Do awards kill ideas?

Awards are seen as a vital way of measuring success and celebrating talent. But, argues veteran designer Michael Wolff, they are also in danger of promoting mediocrity and sameness

“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism,” Norman Vincent Peale

Last year’s D&AD annual arrived a few months ago. To be honest, I dreaded opening it. The harder the covers try to be original, the more disinclined I feel to open the books – and so I didn’t, until today, when I actually looked through it.

To my mind, compared with some of the extraordinary work that I can easily trawl from my memory, there was little in the annual that stirred either jaw-dropping admiration or shameful envy.

Seeing so much sameness made me wonder whether winning awards, being published or being exhibited – all of which have long been markers of the quality of a designer’s work – are now the cause of so much conformity.