Digital vigilantes call for print edition of D&AD Annual

Campaign has been backed by Nils Leonard and Mark Denton.

After 58 years, D&AD has opted not to release a print version of its acclaimed Annual, opting instead for a free, digital version. 

Tim Lindsay, chairman of D&AD, took to Campaign on Monday (19 October) to explain the brand’s decision to not print the Annual this year, citing “much reduced revenues and, sadly, a depleted workforce” among factors, as well as a lack of profitability in spite of the issue’s £75 price tag.

But the decision was met by criticism from industry members, much of which has been spurred on by an anonymous Twitter account called PrintThe58th.

The account, which has been created by “a pair of hopeful creatives”, calls on industry members to convince D&AD to reverse its decision and print the Annual.

“We’ve had support from all sorts, from recent grads to industry titans, all of whom are keen to see it printed and want to help out however they can,” PrintThe58th told Campaign.

In a mission statement posted on the account’s website, PrintThe58th hails the D&AD Annual as “an industry bible”, which industry members endeavour to be a part of as an ultimate form of validation. 

Describing 2020 as “their year”, the group detailed: “This was the very first year we were going to feature in the Annual, a lifelong dream come true. 

“Then everything changed, which meant digital award shows, digital awards (actually those were pretty cool), digital celebrations and now a digital book."

As an alternative to D&AD printing the Annual, the pair is also hoping to print their own version of this year's iteration for themselves and “anyone else who wants a copy”, with any profits going towards planting trees which they hope “might one day become more Annuals, keeping our traditions of creativity alive”.

While PrintThe58th has commended D&AD for its efforts throughout the pandemic, the pair hopes to “bring creatives together to try and solve the problem” as a thank you to the organisation.

They said: “[D&AD has] given us so much over the years, wouldn’t it be great if we could help think of a way to save the Annual in return?”

Earlier this month (8 October), D&AD president Naresh Ramchandani told Campaign that a free digital version of the Annual would be more beneficial for the next generation of creatives.

However, PrintThe58th maintained that digital, readily available content will not be able to replicate “the significance of the Annual to industry members”.

“The digital world is packed to the brim with content. Assuming the Annual exists online, we imagine it will be on a tab in a browser, constantly interrupted by other digital distractions,” PrintThe58th said.

“It will be two dimensional and bad for your eyes. It won’t be real. There’s no way it will be able to replicate the quiet moment of a book."

They continued: "A physical 500-page archive of inspiration that grabs your attention when you’re at your most procrastinate with some weird inflatable cover.

“It won’t be heavy, it won’t smell like a book and it won’t brightly sit in the background giving an ECD the courage to push the client.”

The account’s endeavours for a print issue has been supported by Uncommon Creative Studio founder Nils Leonard and creative mogul Mark Denton, who has been a member of D&AD since 2001.

Nils Leonard wrote on Twitter “When was the last time you sent someone a ten year old pdf?

“The Book. It didn’t matter if you read it. The book was a poster for D&AD’s values. It’s shopfront. A way for the brand to live on. Did it need to change? Yes. Did it need to die? No.”

Denton, on the other hand, implored D&AD to create an improved version of the Annual “without the scam ads in it”.

He said: “I think it's time for a revolution. Why print something that was good but in recent years has turned into the design and advertising equivalent of an Argos catalogue???”

Denton also claimed that he had “designed the front cover” of PrintThe58th’s issue, though he is yet to share his handiwork online.

Earlier this month (13 October), creative director Hugh Todd – who is currently 13 Annuals short of a complete D&AD collection – implored industry members to sport yellow and black armbands in a tongue-in-cheek tribute to “The Book”, in which he assesses the print edition’s loss as a cocktail of “evolution” and “sacrilege”.