Could your words win a pencil next year?

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.

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