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D&AD President Bruce Duckworth manifesto

Bruce Duckworth, D&AD President 2016-17

D&AD has been a constant companion to me. As a student at Kingston Poly, as a designer at Minale Tattersfield and Lewis Moberly, and in the company I founded with David Turner 24 years ago, D&AD has always been there. Sometimes as the most important thing. Sometimes quietly in the background. But always as a creative conscience. Shaping the work. Always asking “could it be better?”And for me a D&AD Yellow Pencil has always been the ultimate award, the ultimate sign of creative success.

I think because there is a purity about D&AD. There is a purity of agenda in judging – rewarding creative excellence, and nothing else; no strategy decks, no sell-ins, the work has to stand on its own. There is the purity of a judgement made by the most respected creative practitioners in the world. And there is the purity of not being about the money, of being a charity, and of giving back. Giving back by putting the money that D&AD makes back into education, and education in its broadest sense. D&AD helps professionals to hone their skills and develop new ones. D&AD helps students through university and gets them excited about the professional world – and the professional world excited about them. And by educating people about the opportunities that exist within the creative industry, and with exciting programmes like D&AD Shift, D&AD helps to bring new kinds of people into the industry. New kinds of people with new ideas – as D&AD has always been about the new. Always about the New Blood of the industry. Which is so vital for us all.

So D&AD has a real sense of purpose. And in that way it has always been more than an awards show.

And today the creative excellence that D&AD celebrates is more powerful than ever. In an age of diminished attention spans, and infinite distractions, it’s creative excellence that turns people’s heads, gets noticed, holds the imagination, and makes things memorable. And that in an age that rejects the anti-social, and the interruption, and the sell, it’s creative excellence that gets things liked, and shared, and taken into people’s lives. Because creative excellence is the solution to the one problem that we all face today – how to get attention. It feels like this is a fantastic time to be in the creative industries – and a fantastic time to be a designer.

And D&AD has always championed design. But the relationship between D&AD and the design community has weakened. I think there are a lot of designers who are unsure of the role of design within D&AD. There are designers who feel (and this is the flip-side to high standards) that the chances of winning an award are slim. And that makes it hard to justify the cost of entries. And of course design businesses are often small businesses. And maybe the benefits of a D&AD Pencil – to a career, and to a company – aren’t top-of-mind. Despite a genuine belief in the purity and prestige of a D&AD Yellow Pencil.

So this year I’d like to strengthen the relationship between D&AD and the design community. To bring the design community back into D&AD. And to give design a louder voice.


D&AD Festival will be bigger and better – even better – than last year. And full of the most fantastic things – all of the things D&AD celebrates, and all of the things designers love. Printmaking, films, industrial design, photography, posters, I wish-I'd-thought-of-that ideas. It really was a festival of ideas last year – so much amazing new thinking, about the nature of brands, about the future of communication. We need to get the design community there.

And we have some fantastic people lined up – fingers crossed – for the President's Lectures. We have one of the great names of industrial design, we have someone who has built a brilliant business on the back of design, and we have someone who is really challenging the distinction between design and advertising, and asking whether we aren’t all in design now – and all in advertising.  Lots to get excited about there.

I’ll also be working on a programme of professional development to help creative people of all kinds, but particularly designers, become better business people. To help small brilliant companies become bigger brilliant companies. To help creative practitioners stay in control, and lead business through creativity, not accountancy. And to help them take creative excellence to businesses, at the highest level.

And finally, there’s a fantastic opportunity to make D&AD a hub for our creative community. A place where different creative communities come together. One of the things I love about D&AD – judging, the festival – are the conversations I have with people from other disciplines, people with different ways of seeing things. I find it energising, inspiring, and creative. And these days we collaborate more and more. There’s no way one discipline can do everything. We have to work together, and the best creative work comes about when we do work together. When copywriters get together with lettering artists, when spatial designers get together with UX designers – and when all of these people get together with activists, sculptors, biochemists, and so on. That's where the magic is. So we have to get the different communities within D&AD talking, and sharing ideas. Embracing the “&” in D&AD.

And of course – Just as every president since 1962 has done – I’ll be standing up for the highest standards of creativity.

So, exciting times ahead.

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