“If you come from an advertising background, you immediately associate D&AD with awards,” says D&AD chief executive officer Tim Lindsay. “I think that’s probably true for the design part of our community as well, but perhaps less so. Actually, we are first and foremost an educational charity.” In its 50th year, D&AD is putting in place some significant changes which, hopes Lindsay, will reverse the balance when it comes to perceptions of the organisation, putting its educational remit uppermost.
Key to this is the launch of the D&AD Foundation. D&AD is being re-organised to separate the awards and professional services side of what it does from its educational activities. In future, the ‘business’ side of D&AD will concentrate on making as much revenue as it can from its awards and professional training. The Foundation will be funded and supported by the profits generated by these activities. This clarification of the financial model that D&AD rests on will help to open many doors for the charity, it is hoped, allowing it to access funding and donations directly for the Foundation and the support of new creative talent.
The idea to separate the organisation in this way was proposed by D&AD’s education sub-committee, led by Neville Brody. The committee was, Brody says, “formed in order to make sense of the education space for D&AD and also to clarify the intention, the scope and the kind of activities D&AD should be doing. Education has always been part of D&AD’s make up but perhaps because of the profile of the Awards in people’s minds, the statement of intent has never been as clear and loud as it could be.”
It was this drive to address and improve D&AD’s educational activity that got Brody involved with the organisation in the first place: he will shortly take over from Rosie Arnold as the its new President.
“We proposed the remit that D&AD existed to create income in order to support education in the creative services,” Brody says of the committee’s conclusions after two years looking into the issue. “We came up with the idea of a circle of learning where we saw D&AD being involved in the complete cycle of creative education. Excellence should nurture excellence.”
D&AD’s clarified mission will be to support students through their education and then, through internships, apprenticeships, mentoring and activities such as the Graduate Academy, through the first years of professional life until they are in a position to be entering – hopefully winning – the professional awards themselves. At that point, D&AD will expect the circle to become complete as those who have themselves benefitted from D&AD’s support, offer their own to the next generation via the organisation’s activities. In future, winning a pencil “may come with a community service sentence attached to it,” Brody suggests, smiling.
“The vision is that creative agencies should be able to give gifts or endowments to the Foundation,” Brody says. “The Foundation will be really clear as a space where we can support education and students. Once you have separated it from D&AD’s awards and professional activities you have an amazingly powerful tool and one that you can take to government, to partners and so on.”
Lindsay agrees: “The Foundation makes lots of conversations easier, particularly with partnerships as it makes it very clear where the money is going,” he says. “It also frees up the rest of the operation to be more commercial and has enabled us to write a three-year business plan with the ambition to significantly increase the revenues. That involves continuing to grow awards revenue, on which we are disproportionately dependent at the moment, to continue to increase partnership revenue, to develop and launch a professional development training company targeting not just the creative community but clients too, and, perhaps most importantly, to relaunch membership.”
There are plans to give students free membership during their studies “and to keep hold of them in the early part of their career through a sensible sliding scale,” Lindsay says. “We want to grow our membership over the next three to five years and deepen our relationship with them.”
But he is realistic about what D&AD must do in order to achieve that goal. “To get there we have to deliver a better product. We have to be a source of inspiration, a source of employment, the place where people meet and discuss stuff.”
Can D&AD pull it off given that, to the younger generation, of designers particularly, it may not play the central role it once did? “D&AD is often accused of being less relevant today,” Lindsay admits, “but the way you make yourself relevant is to make yourself useful and the way you do that is to provide a product and a service that people find they need recourse to frequently. You need to take a look at yourself and ask whether what you are doing is right for the emerging generations. I think D&AD has done quite a good job on students and quite a good job at the more mature end of the industry but it has missed out the middle. We can disconnect with people when they’ve been in the business for two or three years until they win an award.”
But is winning an award even that important to younger creatives? “If awards are about peer review and peer approval then you get that much more widely and rigorously and instantly by putting something up on YouTube than you do by entering an awards show,” Lindsay concedes. “We have to be much more than an awards show.
We have to offer great training, great speakers, to be a great place to have discussions. And, most of all, we want to make money to put into the Foundation.”
Brody says that we can also expect D&AD to be more vocal in the interests of its members. “We’re not going to be shy of raising our voices more politically,” he promises. “What this government has done to creative education in this country is an absolute fucking disaster. They’re shooting themselves in the foot. A huge amount of UK income comes from the creative services, so what possible good can come out of killing creative education? I don’t support the idea that industry should be paying for education but we have no choice, so let’s formulate a positive response, make it work and stick two fingers up to the government.” D&AD, he says, “needs to have a more strident voice to defend the profession we represent and to help protect students who want to go into creative education.”
Lindsay and Brody are promising a more active, engaged D&AD that has a clear remit to support education in very defined ways. The Foundation, they hope, will set out where D&AD’s priorities lie, to an extent not seen in its previous five decades. D&AD may be 50 but it doesn’t plan on settling for comfortable middle age just yet.
For more information about D&AD go to dandad.org