D&AD judging week

It’s long been an ambition of D&AD to make the judging process not only more open but also more of an industry event in its own right, a place for wider discussion about creativity and how it is applied. And a bit more fun too. This week, they pulled it off

Though an undoubted privilege, judging awards can be a pretty exhausting, numbing experience, often not helped by the surroundings. The logistics of the bigger shows dictate that jury sessions usually take place in exhibition halls or similalrly soulless venues. D&AD has previously been judged at the ExCel centre and more recently the grand but cavernous Olympia.


This year was completey different. The whole shebang was relocated to the Truman Brewery, just off Brick Lane in the heart of hipster London, which felt far more appropriate. It’s a big, rambling space but, thanks to the work of Craig Oldham and Marion Deuchars, D&AD turned it into a vibrant, exciting venue.

Visitors were greeted by a row of placards making various calls to the creative barricades – “Good is not good enough” and “Sink the shallow”. The campaigning theme was carried on throughout the building with large-scale wall paintings demanding an end to mediocrity among other things.


The work to be judged was laid out on rows of trestles, on screens and tall boards with, by Thursday, stickers noting which had been awarded a pencil (though not which type). It all felt energetic and fun.


But the best bit was that on that Thursday, the judging venue was thrown open to public, professionals and students alike. Anyone in the area could pop in and see the work in the flesh. Not only that but members of the juries appeared throughout the day to answer questions on the choices they had made.

I compered one of these sessions, with three judges from different crafts juries. In front of an audience composed of both students and professionals, they discussed the criteria they were asked to judge by and picked out one piece of work they all liked and one that had split their jury. Curiously, all three juries had debated one particular project – a series of illustrations promoting Penguin audio books – with debates around whether pastiche should be awarded, how clearly the work communicated and how well the craft of the illustration served the central idea.

It was very refereshing to see such open discussion (with no attempt by D&AD to limit it). Beyond our stage, visitors leafed through the work on display, taking photographs and discussing what they did and didn’t like.

For me it all realy helped bring D&AD judging to life, tie it in to the organisation’s newly confident mission around the White Pencil and, I hope, broke down some of the barriers and mystery around the process that may have proved off-putting to some in the past. But I’d be intrigued to hear from any readers who also went along.