Release the idea: A manifesto by D&AD's new president

Setting out his manifesto for creative innovation, the incoming president of D&AD, Andy Sandoz, urges us to remove our self-imposed shackles, embrace technology and release the idea.

Release the idea: A manifesto by D&AD's new president

I believe that our ideas can shape worlds and the ones that will have the greatest impact will be born out of technology.

To shape worlds means to have a meaningful effect on the life around us. Great ideas have always done this – moveable type, the engine, the internet. Great brands also – Greenpeace, Airbnb, Dove. 

Technology is the opportunity to innovate how we do things, to progress. In digital technology, we have seemingly limitless opportunities. Digital technology is a platform for ideas. It enables things to happen. Quickly. Supporting both big and small ideas, it allows growth and sharing – we can have the same idea at the same time. Technology is all about ideas. 

But an idea doesn’t have to be all about technology. We created this world, for better or worse. We did it with brand-centric visions of the good life. We wrote and shot it full of aspiration and materialism. The perfect fantasy world. The car ad. The manifesto. It’s the world we want. But not one we can sustain.

Now, technology is creating a new world. Where disruptive ideas suddenly surface and rewrite how we do things. A world of tools and services that arrive without permission and carry us forward, compelling us to get involved. YouTube, Kickstarter, Bitcoin. We are a passenger, no longer a creator. It is not the world we are used to. It unsettles us because we imagine it governed by complex machines and artificial intelligence. If our world before was fantasy, this next one is science fiction. It’s the world we’re going to get, like it or not. 

It’s easy to get carried away; this world isn’t yet run by sentient machines, it’s simply the work of experimental humans. Humans just like us. Just not us. These ones don’t fear technology. They seek out opportunities to use it and shape it to their will. They understand that technology is a tool to make ideas happen. That technology not only changes what you can do with ideas, it also changes the kind of ideas you can have. Any idea is simply a product of experience. If you experience more technology, then you will have more technically cultured ideas. New kinds of ideas that understand connection, interaction and iteration. 

To experiment with technology is to experiment with new ideas. To explore what is possible. To me, that is the essence of creativity – to explore what is possible every day. 

Have you noticed that we’re not really talking about technology? We’re talking about creativity. It’s something we possess in zettabytes. In our world, we were famed for it, except this is no longer our world. Ideas have changed and, with that, we have lost our confidence. We no longer practise creativity. We codify it. We use technology to justify, democratise and programme ideas. We invest our energies in anything but the actual idea in an attempt to predict what is right or wrong. We crush the idea by trying to find lost perfection and the last thing we do is release it. However, the first thing a tech company does is release it. Just let the idea go, as fast as possible, and see what happens. 

Often tech companies do not know what the idea really does until people use it. Maybe it lives or maybe it dies but, either way, the process is celebrated as progress. As a result of this method, ideas are appearing and having a real impact on how we live. 

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the problems are lining up. This planet cannot sustain us, conflict flares around the globe, our culture has never been more transparent and yet so significantly unjust, and we are rapidly creating technology that renders our way of life obsolete. Now more than ever, we need ideas that can shape a world. 

We have to design a new way to live on Earth , new ways to live with each other, and work out how we are going to live with technology. It’s the brief of our lives. We have the opportunity to create a better world and, with it, a more meaningful future for our industry. 

But it will not happen if we fail to release the idea. Release the idea means use technology to make ideas happen. Release the idea means stand up for what you believe in. Release the idea means get your idea live as soon as possible and adapt it on the fly. Release the idea means explore what is possible. 

As the president of D&AD, I urge us all to remove the brakes from the creative process and, as one, make this an industry that releases wave after wave of experimental ideas into the world. Modern ideas that use the best of old and new creativity to shape aspirations and behaviour while creating the tools and services to make change happen for real, for everyone.

Watch what happens. Pencil-winning ideas will turn up, new creative heroes will be made, more talent will arrive, our industry’s confidence will return along with our clients’ trust.

A better world will be created. Breathe in technology and breathe out creativity. And let’s get back to what we do best. Release the idea, create the world we need and don’t fuck it up.

Andy Sandoz is a creative partner at Havas Work Club and the incoming president of D&AD