Stop overthinking it: the 2019 D&AD Annual reviewed
A view from Kirsty Minns

Stop overthinking it: the 2019 D&AD Annual reviewed

Mother's creative director looks for trends in the bible of the year's best advertising and design work.

Each year, the D&AD Annual curates the best creative work across design and advertising, showcasing all the latest D&AD Pencil winners. This time, the organisation gave creative licence to Richard Turley, tasking him with designing a book that would stand out on a shelf of previous Annuals. Mother creative director Kirsty Minns reviews his design and what the 2019 Annual says about the creative industries today.


The D&AD Annual is an opportunity for us to reflect and look up from our computers for a moment. It has always been there to jog our collective memories about what it takes to make great work and serve as a timely reminder of why we wanted to be creatives in the first place. 

The president’s introduction sets the scene. D&AD’s 2019 president and Apple creative director Harriet Devoy is mindful that we’re in a world dominated by distrust, disconnection and disenfranchisement, where we can be overwhelmed by the problems confronting us and left feeling powerless. I share her belief that creativity matters more than ever in this context. "Our work not only entertains. It also educates, informs and encourages powerful acts of resilience," Devoy says. It’s a welcome reminder that the creative industry has the power to change things for the better and it’s up to us to make work that actually matters. 

The contents of the Annual captures this spirit in a body of work that celebrates impact. The New Blood section fills me with hope for the future. Throughout the book, work that tackles division, inequality and climate change dominates. Brands are waking up to the fact that they can’t be passive bystanders any more; they have to be part of the conversation. 

With this in mind, Turley was an inspired choice for the design. His approach allows us to escape from the seriousness it envelops, with a philosophy offering a welcome tone to this year’s Annual. It even poses a very good question: do we need to stop overthinking everything? His messy use of typography, lack of grid structure and careless lines are a welcome escape from the uniform, clean, textbook typeset approach that is so often beloved by the design community, myself included. 

This flee from the functional reminds me that we designers can (and should) bring joy among the seriousness – creating work that emotionally engages audiences and helps them escape the everyday world, even if just for a moment. The design here serves as a valid and important reset for the contents of the letter inside. A rule-breaking approach that’s a perfect antidote, Turley’s concept feels intuitive, instinctive and carefree.

This year’s Annual actually made me think a bit too. It reminds us all to stop burying our heads in the sand and do something. The message that we’re all "really important" attempts to jolt us to stop using our individual helplessness as an excuse. If a teenager can inspire a multimillion-strong activist movement across the globe, then all 3.2 million people working in the creative industry can surely make a positive change too.

More information on this year’s D&AD Annual can be found on the D&AD website

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