The greatest may never create: what we need to do to discover the best hidden talent

D&AD president and Google Creative Lab ECD Steve Vranakis aims to inspire a new generation of creatives.

The greatest may never create: what we need to do to discover the best hidden talent

We are more powerful than we think. But we’re less powerful than we could be because so much talent is hidden, and will remain undiscovered unless we take action.

Our way of approaching problems is second to none and, in the face of increasingly serious global issues, our collective opportunity to move minds has never been greater. Yet we are not at our greatest.

So how do we continue to apply our abilities to a variety of business sectors and pressing global issues? And how do we inspire the next generation of creatives to tackle client briefs alongside some of the world’s biggest problems?

The world needs us and we are obligated to bring more people into our industry, especially those from backgrounds that never have the opportunity to learn about it.

Stuff I wish I knew when I was growing up

I grew up in what we sometimes refer to as "the working class". My father was a labourer working two jobs, my mother stayed at home raising me and my brothers: Greek immigrants who went to Canada for a better life. Money was tight, but we were raised with incredible imaginations for which no amount of money could compensate.

Like many people in this industry, I’m self-taught. When I decided to study graphic design, the schools I wanted to go to were prohibitively expensive. I resigned myself to doing it on my own. I don’t have a university degree and felt left out and, to be honest, envious. That made me work harder.

I’ve always questioned my abilities, but the industry’s response to the work I’ve been involved in affirms my belief that there are great minds on the margins who must be inspired to join in.

The opportunity to work at Google is a good example of this – I’ve been involved in some of the best work of my career and recognised with international awards, including 25 D&AD Pencils. It’s no coincidence that this work was created with the most diverse group of people I’ve ever worked with – from different backgrounds, ethnicities and genders, with radically different educational experiences and from a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds.

So if industry recognition gave me confidence, I am left wondering about the others out there who have no idea about this great thing we do – and who may never discover it.

Education should be for everyone

One of my predecessors as D&AD president, Andy Sandoz, had an idea I love – "Win one, teach one" – and the notion that the D&AD Annual becomes a manual for creativity summarises D&AD’s purpose.

We must use our platform to inspire and educate – to stimulate, not just congratulate – ensuring our business welcomes everyone, wherever they come from, whoever they are or whatever school they did or didn’t go to.

We need (to) shift

Through diverse eyes and ears, we see things from perspectives that we were never looking for, we hear things we were never listening for and we do things to ensure those benefits are shared with a broader audience.

Success should be about raw ability. We need to provide the skills, the information and, ultimately, the job opportunities to those who don’t fit the current mould. Creative talent isn’t about where you’ve been, who you know or your gender. We must focus on providing access and opportunity at every level in our business, including in leadership. We should acknowledge that in many areas of our industry, including the creative department, men outnumber women and we must address this – success should be graded on raw ability and raw ability only.

We need to assess how we identify and hire talent. If our industry is to continue having the impact it does, we need to shift.

Through the D&AD Festival, Awards and New Blood Shift (our intensive night-school programme), we are pushing for industry-wide change. New Blood Shift includes workshops, talks by top creatives and real client briefs that show aspiring minds how to apply their abilities and start on their career paths. It’s a pro forma for what the whole industry should be doing.

This is why I’m proud to become D&AD president. D&AD is delivering on its promise, made in 1962, to urge our industry to do better work and give practitioners the skills to achieve better things – in the belief that we will serve clients and the interests of the planet more effectively if it does.

It’s time to inspire the next generation of creatives. How we do it is in our hands.

Examples of work from D&AD New Blood Shift programmes in London and New York

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By Steve Vranakis

Executive creative director, Google Creative Lab; president, D&AD