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D&AD Festival Speaker Interview: Sarah Meiklejohn

Sarah Meiklejohn is a Lecturer at University College London. She has broad research interests in computer security and cryptography, and has worked on topics such as anonymity and criminal abuses in virtual currencies, privacy-enhancing technologies, and bringing transparency to shared systems.

Sarah appeared at the inaugural D&AD Festival in 2016. Ahead of this, she gave us further understanding of her work, and explains why creatives should care about transparency.

Sarah Meiklejohn UCL D&AD festival Speaker

Can you tell us a bit about the work you do at UCL?

I'm first and foremost an academic researcher in computer security, which means I work on problems in security and privacy that I find important and try to either analyse the extent of the problem or provide a technological solution (or both!). For the past few years, I've been working a lot with the idea of the blockchain, which can be used to provide not only a technological solution to technological problems, but increasingly a solution to social problems as well.
 

Why should brands care about transparency? And what can their creative suppliers (design studios, advertising agencies, PR companies) do about it?

The trust that society has in centralised entities has been eroding significantly over the past decade, to the point that brands can gain a significant advantage by not only providing ethical products but also communicating this information to their customers. Since brands do not operate in a vacuum, the more visibility that individual suppliers provide into their own operating mechanisms and relationships, the more that socially responsible brands can promote and support each other.

What role does creativity have to play in the privacy debate?

Many computer scientists understand the extent to which privacy is compromised today and the consequences of this. However, they often lack the skills necessary to communicate these issues to broader populations and to convince people to change their 'privacy is dead' attitude. Creativity can play a significant role in opening up these conversations and in adding momentum to one of the most important movements today.

You're speaking at D&AD Festival, what will you be talking about?

I'll be talking about transparency, why it's so important, emerging technologies that can be used to support it, and ongoing efforts to incorporate transparency into our interactions with brands and the world around us.

What do you think a D&AD audience of creatives can learn from your research?

My hope is that the audience learns what a large gap there is between the emerging technological solutions that could be used to support transparency and integrity and the way things work in practice, and the myriad ways in which they, as creatives, can help to bridge this gap.

What makes London such an exciting place for creatives and creative thinking?

London is so exciting because it serves as a constant source of energy and inspiration! At any point in any day, you can find a group of like-minded people of all backgrounds to discuss relevant issues and to be surprised by.

What are you most looking forward to about D&AD Festival?

I look forward to exploring! I've never been to D&AD and am excited to see and learn from everything on offer.

Our festival theme is 'Nothing matters more'. In your opinion, why does creativity matter?

To make progress, it is necessary to constantly change and challenge the status quo. Creativity is essential to identify places where things are stuck, to take chances on emerging solutions, and to define the direction and velocity of change.

The D&AD Professional Awards celebrate creativity in categories such as Graphic Design, Book Design and Crafts for Advertising. If you think you have a campaign that deserves a D&AD Pencil, why not enter it and see if our board of judges agrees. Or, 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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