Now I know how Morgan Freeman felt in the Shawshank Redemption when
he walked free, blinking and bewildered, after all that time behind
I’ve spent the past two days judging entries for this year’s D&AD
I don’t really mean to say that my time spent judging Websites, CD-Roms
and interactive kiosks was akin to half a lifetime in prison. It was a
great privilege and thank you for asking me, Mr Kester. Mind you, the
fundamental changes to society that had taken place over the 30-odd
years that Freeman’s character had been inside, and for which he was so
unprepared, are - in a very small way, admittedly - analogous to the
changes that have affected new-media design in a much shorter space of
On the evidence of some of the work entered for D&AD, there are quite a
few designers who are as dumbfounded as Freeman’s old ex-con.
The passage of time has not been kind to some of the entries, the oldest
of which was built just a year ago. Part of the problem is that the
limited tools new-media creatives have to work with result in many
projects looking similar, with most owing more to the software than to
the ideas of the designer. And whenever someone comes up with something
new, everyone copies it, quickly leaving earlier work behind but
achieving stand-out for no-one.
Quite how you get round this problem is not obvious. But on the Web a
solution does exist. It involves renewing your site on a regular -
perhaps bi-annual, certainly annual - basis, just like your average ad
But this isn’t palatable to most clients because it means spending a lot
Understandably, clients aren’t going to commit more investment until
they can see concrete evidence that the Web works for them as a
communications tool. Which, incidentally, is another difficulty for the
new-media jury - not that D&AD was ever famed for its concerns about
effectiveness, but with Websites it’s very difficult to divorce
functionality from design.
What’s the point of having a beautiful site whose beauty can’t be
appreciated because it doesn’t download properly? Or a useful site whose
design doesn’t highlight its main use?
Forgive me if I don’t go into specifics - I don’t want to break the
confidentiality agreement all jurors must make - but I’m sure anyone who
uses the Web regularly can think of examples of both of the above. And
I’m sure Web-users know plenty of sites that time has left behind.
So is there an easier answer? I believe there is: if a Website’s too
expensive, don’t build one. Make banners and I-Candies instead. They’re
cheaper, more easily refreshed, more obviously part of a specific
campaign and less easy to complicate with too much design. The lack of
banners, particularly banner campaigns, entered for D&AD was one of the
biggest disappointments of all. Perhaps they need a separate category,
but they certainly need to be there.