Advertising and design must work together for creative magic

Harmony and unity elevate design on the page but off it too. Indeed, collaboration throughout the creative process is the key to great work, Bruce Duckworth writes.

Advertising and design must work together for creative magic

I remember David Turner arriving in our London studio with one of the first iPhones, and its box, a few days after the launch in 2007. And I remember being blown away by it. By the design of the phone, of course, and by the whole experience of using it, but also by the box, and the slow, almost pneumatic way it closed, and opened, and by the way everything was laid out inside, and by the materials, and finishes, and the photography, and the typography, and by the line: "Designed by Apple in California." Because, of course, that was what it was: design, at its best, with every design discipline contributing something deeply empathetic and attractive to the success of the whole. 

Ten years on, in the world that the iPhone opened up, it’s hard to think of a modern, successful brand that’s not putting design at the centre.

Because design is central to our experience of brands today. It’s the bit of the brand that we are most familiar with, and that brands are known for and famous for. Think about a modern brand and you think about design – marks, interfaces, objects. And there is huge power in this stuff when you get it right. A power that can play out across the brand. And across culture. 

And people like design. In a way that they don’t like other kinds of marketing. People take design into their homes and into their lives. They pin it and post it and share it. And they like the good stuff. A visual age means visual literacy. And people today are looking for the photogenic, the carefully-put-together and the original. And rejecting the antisocial, the sell and the mediocre. Which is good news for everyone who values creative excellence.

And design opportunities are everywhere. Brands are more productive than ever. More creative than ever. And marketers are taking a broader view of media than ever. An anything-and-everything view of media. And they are looking again at every aspect of the experience – from drinks coasters to the architecture of the visitor centre – with a view to making it better, making it remarkable. And when you step back and look at all this, all the stuff that brands are doing, so much of it is design.

"People like design. In a way that they don't like other kinds of marketing. People take design into their homes and into their lives"

So we are seeing what feels like a generational shift towards design. A rise in design opportunities. A shift towards design at its most likeable, pinnable and social. And finally a real excitement about the core of the experience, and the things that brands are known for, and the latent power of this. 

But perhaps what is most exciting is that it’s not just the artisan coffee roasters and tech start-ups that are taking design seriously, it’s the biggest brands in the world. Coke, Samsung, Levi’s, MillerCoors, Burger King. Every one of our clients has a real enthusiasm for, and a commitment to, design excellence. And this was unthinkable ten years ago.

Because although big brands have a rich tradition of creative excellence, it is historically advertising excellence, not design excellence. As a flick through the pages of past D&AD Annuals will show. But these days there is a real sense that creative excellence is something that applies to every aspect of the brand, every aspect of the experience. For the simple reason that creatively excellent work, the kind of work that wins a D&AD award – for being groundbreaking, head-turning, thought-provoking – is exactly the same kind of work that wins the most valuable thing in the modern world: attention. 

The big challenge is to get collaboration going between these disciplines: between film-makers and user-experience designers, between lettering artists and architects, between copywriters and structural designers. And between all these people and biochemists, activists, sculptors – between creative agents of all kinds. Because there is no doubt in my mind that collaboration is the key to truly great creative work. And our business has been built on collaboration, from day one, when we had four members of staff, in two studios, more than 5,000 miles apart. And when I think about our best work, it has always been made sharper, and more interesting, and has always gone further, because of the people we have collaborated with: creative agencies and creative clients.

And, of course, the media ecology is so much more complex than it was ten years ago. There are so many
disciplines, so many things going on, at such a speed that getting creative collaboration to work is really the thing that sets one brand, one client, apart from the other. 

And all this makes D&AD more relevant than ever. As a champion of creative excellence, across all media, all material; and as a champion of creative collaboration. Because the magic of D&AD isn’t in the D or the A or the other D, but in the &. The point where different creative communities and different creative minds come together. In pursuit of the only thing that matters – great work. 

Bruce Duckworth is a co-founder of Turner Duckworth and the president of D&AD