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The Best Art Direction Tips from Spencer Wong

Spencer Wong is one of Asia's most awarded, and respected creatives. Having worked as ECD at McCann China since 2006, in 2015 McCann Hong Kong was renamed McCann & Spencer. 

As well as offering up some of his best art direction tips and inspiring advice, in this rallying call for creatives, he asks for a reassessment of the way we approach Art Direction. Spencer argues that we need to spend more time feeling, and less time thinking.

Spencer Wong McCann D&AD Art Direction

Nothing matters more than winning a Pencil. It’s a symbol of hard work, recognition from peers, and inspiration to the rest of the industry. And prior to achieving this, all that matters is the work. Nothing matters more than producing a piece of great work that can win a Pencil.

What work is working?

Lots of work works, yet it’s hard to investigate a cold trail. Maybe it’s only in the moment that I see it. It catches my eye, my mind, and my soul.

However, I can tell you that merely a beautiful image or design doesn’t work. Well-crafted visuals, artistic styles, motion or even technologies, don’t work; not without outstanding ideas, new perspectives or appealing stories.

Hard work is appreciated, but sometimes, we work so hard, but feel so little.

In recent years, D&AD has expanded its categories and widened its radar to receive a broader spectrum of entries, from more countries globally, and give a richer meaning to design and art direction.

It’s an encouraging signal that the standards we all cherish are becoming enriched and better represented, and are able to transcend boundaries. As a visual language, art direction is, in a very real sense, universal.

I feel. Then I think. 

Let's talk about feelings

Sometimes, we simply think too much. And feel so little. One of the most difficult problems art directors face is to translate desired moods, messages, concepts and underdeveloped ideas into great imagery. What is your idea? What is your purpose? How have you made this? The most difficult one is making the audience feel.

Nowadays, it’s not difficult to compile eye-catching visuals or video, even without high-end production and communications technologies. Just by holding a smart phone, everyone becomes a genius. However, increasingly, and soon overwhelmingly, skill and craft are being left behind. At the end of the day, only great art direction that can evoke emotion will make the difference.

When we talk about online work, people like and share the work that represents the audience themselves: their identity and personality, their views, their sense of appreciation, their thinking. Just nice paintings don’t get shared. Why?

Please have a re-think about your work.

The last, but not the least, thing to remember is this: doing great work earns recognition from the industry and from your country, but more importantly it drives inspiration and possibilities for the next generations to do their own good for the community.

Pass it on.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.

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