It is testament to the strength of feeling that D&AD tends to provoke in the UK advertising and design industries that the news that its Annual was moving from print to digital generated such a degree of dismay when it was announced last month. This is a move that is arguably long overdue in 2020, yet creatives took to social media and think pieces to express their love for ‘the book’ and their sadness at its demise. A petition for a print version to still be created has even been launched by a group of anonymous creative ‘vigilantes’.
While many might feel there are more urgent issues for creatives to be putting their energies into this year, the D&AD Annual has a significant history. This is particularly the case for creatives who entered the industry in the pre-digital age, where access to a library of D&AD Annuals meant access to a history of important moments in design and advertising rarely documented elsewhere, and also a benchmark of quality to live up to.
Such symbolic moments in youth have a strong pull, plus the early rumour that D&AD was simply replacing the book with a pdf certainly didn’t help. Nor did a rather ill-judged comment from chairman Tim Lindsay in a column for Campaign on the topic that appeared to devalue the power of books in general – never a wise position to take with a design crowd.
So here we are on the launch day for the digital version. And after all the hoo-ha, it’s great. Created by Studio Dumbar – D&AD will continue its tradition of having a rolling programme of designers working on the Annual’s look, despite the move to digital – it offers a simple-to-use, visually appealing guide to all the winners this year. And all for free.
For those who may lament the loss of the random moments you might find flicking through the book version, the opening page of the site offers an arbitrary selection of the winners from across all categories, which changes each time you refresh. Then there are tabs to search in all the traditional ways – by sector, geography, type of award etc. Finally, for those who like a list, there are rankings of the winning companies plus a whole section of insights from judges, winners, and on the trends that can be observed this year.
D&AD’s most significant work lies in its support of students and graduates, and those new to the creative industries, which it champions through its excellent New Blood and Shift schemes. Its awards – the entry fees of which are of course crucial to its survival – often seem to sit apart from this side of its work, being expensive to enter and with the winning work, when displayed only in print form, hard to access. This new digital version bridges that gap, bringing all this incredible work directly into the hands of those across the industry, and across the world, to inspire and delight.
Print still has enormous power and offers a sense of permanence that digital often can’t. But the two mediums have different uses in the modern world, and when everyone looks online for research, a resource such as the D&AD Annual – where apparently 60% of content is either moving image or digital – should be in this space.
This is particularly the case when it comes to reaching upcoming generations and helping them understand the power of design and advertising – industries that can often still seem frustratingly opaque to those outside them – where a free online resource such as the D&AD Annual is invaluable. And one day it will hopefully spark the kind of romantic reminiscing that the print version does for creatives today.
View the online D&AD Annual at dandad.org/annual/2020