Fig 1: The initial elimination round goes well.
It was a real privilege being part of the D&AD Writing for Design judging yesterday. The results have just been announced: a total of 13 entries in-book, including four nominations.
The nominations were for: The Jupiter Drawing Room (a range of rock-music-themed packaging); Royal Mail Group Limited (the Royal Mail Yearbook); Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO (a D&AD Call for Entries long copy ad); and Innocent Drinks (the latest major refresh of their packaging).
I'll probably say more about the work itself at some point, but here are some more general thoughts:1. Foreign language entries
We found ourselves in the surreal position of judging long-copy entries in foreign languages. I think this is a big, big problem. The translations provided allow you to understand the concept and content, but there's no way to judge the craft of the writing, or whether it's littered with spelling mistakes and clumsy turns of phrase. We did our best to be fair and leant towards assuming the best rather than the worst, but it's ultimately a bit of a farce.
It's right that D&AD should champion the best creativity around the world, but when it comes to the writing categories, it surely has to be English language. Even if you invite a bilingual judge in specially, it leaves the other judges relying on second-hand information. (We actually sought out a Spanish speaker in the hall to shed some light on one piece, but it's hardly satisfactory.) The policy has to change next year.
2. Entries down
Only about 80 this year, compared to 150-odd in previous years. Message to writers and design agencies: enter this category as much as possible. There's a lot of good writing out there and the door is wide open.
3. Quality good
Nearly all were worthy of serious consideration, so maybe people are exercising their own quality control before entering.
That said, there were a handful where you wondered why on earth they'd entered. One entry had two words on it, and not very creative ones.
May be nothing in it, but I was suspicious about whether one entry had ever made it into the real world. I reported it and D&AD promised to check it out – good that they take it seriously.
6. Not a scam
One thing I can vouch for is that every entry gets its money's worth, in the sense that the judges had time to consider each item at length. There is still a problem with the seriously long-copy entries (books and so on). Although there may be practical difficulties (availability of file copies?), it would be nice to receive the longer pieces a couple of days in advance.
7. Great minds don't think alike
I was surprised at how often I ended up disagreeing with my fellow jurors, but the discussions that followed were the most enjoyable part of the whole experience. I was determined not to go away feeling I should have said x or y, and managed to achieve that, which is good.
There's no disputing the thoroughness of the judging process. It's a system involving human beings making subjective judgements, so it'll never be either perfect or perfectly consistent. Work that does well one year might not have been so lucky the next. But the way the system is designed goes about as far as it's possible to go to iron out these difficulties and uphold the standards. And they are very, very high standards. I was really proud to be part of it.
UPDATE: I should point out that one of the foreign language entries did actually make it in-book (Espacio David Puente, by virgen extra). The decision was based on what was clearly an interesting, nicely presented concept and copy that read well in translation. I just hope it reads as well in Spanish (and feel slightly ridiculous admitting it).