Dick Powell, co-founder and director of global design and innovation company Seymourpowell, is the new D&AD Chairman.
Powell is a past President of D&AD and recipient of the D&AD President’s Award for his outstanding contribution to creativity. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programmes alongside business partner Richard Seymour, and, along with the D&AD Executive, has sat on the boards of the Design Council and the Design Business Association.
Dick was global design advisor to Samsung Electronics and is currently a member of the International Advisory Panel for Design in Singapore. He also holds the role of group creative director at Loewy, Seymourpowell’s parent company.
Where did you study?
I started my further education with a Foundation Course at Farnham, followed by a degree level course at Manchester and then a three year post-grad at the Royal College of Art - yes, seven years! Each had its merits, but it was the RCA which changed everything for me.
Please tell us the first year you appeared in the D&AD Annual?
I have no idea! Several times! And obviously, I was President for two years!
What makes a great idea?
An unexpected but relevant solution - unexpected because people are surprised, delighted (maybe making them smile) or relieved . . . so a powerful emotional connection. Relevant because it meets their needs, fits with their lives or expands their horizons.
From where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere and everything - bandwidth is the greatest asset of all creative endeavour, irrespective of discipline. A wide experience of many different things - Art, Architecture, Engineering, Fashion, Advertising, Products (of course), Science, Technology, Automotive - is critical to generating ideas.
What is your favourite piece of someone else's work and why?
It’s well known that I am an Apple Evangelist! There is a lot to admire coming out of Cupertino and it’s the product of a fantastic team led by Steve Jobs and Jony Ive - so right now I’d choose iPad. Why? Because it’s an unexpected but relevant solution - beautifully designed and detailed and it meets my needs in ways I didn’t expect!
The emotional gravity field which iPad exerts overcame the rational acquisition process, and I took one home on the day of launch. Putting the 'must play with it' to one side, it quickly became clear that this is a game-changing product - in that the way we interact with iPad is different and much less formal and less precious than a laptop. It totally changes the way we interact with the world and its information. Brilliant!
What is your favourite piece of your own work and why?
People always ask this question and it’s a hard one to answer. The things I am most proud of are the things we fought through to market against adversity, wrangling the technological difficulties but managing to maintain the vision. Even (on occasions) when the client was sceptical, we battled to deliver what we believed in . . . and then the product went on to be a huge success, sometimes against expectations, and can be found in millions of people’s homes.
Such products are often basic utilitarian things, required to do a simple task well. So, based on these criteria, I’d choose Tefal’s Aquaspeed iron or Avanti toaster.
Who gave you your first break or was your first mentor?
I got my first break at my RCA degree show, when a client from Wilkinson Sword commissioned me and two fellow graduates to design some disposable razors.
How did you first get to know or get involved with D&AD?
That happened mainly thanks to Richard Seymour - he trained as a Graphic Designer and became an Art Director in an agency. The 2D world was more steeped in D&AD’s culture than the 3D world back then.
Give us one pearl of wisdom you would like to impart to other creatives.
Keep your eyes open and learn to look rather than see. We all see, but it’s a passive activity - really looking at stuff is active and rewarding. The more we look, the more we see. Look at everything - the work of competitors and peers, how people live, what they do, the surfaces on a car, the latest material technologies, the animations on an interface, the way supermarket shelves are stocked.
Everything! And then note down the interesting stuff which might one day trigger a new direction for your thinking which, in turn, might ultimately yield an insight around which you can build an idea!