The story of D&AD’s 50th anniversary annual

Former D&AD President Mike Dempsey questions the continued relevance of the organisation’s annual and suggests an alternative future for the venerable publication

Former D&AD President Mike Dempsey questions the continued relevance of the organisation’s annual and suggests an alternative future for the venerable publication

In 2007 D&AD sent out an oversized pizza box containing a bright yellow satin flag brandishing their logo. It was given to a variety of D&AD members around the world. They were asked to do something snazzy with it. A selection of the results was to be featured in the 2007 annual. The whole idea rather incenses me because of its utter waste and I felt the need to protest. This was my response to D&AD’s request…


Needless to say my little effort didn’t grace the pages of the annual nor was my protest acknowledged by D&AD. But thanks to Creative Review it found a cyber audience and started to whizz around the blogosphere. I mention this because I have been thinking about the future of the D&AD Annual. 

Apart from the first catalogue style annual in 1963 I have every copy of the D&AD Annual. I still treasure many of them. But as much as I love books, over the last decade the D&AD Annual has, to my mind, become redundant as a vehicle to best record the year’s creative highlights in this digital age… 

You had to buy the annual in the early days. Later it was given out free to members but you had to collect it from D&AD. Later they organised a free delivery service. For those of you who are members of D&AD you will be well aware of the rapid increase in size of the annual over the past ten years. This reflects not only the new areas of design but now includes the growing international entries.

Last year’s edition of the annual weighed in at a hefty 3kg. It was delivered to me at a cost, I guess, of around £20 by one of those smartly dressed UPS drivers…

in their equally immaculate chocolate brown trucks…


I signed for it, reached for my still trusty scalpel and slashed my way through the dense cardboard protective packaging and it’s inner plastic shrink-wrapping. It left my studio floor full of debris and me holding the annual fearing a hernia under the weight. There followed a cup of coffee and a ten-minute thumb through – something I’ve done for the last two decades.

Then the tomb was snapped shut and added to my bookshelf, taking its place chronologically with its predecessors. There it will stay in quiet serenity. It was the sight of the discarded packaging and the weight of the annual that got me thinking about the sheer effort and expense to deliver this bibliographic extravaganza to my door.

Here is the DNA of the 2010 D&AD Annual… 

On top of all that it travelled 10,000 miles (it was printed in China) to reach me. And all I do is give it a cursory glance as most of the images are too small and lack detail. Then it’s on the shelf with its old buddies. I am sure I am not alone in this casual act. 

We are now very well bedded into the digital age (no longer ‘new media’) with its ever-increasing advances. And with a new D&AD president in office, and importantly, the first from a digital background I would like to pose a question. When is D&AD going to address this issue?  Here is my solution.

Let’s just re run that UPS delivery scenario again. The only difference is that it is now 2013 (D&AD’s 50th anniversary).

So, I open my door and am handed a slim lightweight package (only 0.68g). I open it with ease, minimal waste. It is a 4th generation iPad, slimmer, faster, bigger memory and a lot cheaper (but knowing Apple it won’t be). I discover later that Apple have subsidised this new little miracle to all D&AD members (how nice of them.)…

I click on to discover that it not only has the brand spanking new 2013 Annual – where I can look at the graphics in detail and activate all of the moving imagery, sound and music – but I also have access to the previous 49 annuals as well.

That’s 50 years, 1,450 cm in length, 124kg in weight, 149cm in thickness (think of those poor bookshelves) all reduced to a digital nothingness. As for the 2014 annual? Simple. It’s a download from D&AD. No UPS delivery required (sorry UPS). No Chinese printing. No paper, board, inks, glue, plastic and only one 10,000 miles journey (everything is made in China these days) to get it to your door.

A big step for D&AD and a small carbon footprint for the creative community. (Well done D&AD.)

This piece was originally published at Mike Dempsey’s Graphic Journeys blog. Dempsey is a former President of D&AD and past Master of The Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry. A founder of design studio CDT, in 2007 he formed Studio Dempsey.

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