This is already a few days old, but I want to let you all know what’s going on.

D&AD Black Pencil

The D&AD is a professional society for design, which also provides education and training, and also runs the massively popular and hard-to-win awards contest every year. Winning a D&AD Pencil can make a career from nothing, and can change the entire perception of an agency. It’s a big deal, especially in Britain.

The trouble is that for years there have been rumblings that the awards are biased towards advertising and that design, branding, packaging, interiors, etc., all take a back seat. This year, that sentiment came out of the closest in light of the most lopsided yield of awards ever. You see, D&AD is different from other awards (including the Oscars) because they aren’t obliged to choose a winner each year.

There are 4 stages of recognition. First, is being featured in the “book.” It’s an actual book featuring the best work from that year. Frankly, that book is half the reason why people pay dues to join D&AD — the book is great fun to look and an honour to be included in. After that, is a Nomination. Then comes the Silver Award (marked by a yellow pencil trophy) and the most elusive is the Gold Award (marked by a black pencil trophy). Usually only one or two black pencils get awarded, but this year a record six were handed out.

But none went to graphic design, branding, packaging, etc. In fact, that group couldn’t even muster a yellow pencil. In fact, the judges felt only 2 nominations were in order!

Immediately, the blogs blew up and firestorm began. The battle lines are pretty squarely drawn down the invisible line between advertising and design. I don’t want to spend all day ranting about D&AD (although I easily could) so I want to leave you with three links, all from the Creative Review blog, that tell the story pretty well. Make sure you read the comments.

Awards: The Gold Rush »
Lost: The D in D&AD »
D&AD and Graphic Design, What’s Next? »

The only thing I want to say about the actual work is to point out the strangeness of this Cadbury spot by Fallon that won a Gold Award. This is industry-changing work? This is the new standard of creativity? Seriously? Well, maybe we should stop entering those D&AD competitions altogether.


Your thoughts?