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Rob

Hi Nick,

Rob from We All Need Words here. Agree with everything you said: RNLI work by Roger Horberry was good (and I was surprised it hadn't been mentioned much before either); and that the success of Games Makers had more to do with the people who did it. I doubt the name made much difference. I think your Jubilympics comment is on the money.

We did enter Shrewsbury in the writing for brands category. We're happy that it was nominated in the best branding scheme because we went about it as a branding project rather than a writing one. But I wonder whether some things don't do as well in writing for design and branding because they don't feel like 'writing'. Or it's less obvious that a lot of effort or thinking went into them. Who knows? I really thought Tom Lynham's work for the Festival of Britain should have done better last year. I think Dishoom's menu by one of the judges, Elise Valmorbida, was one of the best things I read by a brand this last year and I haven't seen it mentioned it anywhere.

Your Disappointments Diary is brilliant though, no arguments there.

Nick Asbury

Hi Rob

Thanks for the comment and congratulations on the nomination.

I haven't seen that menu – will have to look it up. And I know what you mean about the Festival of Britain stuff – it was a lovely, words-based thing.

I think you have a point about some projects being less easy to 'get' than others, because the contribution of the writing isn't immediately obvious. Looking at Mike Reed's post, it sounds like gov.uk came close to being overlooked, probably for the same reason. At first sight, you don't think 'great writing' – you need to know the story behind it.

I think long copy projects still struggle as well – ones where there’s no ‘idea’ as such and you just have to read the whole thing and let it win you over. At the moment, they allow one day for D&AD judging, but I think it might help to add an extra half day of 'reading time'.

Mike Reed

Really interesting thoughts, as ever. I should immediately declare an interest as Foreman of the Jury for Writing for Design this year, before I take a bit of issue with your thoughts on Games Maker.

For me, it does have a level of insight that puts it up alongside Ends Fri or Everton Two. (Both of which are magnificent, by the way.)

Games Maker is not especially beautiful as a phrase, I concede. But as a thought, it’s brilliant.

You won’t just be helping out, it says: you’ll be making the Games. Making them possible. Making them what they are. Whoever else is involved, however high profile – Seb Coe Danny Boyle, Mo Farah – you’re the people without whom this thing cannot happen.

Overly literal readers would point out that this applies to all those people too, but the name turns the role of volunteer into an honourable, even heroic, position.

There must have been other ideas. A ‘Team’ route would have been an obvious one, especially with the coining of ‘Team GB’. It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with some more saccharine or tub-tumpy sort of name.

But for me, Games Maker balances the emotive with a rather attractive practical quality. ‘Maker’ feels solid and real, not just gloomy.

And the name feels properly populist: simple, direct, gutsy, universal. It works whether you read The Sun or The Guardian. Whether you’re young or old. It’s the opposite, I’d say, of brand consultancy ‘Jubilympic’-style gobbledegook.

It’s undeniably hard to separate the name from the ultimate success of the Games, which casts a retrospective glow over everything associated with it. Maybe we were swayed by that on the jury. I don’t think so – it was certainly a factor we recognised, so I hope we did our best to see through it.

I can see why some people pulled a face when Games Maker got its pencil, but I smiled. And not just because it was so refreshing to see a two-word phrase win a writing award.

Sue

What could be more ‘simple, direct, and universal’ than ‘Volunteer’? A ‘Volunteer’ is inherently good so dressing it up with a fancy new job title feels dishonest to me. ‘Games Maker’ smacks of spin and PR.

Nick Asbury

Hi Mike

First of all, thanks for explaining the thinking behind it, not that I think you or any of the jury need to come out and justify it. Judges make the call and I’m sure it was discussed long and hard.

I still don’t buy it, on two main levels. Firstly, both the decision to rename the volunteers and the name itself don’t strike me as *that* inspired. (Bear in mind, we’re setting a high standard here – the best creative awards in the world.) I wasn’t advocating a clever or witty alternative – that would have been silly. But it’s a creativity and craft award and I think it’s fair to expect evidence of both in the winners.

Picking up Sue’s point (hello), I also question whether the volunteers needed a name to lend them a heroic quality. If anything, it’s the other way round – their brilliant work helped people accept a name that might otherwise have seemed like a patronising example of branding-gone-too-far.

Secondly, and more fundamentally… even if you agree it’s a great name, I don’t think that’s enough for a pencil. Yes, there’s a nice talking point in the idea that even two words can be a thing of brilliance, but that has to be balanced with the fact that people are striving away in other categories making films, exhibitions and complex brand identities. When people are working on those grand endeavours and scraping in-book, I think the Writing category has to be careful not to look like an easy ride.

It’s interesting that this happened in the first year that the category expanded to include Writing for Branding – it couldn’t have happened in previous years where there needed to be a design element. Tom Actman has questioned on Twitter whether this kind of naming is really the same thing as ‘writing’ and I think it’s a fair point. It’s almost certainly an unintended consequence of the category expansion that brand names are now eligible. But they’re not really things that can be judged in isolation as pieces of ‘writing’. We all know a name can only be as good as the cause it’s attached to, and the communication around it. Even the great ad slogans of the past (including Just do it) had to be art directed as part of a bigger idea and campaign – they were never entered just as slogans on their own.

To me, Games Maker is one of those projects you can spin a great story out of – I may have voted for it to go in-book on the basis that it’s a case study that’s worth recording for posterity. But giving it a pencil feels to me like the creative industry getting carried away with its own hype.

Note to readers: as well as his comment above, Mike posted a more expansive justification on his blog: http://www.reedwords.co.uk/blog/2013/06/in-defence-of-games-maker/

Mike Reed

Thanks Nick. I think you make an excellent case, and I suspect we’d just go around and around it rather fruitlessly from this point on.

(Even so, I’ve added a note to the comments thread on my own post – thanks for the link.)

The wider point about naming/writing is clearly an important one. Games Maker aside, my sense is that if one feels a piece of writing is brilliant enough, you should give it a pencil. Whether it's a one-word name or a 200pp book.

I'm not saying there aren't complexities or difficulties in that, but for me the underlying principle is quality, not quantity. Just because something is bigger and more time-consuming to do doesn't in itself give that job a greater claim to recognition.

If a piece of work is brilliant, I don't ultimately care if it took two weeks of soul-crushing work or two minutes' scribbling in the briefing meeting. It deserves recognition.

I don't think that makes the category an easy ride - we both know how hard naming can be, as Simon Manchipp also pointed out in the Twitter version of this thread.

But I also think this is exactly the sort of discussion that we should be having about the scope, value and quality of written work. So well done us.

Nick Asbury

Thanks Mike, certainly agree about quality/quantity, although like you say, it gets complex.

The ‘naming is difficult’ argument is a slight stretch for me. It’s certainly true when you’re naming a new brand, where you have a whole universe of existing and invented words at your disposal, and all the dotcom and translation issues. But in the case of renaming the Olympic volunteers, I think there was a very limited range of viable options and it’s not quite the same beast.

But like you say, something can be straightforward and still great. This whole thing reminds me of that press story about a 3½-year-old girl who wrote to Sainsbury’s suggesting they rename their Tiger bread as Giraffe bread. I blogged about it and half-jokingly suggested she should enter. Wonder how that would have done.
http://asburyandasbury.typepad.com/blog/2012/01/the-youngest-ever-dad-winner.html

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