CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/DAVID STUART - New D&AD president sets theme of collaboration. David Stuart is set to inject a new spirit into the D&AD, Francesca Newland writes

David Stuart would be a bad influence on any workshy child. The creative director of The Partners has never passed an exam in his life - he hasn't an O'Level to his name - yet, as the incoming president of D&AD, he's just been handed one of the most prestigious honours in the business.

David Stuart would be a bad influence on any workshy child. The creative director of The Partners has never passed an exam in his life - he hasn't an O'Level to his name - yet, as the incoming president of D&AD, he's just been handed one of the most prestigious honours in the business.

Stuart owes his career to D&AD. He was working at the Museum of London when John Gorham, a D&AD President's Award-winner, persuaded him to enter a guide book he created for the museum in the awards. His talent was spotted and he was hired by Pentagram shortly afterwards.

That was in 1977, and in 1981 he set up The Partnership with Keren House, before forming The Partners in 1983.

The agency, which numbers Wedgwood, KLM's Buzz and Telstra among its clients, was bought by Young & Rubicam last July and is now owned by WPP.

Stuart takes over at D&AD where the outgoing president, Larry Barker, the creative director of BMP DDB, left off. In his trademark generous style, Stuart quickly points to his predecessor's achievements in bringing the issue of the dearth of women in advertising to the fore and 'elevating the written word'.

The new president outlines his own agenda in office with one word: 'collaboration'.

He feels very strongly that D&AD currently suffers from a 'sort of creative racism' and that the advertising and design industries must work together in order to move onwards.

'Whatever size your company is, it's coming,' he says, warming to his favourite theme. 'There has to be collaboration between creative companies because clients are getting larger and their challenges more complex. One company can't fulfil them.

'You need project-based teams and must try to achieve benefits for the client without letting egos get in the way. The one-stop shop died on its feet a few years ago.'

Central to Stuart's diagnosis of the problem is that common weakness of agency folk: the king-sized ego. Stuart thinks respect for others is the key to enhancing a collaborative approach. 'You've got some mega-egos and you can see how they get in the way,' he says. 'If respect is there, there isn't this ego clash.'

The collaboration theme will emerge in many aspects of D&AD's work. This year, the awards will be judged over one week in Brighton, rather than in sessions fitted in between the various judges' day jobs over an eight-week period. The idea is to get the judges socialising. 'It will be a cohesive group rather than the cautious two groups that normally get together,' Stuart says of the mingling plans.

Tim Mellors, creative director of Grey Advertising and a former D&AD president, is not surprised by Stuart's focus. 'I remember him for bringing together the two points of view of design and advertising,' he says. 'Sometimes committees have such a schism that there's no point in having the committee.'

But Stuart's attention to collaboration is not only about improving the efficacy of the creative industries. He has a more personal agenda. He hopes that the confidence he perceives surrounding advertising creatives will rub off on designers. 'A lack of confidence limits potential,' he says. 'All of the thousands of talented designers I have seen seem short of it - show me a confident designer and I'll show you an average one.'

Critics frequently level another charge at the D&AD - that it is too pretentious and that the awards focus on craft, not substance. The organisation has introduced a rule, which will help counter such accusations.

From this year, if the jury is tied in the first round of judging, the entry will pass on to the next round rather being rejected. Stuart says: 'It's an expression of generosity. We want to be more generous without reducing standards.'

Stuart's kindly demeanour and collaboration agenda make it unlikely that he will be using his post to dictate the future of the industry. However, in the current environment this is probably not such a bad thing. We can look back gratefully at Tim Delaney shaking up the D&AD when he inherited an organisation entrenched in corruption in 1992. But since then, the D&AD has matured.

Mellors says that, these days, the presidency is more about enabling the D&AD to run efficiently (although he emphasises that this is a very labour-intensive task for the president).

The presidency of the D&AD is, more than anything, a stewardship. Stuart must keep the organisation on track and, in the meantime, lap up the well-deserved honour of being D&AD president.


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