D&AD gets to the point
This year's D&AD Awards felt like someone had taken a reasonably good layout, erased anything that was superfluous, then filled the gaps with some very well placed connecting lines. The result being something that simply works so much better.
Times have been tough with the UK still reeling from the Northern Rock debacle and a spate of Cameron government spending cuts. The D&AD's president Simon "Sanky" Sankarayya touched on these in his opening speech as he welcomed the biggest crowd these awards have had in years.
As soon as the proceedings were underway, Sanky broke the news that this year's ceremony is looking a little different. For starters, there would be no celebrity comedian hosting the evening. Instead he and D&AD CEO Tim O'Kennedy would be doing the honours and if the audience was not okay with that, "tough".
As Tim quickly explained: "We always catch flak from those guys. Since all in this room know that designers are not wankers and advertising definitely is not the incarnation of all evil in the world – do we need someone trying that one on yet again? Yeah, we thought kind of not".
They may not be comedians but the duo got laughs for simply telling it like it is without any semblance of hype. As far as awards go, that alone must be a first.
But of course the biggest change for the D&AD event this year pertained to inclusion. For the first time ever, professional and student pencils were to be awarded together.
As Sanky explained that since the government seems to have decided that education of the arts and design is not actually deserving of real funding, "it's really up to us in the industry to step in and help".
Here O'Kennedy added that the point of being a creative student, apart from studying stuff, is to have a creative career. "This means connecting with professionals of which this room is stuffed," he surmised.
This sentiment proved to be more than lip service.
Alexandra Hickmott and Ryan Purcell, the two Yellow Pencil-winning students from RMIT University In Melbourne, were seated next to John Pallant, Regional Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Europe, Middle East and Africa. Throughout the night John chatted with them at length, shared his insights and offered to introduce them to a contact closer to home. In all, one of the most awarded creatives in this industry seemed to be a genuinely nice guy and the students were chuffed for this opportunity to meet him.
I'm sure all 250 graduates there on the night would have experienced something similar.
Professional and student nominees had their entries displayed before and during dinner. Then when it came to the awards, winners were announced, applauded as their work came up on the screen, before being given their pencils and ushered outside for a picture to commemorate the occasion.
This was all done in around two hours, with plenty of time for some serious after party networking in the bar. Or some not so serious dodgem car riding.
Fairground amusements aside, you may be thinking all the changes would have made for a fairly flat event and you'd be wrong. Instead, the work starred from start to finish, celebrated by an extremely appreciative audience.
When Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and the students from RMIT Melbourne went to collect their awards, the crowd became even more vocal. Testimony to the huge number of Aussies working in London ad agencies and there on the night.
Earlier in the evening Sanky had talked about the new home for this year's D&AD awards, a relocation that will help them to continually put the work at the heart of everything they do. I'd been to the Vauxhall headquarters the day before to collect my ticket and compared with their previous premises, the move to the grittier end of town must be saving them a small fortune. Some of this I'm guessing may have even been redirected into the revamped D&AD Annual that is soon to be released.
On the evening little mention was made of the slices of Yellow Pencil that are now being awarded for both Book and Nominated work. Even less was said about the White Pencil which will be awarded for best answering a cause-related brief. This pencil will be presented for the first time at the D&AD Award's 50th anniversary next year.
From where I sat, this year's changes made for a sharper and smarter event where the only things missing were any displays of inflated egos. It's a format that will certainly lay the foundation for the next 50 years of creative excellence. Good work D&AD.