD does to make sure people really understand it and know that the charitable activities happen – people still don’t get that. If I can look back in a year’s time and ask people what D&AD is stands for and they say ‘of course it’s the pencil but also what they do for education’, that for me would be great.

I’d like to ask D&AD to stick their pencils up their arses. DeAD
If you were lucky enough to ever win one you’d know it wouldn’t fit

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