The champagne corks have popped. The yellow, black and white pencils have been won. If you’re reading this and not nursing a hangover, the chances are you weren’t one of last night’s D&AD winners.
Alas, if you entered the Writing for Design category, I know you weren’t (I was one of the judges). I’m sure there was plenty of worthy work out there, but it didn’t translate into entries – we only had 70 to choose from.
So I’m on a mission to put things right and make 2016 a year to remember for award-winning words. If you’re with me, here are my tips to help you with next year’s entries.
Writing for Design is a craft category, so show your words some love
You’re being judged by fellow writers – so if there’s a typo lurking, a comma out of place or one too many syllables squeezed into your sonnet, we’ll spot it.
And care for every word you enter; don’t slap the same copy-and-paste message onto everything. Details matter.
D&AD judges are looking for three big things beyond craft: idea, execution and relevance. So ask yourself these questions:
Is your idea original?
Be honest. Better still, get someone else to be honest. If they say, ‘Oh yeah, that reminds me of the campaign I saw in the 2011 D&AD annual…’ it’s back to the drawing board.
If they say, ‘I wish I’d thought of that,’ or mutter something and look jealous, you’re in the running.
(Oh, and if your work sounds just like Innocent smoothies, but you aren’t Innocent smoothies, don’t enter it.)
Will we get your idea fast?
Contrary to popular belief (or my belief, at least) judges don’t peruse your work while sipping champagne, stretched on chaises longues. We’re in a basement. By the loos. Faced with tables topped with posters, books, packaging and brochures of all kinds. And we’ve got about two-and-a-half hours to decide which pieces will make our first cut. Which means each entry has just over two minutes to impress.
But before your work can impress us, we have to understand it. The best entries stood alone without us having to go back to the brief to figure out what we were looking at.
So before you enter, imagine what your work looks like out of context. Try showing it to someone from outside your company. Not in situ, but on a table (in a basement, if you’ve got one), without a brief. How does it look now? If they don’t get it, don’t enter it.
Is your execution consistently good?
If you’ve got three executions for your campaign and one of them’s the best thing you’ve ever written, but you scraped the barrel on the others, it’s pretty easy to spot. Unless you only enter the best one. What we don’t see, we can’t judge…
Do your words speak for themselves – without gimmicks?
The telltale sign of an idea that needs more work is the irrelevant gimmick. At no point did a dodgy pop-up make me like a message more. (Last year our Anelia blogged about a black pencil winner that used a neat trick with a well-placed staple.) But in that example the mechanism was the idea; it wasn’t an add-on to make mediocre words memorable.
Winning awards is never easy. But it’s definitely doable. So come on, writers – show the creative industry what you’re made of. And who knows, next year you might just pick up a pencil.
During the 2009 swine flu pandemic the authorities in Egypt had all 300,000 domestic pigs in the country slaughtered. The decision put thousands of farmers out of work and took an entire food source off the table. Not to mention the inhumanity of the whole thing.
It was the name. Bird flu had already caused panic around the world in the mid 2000s, when newspapers reported that the disease could pass from birds to humans. So when people saw the name ‘swine flu’, following the same naming template, they assumed they’d catch it from pigs. Despite the World Health Organisation repeatedly saying that couldn’t happen.
That example comes from the WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda, who’s just published some guidelines for naming new diseases.
Many will say it’s just abstract brand nonsense. But tell that to the thousands of needlessly panicked people.
And all those poor pigs.
Today was The Writer’s first foray into the world of trade shows – and very interesting it was, too.
While Theo and Sarah manned the stand (if you come along today you’ll find us at 758) I went to a few of the conference sessions.
Here are three of my highlights.
Quote of the day:
‘A notebook is the most intuitive technology you’ll ever use. It doesn’t crash, it doesn’t run out of battery, you can carry it with you and pass it on.’ Robert Ashcroft, Santander.
On a day that was filled with companies selling learning tech and speakers talking about it, it was nice to see that trusty pens and paper still had their place (not that there was ever any doubt).
Later on, when Stephen Frost told us about his time training 70,000 Games Makers at London 2012, notebooks won gold again. How did they make sure every Games Maker knew what to do? They gave everyone notebooks to make their own mini learning guides. We’re so proud.
Slide of the day – Stockholm 1967 (the morning after driving laws changed, from driving on the left to the right)
Later, Stephen used this as a metaphor of poor organisational change. It’s not enough to tell people to change. They need to understand when, how and why to change if you want to avoid chaos. You’ve been warned.
Video of the day (Candid Camera showing how people behave in lifts)
You might see yourself as a free spirit. But the chances are you’re not quite as independent as you thought. Volvo Group’s learning team played this to remind us that, whether consciously or not, we all try and fit in. And if you want to break people’s habits, you’ll need a strong-minded team to start leading by example.
Our Neil will be at the event today, running a taster session on the neuroscience behind our training. He’s on at 11.15am. Hopefully he’ll see some of you there.
Here’s our stand, if you’re trying to track us down.
Introducing the first in a series of #ThingsWeLike. Spot anything you think we’ll appreciate? Tweet us @TheWriter.
Loving this, er, cat naming system!* Proof that good names get you noticed.
The internets point to this Reddit contributor as being the naming genius.
*[high status title] + [onomatopoeic portmanteau word] = awesome cat name
I had an interesting linguistic encounter with my local MP last Sunday. She knocked on our door. I introduced her to my daughter, who’s busy working for an imminent AS exam in Politics. (Never mind the politics, think of the revision potential.)
The MP said how important she felt it was for young people to vote.
To illustrate, she said to my daughter something along the lines of, ‘Imagine what your wardrobe would be like if your grandparents chose all your clothes. They probably wouldn’t suit you at all! Well, that’s what would happen if we left everything to the over-60s. We’d end up with policies that wouldn’t be right for young people.’
At the time, I thought it was a great analogy – it put it in terms my daughter could understand, and didn’t muddy the water with any partisan politics.
But when we talked about it afterwards, my daughter was quick to put the analogy to the test.
First, she said, are ‘grandparents’ really synonymous with ‘people who don’t understand anything about what’s hot and what’s not’?
Second, if we’re talking about clothes, it might well be that grandparents would choose things that were more practical and well-made – the sorts of things that you’d never pick for yourself, but deep down know are sensible choices.
And third, she asked, why is it a good thing just to vote for what suits us? Aren’t we supposed to vote the way we think would be best for as many of us as possible?
So, I applaud the attempt to make the argument in a way that was easy to understand. Metaphors are brilliant for helping us grasp complicated ideas and bringing mundane information to life.
But it was a big reminder to me that you have to make sure it’s the right metaphor – one that can stand up to a proper interrogation.
Only then should it get your vote.