The creative team went up to London to see, hear, and learn from a host of the industry’s finest, in our first group trip to D&AD. We covered a big old spread of talks, workshops, and presentations across the three days, and came back brimming with inspiration, ideas, and new perspectives.
Here’s how we got on…
Once inside, I could really feel a positive energy about the place – it was buzzing! I didn’t make it into everything I had bookmarked, with overlapping timings and some venues queuing out the door. But by happy coincidence, I did end up catching the live side hustle pitches, a session that inspired me the most out of everything I saw that day.
D&AD talks range from providing insight into specific project processes to bigger design thinking, all of which were interesting in their own way. The live pitches showed the audience firsthand how these new insights and technologies were being put into practice, right now.
I have always found the journey of any project the most fascinating part, often more so than the finished ‘polished’ result. Being presented with these works in progress made me feel part of that journey and got me really excited not just for them, but for the future of the design industry too – even more so than those who spoke using previous work as examples.
I liked the rawness of these pitches, being able to really see into the creative process even without being part of it. The pitches provided a more intimate interaction with new work coming through the industry.
In a similar way, the Social Stage provided another more intimate experience. With people sitting on the floor and listening to a panel, rather than one speaker, this instantly felt more accessible and inspiring.
I would definitely go back to the festival, as it was a brilliant day out that gave me food for thought, both as a designer and a human being.
Here’s to the future – what a great time to be alive!
Sometimes you just need a good talking to.
I’d made my plan for the day from the moment the schedule was released. I’d planned to duck in and out, jump from room to room and catch as many talks as I could. I was hoping to be inspired by the work – and I wasn’t disappointed.
The standard was, of course, insane but what I found myself getting drawn to more was the stories behind the work and the stories of those who had created it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, creative director, a freelance illustrator, photographer, or radio presenter – the theme stayed the same. The individual battles that they faced, with clients, with collaborators, with themselves, to get to where they are today.
We all have our daily stresses and strains. The people who succeed are the ones that stick to their guns. So many talked about their individual and team creative processes and dealing with that. How that process will only get you so far, and how it’s going above and beyond that will make something truly successful. Knowing that sometimes things don’t go your way, and that’s fine because failing is just part of the journey.
By taking the safe route, are we ever truly going to reach our own potential, let alone achieve great things for the brands we work on?
My one massive take away from the day: believe in yourself, the idea, and the work you produce and soon people will believe in you.
I was surprised to find that I got more from the talks I just kind of ended up in than the ones I had planned to see. Disappointingly some of those talks I’d planned to go to just ended up being agency showcases with no info on the brief, or any real depth into the creative process, or how the solution was arrived at. One speaker even threw their recruitment email up on the screen at the end with the words ‘We’re hiring’.
The nice surprise was the Side Hustle Live Pitches that I happened across as I was waiting for something else. These were pitches of 20 slides (20 seconds for each) to sell in a new start-up or scale-up project. It was great to see some fresh ideas and solutions to issues affecting society. It was also interesting to watch different presenting techniques and to be on the other side of the dreaded pitch. The speed and stress of the 20-slide format is probably not something I would look forward to!
Special mentions to:
Superpersonal, who have built an AI to give people ‘the most advanced visual personalisation experiences in the world’. Looks very freaky but has loads of potential – especially for the fashion industry.
The Wayback (the eventual winner), a VR series to help people with dementia. The video on the site will make you cry. I think this is an amazing project and a great example of how technology can help people in need.
The Lion’s Share Fund, which is asking companies to contribute a small percentage of media spend from advertisements featuring animals to conservation and animal welfare projects. This is an interesting and innovative way for the design and advertising industry to make a massive difference to Wildlife conservation and animal welfare. Supported by the United Nations, Sir David Attenborough, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones) they aim to raise $100 million a year. Mars have already bought in and it will make a massive difference if the fund is successful.
This was my first time going to D&AD and it was a great experience. One event which I was surprised to find as useful as I did, was the poster-writing workshop.
The talk descriptions didn’t give a huge amount away, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect.
We were given multiple strips of paper with letters and a handful of punctuation marks on them, a pair of scissors, a glue stick, an A3 sheet of paper, and the instruction to come up with a headline for an issue we felt strongly about.
Having to physically fit the letters into a set space made it obvious straight away when there was too much copy. It really forced me to pick my words carefully right from the start.
Being able to physically move the letters around gave me a new experience of “writing”. It made me look at copy from a different perspective and spot things I may not have otherwise.
A simple exercise, but really effective.
And sometimes, it’s those new ways of working that help you stand back and see the bigger picture.
Which in turn helps you produce something different and brilliant.
Clocking the black and yellow D&AD signage on the streets of Shoreditch felt like a throwback to graduation. Whilst queuing, I wondered if my perspective of the industry had changed. Would I remain inspired after witnessing other creatives talk? Or would I be less receptive to viewing the glorified work often plastering the design blogs we view?
In theory, nothing’s changed. I’m still a sucker for a well-thought-out idea, a crisp mock-up, and slick promo video. However, I draw the line at watching drones flying around the Squarespace HQ in New York (no matter how illegal). I mean, what value does this add to a room full of designers apart from proving how pretentious we can be?
I was hoping one key talker would touch on their approach to the design process, and Alice Tonge (Head of 4Creative) delivered. Expressing how she feared taking on certain briefs when the creatives before her had produced such powerful work, through to her feelings from the initial briefing to the final stages of a project. Yet, it was her five key approaches that resonated with me the most and something I hope to implement into my own design process.
Emily Forgot gave us an insight into how her self-initiated project soon turned into commissioned work and made me realise that making time for side projects can be just as rewarding as getting the nod of approval from your creative director.
After an intense but inspiring day, my only issue came up when reflecting later. You can’t question D&AD championing the successes of great design, but I wish more speakers used the spotlight to display samples of routes that got rejected during the journey. After all, point three of five by Alice Tonge: fail harder!
It’s been a culture-rich month for me – starting with our local ChipLit Fest at the end of April, unexpectedly encountering a Fossil Festival down in Lyme Regis mid-May, and now venturing out to D&AD, one of the biggest creative gatherings in the UK.
Despite the huge breadth in those festival genres and the variety in their respective talks and speakers, it’s been interesting – if not entirely surprising – to see core themes cropping up again and again. These were outlined neatly by Carlos Bayala in his talk on Creativity in Dispute Resolution, where he summarised the most pressing concerns of today’s children (admittedly with a fairly limited research pool) as being ‘climate change, Trump’s wall (i.e. social division), and robots’.
From the diverse and (mostly) engaging cluster of creatives, technologists, entrepreneurs, and activists that spoke throughout the day, there were many common takeaways and rally cries: to get involved, to collaborate, to prioritise effectiveness over originality, to share experiences, and collectively learn from failures.
For brands, the expectation that you embrace a greater social purpose is now the standard. For creatives, it is within our power to effect positive change, but the challenges we face are too big to go it alone.
As Carlos says:
‘We need all the ideas from all around the world’ and ‘the most important thing is admiring things that are not ours.’
The festival gave us a unique excuse to create yet another WhatsApp group – appropriately named (by Steve) D&AD baby! As you can see, it provided a platform for super important and deeply intellectual design-related discussions…