D&AD Writing for Design Awards 2012

In the mix: colour, film clips, tomato sauce, magic and Martini soup

On Monday this week I spent the day at Olympia judging the Writing for Design category at the 2012 D&AD awards. It was a privilege to be involved as a first-time D&AD judge and I was in great company. The jury included some of the best copywriters around, as well as Chris Doyle, a designer who created a stir by producing branding guidelines for himself back in 2008.

Beneath the great steel and glass arches of the hall, trestle tables were laid out to infinity, covered in work sent in by creative professionals from around the world. Favourites from other categories included posters for Kids Company, a watch showing Indian time (there were only four hours marked – 3ish, 6ish, 9ish and 12ish), and an extraordinary old-fashioned wooden box containing typesetting materials / branding guidelines.

We started off with 74 Writing for Design submissions – everything from posters, brochures and web content to place mats and packaging materials – and ended up with five winning entries that will appear in the prestigious D&AD Annual.

From a bloodbath to a longlist

Nick Asbury has written a brilliant description of every stage of the judging which demystifies the process, so I’ll leave it to him to explain how we got beyond the bloodbath stage and reached consensus by the end of the day.

In-book winners

So here are the five winning entries, with a quick outline of why I thought they deserved to join the best of the year’s creative output in the D&AD Annual.

  • Holiday card by Pentagram Design for Pentagram Design. Writers:  Naresh Ramchandani and Tom Edmonds. This little book made everyone smile. Choose a coloured page, tear open the perforations and read a description of how that colour relates to you. Olive green is the colour of déja-vu, canary yellow denotes mindless positivity, while pink means you’re laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. The copy and design echo each other, with ‘ME’ reflected as ‘EM’ on the opposite page of purple, the colour of self-obsession. This was funny, clever copy that prodded and tickled you in unexpected directions. By the way, the last pages we opened were maroon (for long-repressed rage) and brown (for indifference). This entry is nominated for a Yellow Pencil.
  • byvariousartists.com by Various Artists for Various Artists. This website was a bold move for a new Manchester-based creative agency with no portfolio to show. As a web content writer, the black cloud of SEO constantly hovers over your head, impossible to escape. So I loved this site, which dodges all keyword concerns by highlighting ‘this’ for every link, seasoned by an occasional ‘that’.  Each link takes you to a well-known film or tv clip. Various Artists promise to make you feel like Meg Ryan in the famous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally, but never like Steve Carell shouting ‘No, no, no!’ in the American Office. The pared-down editorial style is matched by equally sparse design: a one page site with plenty of blank space and just a changing background colour to alter the view. Concise copy, a daring approach and a distinctive voice were the winning factors in this entry.
  • Little Chef by Venture Three for Little Chef. As a brand, Little Chef has flip flopped between appealing to truckers and snail porridge aficionados. The placemats in this submission see a return to the middle ground, aiming at families and stressing straight-ahead food credentials, such as the use of free range eggs. One mat apologises: ‘Sorry sachets – we only use Heinz bottles’ then recounts the sad tale of an exploding sauce sachet. ‘Now look what you’ve done. Don’t worry, it will wash off.’  The copy hit its target perfectly: conversational and chatty without banging on or becoming twee.
  • The Great Blandini by Interbrand Sydney for Steve Bland. Writer: Mike Reed. The Great Blandini was in-book in this category last year for a series of posters and business cards, and the jury felt that this year’s entry deserved to be in-book too. This little booklet, beautifully produced with trailing hand stitching, shows how The Great Blandini can ‘unlock many fascinating phenomena of the famous Photo-Shoppe’ using sleight of hand and magical skills. The copy carries the conceit through consistently and with charm, as spidery handwritten inky text extols the merits of ‘Shadow and Highlight’ to ‘transport a subject from light into darkness’. It also features a great picture of ‘the gentleman transformed into a lion’.
  • William Grant & Sons Brand Ambassador Handbook by Here Design for William Grant & Sons. Writer: Lisa Desforges. I admit I was envious when I saw this entry – both for the quality of the writing and for the lavish production of the 144 page cloth-bound book. Stylistically, the handbook takes after a Victorian etiquette guide, dispensing advice and cocktail recipes for the travelling Brand Ambassador with grown-up wit. If you want to stay sober, why not try Martini soup? ‘Order a MARTINI then order the soup. Slosh the martini into the SOUP. Leave the soup.’ The mysterious inscription on the cover – ‘Correlated courses in woodwork and mechanical drawings’ – also means you can read the handbook incognito on the bus and no one need know you’re an undercover Brand Ambassador.

What’s next?

Yellow Pencil winners and details of all the writers will be announced tonight – Thursday 19 April. Meanwhile:

Oh, and do add a comment if you like.