D&AD 12: Pencil-Shaped Creativity Awards

By Teresa de Andrés. October 17, 2012

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We are exposed to a constant burst of eye-catching stimuli. If we don’t watch out we can spend our life trapped in a loop in places like this, when all we really want is to go back to places like this other, from where we surely come. Images on screens, walls, cinemas, bags, newspapers, cities or magazines. Some make us have an uncontrollable desire to do things like this. Or like this. But the reward is worth the suffering when we discover that by picturing ourselves in spaces like this or like this we are able to tolerate better the one that actually surrounds us, to which in so many occasions we would do things like this. Once and again and again.*


Once more, the “best and greatest” awards for creative communication is shaped as a book; once more, published by Taschen. D&AD 12 gathers together the most brilliant creative works of 2011, selected by the renowned British association that celebrates creative communication with the D&AD Annual Awards. If we had to summarise –a lot– D&AD's work so it could fit, for example, on the side of a pencil, we could say something like “D&AD exists to inform, educate and inspire those who work in and around the creative industries”. And they've been doing it since 1962, when a group of London-based creatives, amongst whom were David Bailey, Terence Donovan or Alan Fletcher, decided to create what they called British Design & Art Direction. One year later they organized the first edition of these coveted awards which have taken place for the last five decades (and which can be accessed online).

This year, almost six hundred pieces of work divided in twenty-five categories –such as Digital Advertising, Mobile Marketing, Music Videos, Book Design, Graphic Design, Packaging, Art Direction, Illustration or Photography– grouped in three main groups –Advertising, Design and Crafts–. The different panel judges –one for each category– choose the most outstanding projects from over 20,000 proposals from design studios, advertising agencies, film production and photographic agencies and creative firms from all over the world. The prize: the prestige and recognition given by a simple pencil, the origin –symbolic or real– of every creative process. A yellow pencil never meant so much. And we mustn’t forget the coveted Black Pencil awarded exceptionally to those works that manage to set the industry's standards even higher every year. Projects so extraordinary that-blow-you-away.

D&AD 12 includes 568 pieces of work, 112 nominations, 65 Yellow Pencils, one Black. This last one has been for the agency Lowe-SSP3 for The Rivers of Light campaign, carried out for the Colombian Ministry of Defence on December 2011. Here, the creatives were not challenged by the intervened reality of a screen or the glossy pages of a magazine, but a sinuous river, home for thousands of guerrilla fighters. Taking advantage of the symbolic nature of Christmas for many of them, this campaign was carried out to persuade them to demobilise and return home. Following the steps of any military operation, they placed in the rivers thousands of sealed capsules with messages from the fighters' families. At night, the spheres glowed, flooding with light the rivers by the rebel camps. Almost seven thousand capsules reached the fighters and between December and January, every six hours, one of them left the guerrilla and returned home to spend Christmas with their family.

The other 567 projects selected in this edition are preceded by the President's Awards, presented to Dan Wieden and Derek Birdsall, in recognition of their long career. Turning the page –like a symbolic act that reminds us that everything begins in the classroom and as a sort of prologue to the forthcoming– we can see the Student Awards, given to the Student of the Year and other young promises who also receive Yellow Pencils –the same as the one received by more experienced creatives, only slightly smaller. As for publishing, the Yellow Pencils for Book Design have been for the covers of the titles by North American writer Don DeLillo and for Let's Make Some Great Art, published by the British publisher Laurence King, an activity book designed by Marion Deuchars and aimed at understanding the creative processes through experience. In the field of magazine and press design, the yellow prize has gone to Bloomberg Businessweek’s special issue on Steve Jobs, which was prepared in just one night, after learning of the death of the admired prophet. But we shouldn't linger any longer because there are many incredible projects in the more than five hundred pages of D&AD 12. We know that choosing only one would be impossible, like challenging the laws of aerodynamics and trying to smash the sound barrier with a hammer.

We know, but we don’t care: this, by Various Artists, –one of those works one wishes to have signed the very second you see it– is our favorite.


* Music videos selected in
D&AD 12.

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