The D&AD Writing for Design shortlist came out last month, with the
winners announced on 12 June. Probably the most useful thing about the awards
is the conversation that springs up around them every year, so this is my
On a personal note, there was some great news – a nomination for Disappointments Diary. Neville Brody picks it out as one of his favourite
projects here, and it’s been shortlisted in the Design Week awards, with the
winners announced on 4 June. I also had a few other projects entered into
D&AD that didn’t get anywhere, so disappointments all round.
There were three nominations in D&AD Writing
for Design this year. Alongside the diary, the second was GOV.UK, which won the
Design Museum’s Design of the
Year award and has been written
about extensively elsewhere, including praise from two of the judges Mike Reed and Joe Weir. It’s notable that,
while it’s been widely hailed as one of the landmark creative projects of the
year, it didn’t get recognised in the digital design category or anywhere else
at D&AD. It strikes me as a good justification for the existence and relevance of Writing for Design as a category that it picks up
projects like this.
There doesn’t appear to have been much comment
about this, but the third nomination in Writing for Design went to a project
that amounts to two words. Here’s the entry video explaining it.
You should look at it before
What do you think?
I’ve argued in the past
that a one-word entry might one day win in Writing for Design. One contender
was Ma’amite. I’m not sure if that
was entered – if so, it didn’t get anywhere.
The nomination reflects a subtle
but significant change in the category that took place this year, which is to
include an extra subcategory called Writing for Brands. The idea is to
recognise writing that doesn’t have a design element (i.e. not Writing for
Design), but is nevertheless great brand writing. It’s a subject that came up
last year and which I wrote about here.
It’s good to see the new subcategory is already bearing fruit.
That said, the nomination
will cause some raised eyebrows. The video makes a persuasive case, but it must
have been a hard one to evaluate alongside the other work, which doesn’t get a
chance to make a similarly emotive pitch for itself. There’s also an inevitable
note of Olympic sentimentality about it, which it’s hard not to be swayed by.
On the surface, it’s a
decision that I can see appealing to a lot of writers – the idea that words can
be such powerful things, even just two words. But I wonder if there’s an
element of wanting to believe it too much. Can we really quantify the
difference the words made? Even if we can, is effectiveness the best measure? 'Games Maker' may have made it into the dictionary, but so did 'Simples'.
I think if it’s going to be a
one-word winner, then the word not only has to be demonstrably responsible for
the success of the idea, but also an admirable creative insight in itself. A
couple of comparisons come to mind – the namers of the Everton store in the
Liverpool One shopping centre, who came up with ‘Everton Two’. Or the lovely
‘Ends Fri’ ad for the last episode of Friends
that I wrote about here and which got in-book a few years ago (in Press Advertising). Even in those cases, you could argue they’re just nice
one-off jokes or beautiful moments of serendipity. But there’s no doubt there’s
something special and memorable about them.
With ‘Games Maker’, there’s
nothing inherently inspired or unexpected about the name itself. What marks it
out is the strategic insight that you don’t have to go with the standard
‘volunteer’ – why not have a more motivating name? But even judged on that
level, I’m not sure it’s qualitatively different from those train companies who
have ‘customer hosts’ instead of ‘guards’. It’s the same principle – seeing the
opportunity to avoid the generic term and inject some positivity with a new
term. It’s become a widespread PR trend with job titles and usually it ends up
grating with the public, as people sense the spin behind it. Had the Olympics
not gone so well, would ‘Games Maker’ have seemed equally cloying to us? If
we’re being really harsh, does it have a faint ring of Jubilympics about it?
I’ve hesitated to raise it on
here, but I find this stuff interesting
and I’m surprised it hasn’t caused more comment elsewhere. I wonder if it will lead to a spate of brand name entries in future.
Category in general
As well as the three nominations, there were six
in-books this year – a reasonable haul from total entries numbering 95, which
is slightly up on previous years. It’s good to see Roger Horberry’s work for
RNLI in there – a nice bit of witty writing that has entered the mainstream (I
saw the tea towels in John Lewis the other day). The other entries come from
Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Istanbul, which shows the scope of
the category these days. The IF Istanbul identity takes a bit of ‘getting’ but
looks good. It’s interesting to see the Shrewsbury identity involving We
All Need Words getting a nomination in branding, but nothing in writing, although I
don’t know if it was entered.
GOV.UK strikes me as the main
story of the year. It’s a project that could change what clients expect from
writing – after years of people asking for Innocent or The Economist, I suspect GOV.UK will now be mentioned a lot. I hope it signals a move away from the
obsession with tone of voice (which make up only a tiny fraction of
the full GOV.UK style guide) and towards a more rounded engagement with writing
in its fullest sense. At the same time, I hope there isn't a swing too far the other way towards spare, functional writing – it makes sense on a government website, but there's still room for more fun and wit elsewhere.
NB: Disappointments Diary is available to buy from our shop if you're the kind of person who buys a diary in June, in which case you'll probably like it.