CRAFT: Can D&AD house both design and advertising disciplines? - THE CREATIVE ISSUE/The recent awards chaos indicates the group could be split, Meg Carter writes

By MEG CARTER,, Friday, 13 June 1997 12:00AM

Last month’s D&AD awards raised once more the thorny issue of whether the organisation should be split into two - one side advertising, the other design.

Last month’s D&AD awards raised once more the thorny issue of

whether the organisation should be split into two - one side

advertising, the other design.

’A disaster’ is how the Young and Rubicam copywriter, Paul Catmur,

described the event in a letter to Campaign two weeks ago: ’The ties

between advertising and design are as tenuous as those between the Spice

Girls and talent and it’s time we stopped pretending otherwise.’

Combining advertising and design in a single awards scheme is

fundamentally flawed, Catmur believes. As are attempts to fuse the two

disciplines into one organisation. As proof, he cites the lack of

interest shown by many at this year’s awards event. The advertising

fraternity just isn’t excited by the latest achievements in pop promos

or interactive kiosks, he argues.

And designers aren’t that interested in cutting-edge ads.

’At college we were taught both advertising and design, but that was

eight years ago - the last time I came across any connection between the

two,’ Catmur continues. ’While I think advertising and design should be

closer, I do not believe D&AD is making any effort to achieve this.’

There are many reasons for this division, he believes: employment

structures and job descriptions and client-agency relationships, in

particular. Yet, he concedes, uniting the two functions would bring

benefits. ’If we’re all singing from the same hymn-sheet we can only

make both advertising and design more effective. Pretending they are

close when they are not does nothing to improve the situation.’

The D&AD director, David Kester, is adamant that separating the two

disciplines would be a retrograde step. D&AD was founded by designers

and when it was launched in the 60s it was on the principle of

commonality between advertising and design, he points out. ’Then it was

visionary, today it’s imperative.’

The fragmenting media market, the arrival of new media and the growing

number of consultants competing in agencies’ and design consultancies’

traditional heartland are just some of the reasons why advertising and

design must stick together, he believes.

’Life has moved on - a holistic vision of corporate communications is

more important today.’ The same courses supply the lifeblood to both

advertising and design businesses, Kester adds. ’You just can’t preach

one thing to colleges and not practise it within D&AD.’

He rebuffs suggestions that combining the two disciplines within D&AD is

unwieldy. ’If it was, we’d find it difficult to manage, and I don’t

think we do.’ And he counters any suggestion that adopting a so-called

’holistic’ approach is fine theory, but irrelevant to everyday


’It’s true that higher up the industry more people have a helicopter

view of how the industry operates. But there are numerous examples which

show this approach is working in practice at a grass roots level,’ he


As evidence, Kester cites the close working partnership between Wolff

Olins and WCRS in the launch and development of Orange. And Ford, he

adds - where product design innovations shaped Ogilvy and Mather’s

launch campaign for the Ka.

’The point is marketing directors no longer make the distinction within

their own strategy about advertising or design,’ he says. ’It’s all

marketing - they want a single piece of corporate communication.’

Contrary to Catmur’s view of this year’s awards ceremony, Kester insists

he has had much positive feedback from agencies welcoming the prominence

of design at the event. While it is inevitable that individuals are more

interested in their own discipline, ’in today’s economy, we cannot

afford to be narrow minded’.

Opinion within the industry is split, although views seem tempered both

by feelings about the D&AD ceremony and by respondents’ respective


This year’s awards event with its move to the Cafe Royal for the

post-awards dinner appears to have united many in the call for


’It’s farcical to pretend we’re all one big happy family when an event

like that highlights how obviously we are not,’ one creative


’You only have to have listened to the backbiting from both factions to

realise the hypocrisy of the event.’

Richard Spencer, a copywriter at JWT, observes: ’You have to admit they

are two separate industries and it is difficult to balance them in a

single evening’s event.’

Yet as distinct disciplines, design and advertising are getting closer

together - as well they should, he believes. ’However, whether an

organisation that is a loose affiliation of spokespeople from both sides

can ever effectively bring them closer, I’m not sure.’

Gerry Moira, executive creative director of Publicis, is pragmatic.

’They’ve been together, they’ve been separated and then they’ve been put

back together.

I say keep them united on the basis that most advertising people’s field

of experience is narrow enough as it is - why not once a year make them

look at a jam label and wonder?’

This article was first published on


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