Vibrant and Insightful Snapshots of the Industry at the 2024 D&AD Festival

Southbank Centre was buzzing with activity despite the chilly and gray London morning. This year’s D&AD festival opened its doors on Tuesday to the creative community keen to gain new insights and perspectives from the very best of the industry. The event is filled with talks from those at the forefront of the industry, jury insights from the many judging panels giving us a look into the judging process and stellar works in each category, as well as masterclasses to hone one’s sense of the creative field.

D&AD 2024 kicked off with opening remarks from the CEO, Jo Jackson. The energy was high as the audience was eager to see what this year’s edition of the event brings. There were various talks tackling crucial topics of the creative field. Some talks of note include the discussion on how to engage meat lovers in the plant-based movement by Lisa Smith of Jones Knowles Ritchie and Leslie Sims of Impossible Foods, tackling the challenge of how we visualize AI with Alexa Sirbu of XK Studio, Amelie Dinh of Bakken & Baeck, Gaby Pearl of Google Deepmind, and Michelle Higa Fox of Buck moderated by it’s Nice That’s Editor-in-Chief, Matt Aligiah, Peter Saville’s conversation with D&AD Head of Content Laura Havlin looking back on his vast career, Malika Favre’s talk on the people that directly or indirectly helped shape her practice, and more.

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Equally exciting are the Jury Insights panels. The Jury Insights panel does a great deal in demystifying these awards. It allows the judges to share an inside look into the real application of the D&AD judging process, explaining what worked or didn’t work in the submitted projects.Three jury insights panels were hosted yesterday—Impact, Transforming Brands, and Entertainment. The three main D&AD judging criteria (1. Is the idea inspiring? 2. Is it brilliantly executed? 3. Is it fit for purpose?) can seem rather broad but that is precisely what makes the judging process a fair playing ground for each entry. The D&AD judging model allows for the different judges to evenly deliberate and champion the work of their choice. It is also a remarkably democratic process with each category’s jury panel voting for a majority on whether or not to move an entry forward. D&AD also puts considerable effort into ensuring that the cultural context of each project is not lost on the judges, stressing just how important it is to have a diverse set of judges to provide the relevant cultural context of each entrant. This year’s list of judges is composed of over 350 judges from over 50 countries—enabling the jury panels to absorb and take into account the full cultural implications of the entrants.

The Jury Insight panels held yesterday provided great advice for hopeful entrants in the coming years of the awards between the judges making the case for their projects of choice. The favorites of the Impact jury insights panel underlined the importance of providing a real solution to real problems. The discussed projects include The Autism Journey, the Maeving R1 Motorbike, SHELMET, and Plug Inn by Renault. Another point of discussion here was also how these projects proved that you can have a cause and sustain business at the same time. The panel also discussed how desirability can bolster purpose and trigger a change in customer behaviors. This is particularly evident in the Maeving R1 Motorbike. The brand is able to attract first time users by leaning in to the design aspect of the bike, avoiding design tropes around electrical vehicles and it has the added bonus of potentially bringing manufacturing back to Coventry, which was once recognized as a manufacturing center in the United Kingdom. 

The Transforming Brands panel was also particularly insightful. The judges' picks include the Life Extending Stickers for Makro Colombia, the Toledo Museum of Art rebrand, and TableToGo for McDonald’s Italy. Similarly to the Impact panel, this panel also highlighted the importance of the ability to change consumer behaviors. A great point of discussion for hopeful entrants of D&AD is the value of giving your project enough time to be properly implemented. Emma Follett of Design Bridge and Partners and Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks pointed out the importance of patience. Michael explained that one of the reasons why the TMA rebrand was his project of choice yesterday was in part due to the fact that it was “real.” This points towards giving the project enough time to be properly implemented and actualize how it impacts the environment the project is implemented in beyond a set of mockups in a proposal deck. “We talked about waiting. Obviously, you’re very excited when something launches but just by waiting a year, you get to see how all those amazing thoughts that you have actually are coming to life. Then you have a richer story to tell and you have the evidence to back up how your design has affected the brand,” Emma elaborated.

While the topics of each talk and jury panel varied, there were clear standout topics across the board; the most prominent of which was the matter of AI and where it sits in the creative industry. The panelists did not shy away from addressing this concern especially as AI has permeated many of the entered works this year. Across the board, the consensus seems to be that AI is simply a tool, it is a matter of the intentions and methods in which creatives use this tool as well as the importance of having creatives at the helm. Imaginations of AI, the talk on how we visualize AI dug deep into the power imbalances in the visual language employed when communicating AI.

It’s evident that D&AD works relentlessly to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry with each talk and jury insights panel giving a glimpse at the current state of the creative realm. The festival not only acts as a celebration of the many sides of the creative industry but it is also an epicenter wherein practitioners, from the judges who pioneer our field to the visiting fresh graduates just getting their foot in the door, are able discuss the challenges our ecosystem faces today. It’s clear to see why festivals like D&AD are imperative in moving our industry forward.

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About the Author

Kireina Masri

Kireina Masri has had her nose stuck in a book since she could remember. Majoring in Illustration, she now writes, in both English and Indonesian, of all things visual—pouring her love of the arts into the written word. She aspires to be her neighborhood's quirky cat lady in her later years.