I’ve been invited to judge D&AD Writing for Design this year (the 50th year of D&AD). I’m looking forward to it – I did it once before in 2010 and it was fascinating to be involved in the discussions.
As part of the invitation, D&AD asked judges to think about work they’d like to see entered in their category. It’s a slightly odd one – feels like a risk to the anonymity of the judging process. But then D&AD has been trying to shake off some of the mystique and open things up in recent years, and that’s no bad thing.
Even so, I find it hard to name specific pieces of Writing for Design. Unlike advertising, a lot of good design writing happens under the radar. Last time I judged, the nominations went to four projects, three of which I hadn’t seen before. I suspect something similar could happen this year.
One thing I would like to see entered is Siri. Partly just to see what happens. I think it legitimately qualifies in the sense of writing for product design. It’s a rare example of tonally inventive writing being woven into the product itself. The fact that Siri launched with a surprisingly witty and likeable personality fuelled much of the initial press coverage. That said, I’ve not used it myself, so I’m not sure how it lives up to the hype. It would also be a major headache to judge properly.
The same goes for Twitter accounts. These probably shouldn’t qualify for entry, as there’s no sense in which they’re writing 'for design'. But accounts like @betfairpoker have become high-profile examples of brand-building writing. At the height of the Waterstones-missing-apostrophe-rebrand-PR-firestorm, the one cheerful beacon of calm was the @WstonesOxfordSt Twitter account. Their good-humoured tweets turned a crisis into a nice opportunity to win people over. You could call it one of the best pieces of brand writing this year, certainly as far as 'the public' are concerned. But it’s not Writing for Advertising and it’s not Writing for Design.
There's an argument the category should evolve into something broader at some point – maybe just ‘brand writing’, which would open things up a bit. But it would involve rethinking the whole judging process – not sure how you assess a year of tweets in the space of a day, or whether it's even a good idea. You’d certainly have to bear in mind there’s a difference between crafting a beautifully written piece of print and posting up a few funny tweets.
One project I really liked this year was the Life turns in a sentence campaign by Leo Burnett for Swiss Life. Great little pieces of commercial poetry, and perfectly justified by the client and the brief. I’m guessing they’ll be part of Writing for Advertising, but it depends how the campaign as a whole worked.
Whatever happens, I hope there are a high number of entries in the category. D&AD remains the main place where writing gets recognised and celebrated, so it’s worth supporting.