Gradwatch 2017: D&AD New Blood Awards Pencils announced

The winners of this year’s New Blood Awards have been announced, with accolades handed to projects as varied as a hand-drawn animation for The National Autistic Society, a fabric labelling campaign challenging beliefs around British identity, and a typographic system aiming to help promote Chinese gender quality.

For the 2017 event, D&AD awarded a total of 173 Pencils: one Black, three White, 32 Yellow, 40 Graphite and 97 Wood. Entrants from over 40 countries were among the thousands who submitted their work, with top awards given to students from across the UK, US and Europe this year.

The sole recipients of the Black Pencil were Kingston University students Hannah McNally and Martha Halliday, who created a very moving animation entitled “Mm-hmm” in response to The National Autistic Society brief. It’s a hugely emotive piece that draws on the pair’s personal experiences. “We know there are many joys and sorrows to autism, much like the ups and downs of life,” say McNally and Halliday. “Therefore, we did not want to sugar-coat the daily thoughts and concerns of the carers. We feel the hard-hitting message we are giving must be expressed more; to showcase the help and understanding The National Autistic Society provides families and individuals when they face the transition into adulthood.” The decision to use hand-drawn animation was to give “a handmade and playful touch to a real-life story, complimenting the ups and downs of the soundtrack,” they add.

D&AD president Bruce Duckworth said: “The word on everybody’s lips when it came to the Black Pencil winner was ‘beautiful’. An emotive and intelligent campaign, Mm-hmm united the judges almost unanimously when it came to choosing this as the winner. It was not only a great showcase of raw talent, it was produced brilliantly and with passion. You really feel like the students put everything into it.”

White Pencils are awarded to projects that make a difference to the creative industry, and in a broader sense through work focusing on concepts such as sustainability or ethics. Among the 2017 winners was Fabric of the Nation, by Sian MacFarlane from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in response to Monotype’s brief. The campaign uses the typographic systems used in fibre clothing labelling to challenge beliefs around British identity. Each label bears the name of a British celebrity, and details the percentage of DNA they carry from various countries, with “100% British Fabric” written across the bottom. David Attenborough, for instance, is shown as “37% English/21% Finnish/16% German/13% Croatian/8% Turkish/5% Other.” MacFarlane says the project “takes the view that all of our citizens have mixed heritage and diverse family histories, and celebrating this rich mix is the only way to provide a true definition of ‘100% Britishness’.”

A White Pencil was also given to School of the Art Institute of Chicago student Jingwei Liang’s Monotype project Radical Good,  a typography solution that helps to promote gender equality in Chinese. The title references the graphical components, radicals, that make up simplified Chinese characters. “However, a long history of patriarchy in Chinese society is reflected in how some radicals are combined to make characters,” Liang explains, “so I have chosen eight Chinese characters with single gender radicals that are commonly used in daily life, and redesigned their typeforms to allow the use of the female and male gender radicals interchangeably, in order to promote gender equality.”

The final White Pencil was awarded for the Respect for Animals Educational Trust brief to Amsterdam Fashion Institute students Violette Van den Berg and Aron Meier’s Snap Together for Animals campaign.  The social media-based project uses platforms like Snapchat and Wechat to “put fur back in the conversation” by removing digital representations of animals such as Snapchat lenses.

Highlights from the Yellow Pencil winners include Entangled Party Game by Lorena Romero, Manuel Francisco Marticó Bello, Andrea Loureiro and Rita Sánchez Villar from College: EASD Pablo Picasso – a solution to the Hasbro brief in which players have to untangle themselves from a “serious mess”; University of Lincoln student Matt Holmes’ Amazon project Local Just Got Closer, a digital tool for shoppers to buy produce from local businesses; and Colorgram by School of Visual Arts’ Jack Welles and Danae Gosset, a concept for Arjowiggins Creative Papers that identifies shapes and colours in Instagram posts and transforms them into minimalistic die cut art.

The full list of winners can be found here.