'The future needs creativity': A manifesto from the new guard at D&AD

D&AD has played a crucial role in championing the creative industries for many years, but what's ahead as it enters its next chapter?

'The future needs creativity': A manifesto from the new guard at D&AD

Since its founding in 1962, D&AD has played an important role in championing the creative industries. Now the organisation is entering a new chapter, with Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kate Stanners (pictured above, centre) becoming president and Patrick Burgoyne (pictured above, left) taking over as chief executive. The changes they have planned at D&AD reflect the wider shifts within the industry, which is facing great pressure from forces including Brexit and cuts to creative education. But, as Stanners says, the role of creativity has never been more crucial: "D&AD has an important message: the craft and minds of creative people will play a massive part in our future and they must be encouraged and nurtured."

Campaign asked the new leadership team to share their vision and plans for the future.

The president's manifesto

By Kate Stanners, incoming president, D&AD; chairwoman and global chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

All change. Our industry, like many, is going through the most monumental transformation. These changes will be reflected in the developments at D&AD. 

D&AD has always been about inspiration, aspiration and excellence, and the awards programme and festival are testament to that. But it is the work D&AD does in education that is less well-known. Its programmes that are designed to unlock the creative potential of a new generation are more crucial than ever. At a time when art and design are constantly challenged in our education system, D&AD has an important message: the craft and minds of creative people will play a massive part in our future and they must be encouraged and nurtured.

The New Blood programme turns 40 next year – 40 years of encouraging and unlocking creative talent. And then there is Shift, a programme that seeks to uncover diverse, raw talent to help them see how they can apply their creativity. Shift is a direct challenge to the idea that creative excellence only resides in a handful of colleges and people of certain backgrounds. It helps agencies and studios find the diverse talent that they so desperately need to keep relevant, interesting and creative.

Expanding these programmes to reach more people in more markets is what I aim to do. The future needs creativity. We have to ensure we unlock the potential that can so often be lost in young people who don’t realise they have the sort of talent that is the superpower of the future.

And as the industry transforms, we must make sure we are supporting and recognising design in new ways, be that product, service or experience design, individuals working in an emerging independent freelance culture, or in-house teams embedded in organisations.

As D&AD adapts, one thing remains constant: it will always stand for that potent combination of potential and excellence – celebrating, stimulating and enabling creativity.

Q&A with Patrick Burgoyne

What are your top priorities as chief executive?

D&AD does great things, but we need to reach more people in more places. That will mean developing our digital strategy, as well as engaging with new audiences and emerging areas of creativity. 

D&AD’s strength is that it brings different creative disciplines together, but for some time there has been a feeling that we could do more for designers. The design industry is going through rapid change, particularly with the growth of digital product and service design, and the emergence of large in-house teams. We need to be as valuable to designers in those areas as we are to designers in what have traditionally been our core disciplines.

Beyond that, I want D&AD to be as well-known for our programmes that support new talent as we are for the awards and festival. The Shift programme, which provides a route into the creative industries for young people who have not had the chance, is a key part of our mission to improve diversity and representation within the creative industries. Alongside Shift, we have our New Blood programme – the awards, festival and academy – which provides a vital bridge from education into the world of work.

How’s the health of the UK creative industries? Do you have any concerns?

Brexit remains the great unknown. UK creative departments have become international centres of excellence, but uncertainty around our future and concerns about overseas students and just how welcoming we may seem to be may affect that.

It’s also a time of great change, with traditional agency models being questioned, the rise of in-house and new creative players emerging. D&AD has to equip our community with new skills and challenge their mindsets. 

Creative education is also a cause for concern, both in terms of the dwindling numbers of students taking creative subjects at school and the pressures being felt by universities. D&AD can play a greater role here, supporting our partners in education and helping to bridge the gap between the skills that education teaches and what the industry needs.

Finally, we want to see a more diverse industry in every way: diverse teams produce better outcomes, we know this. 

What excites you most about UK creativity today? 

The people. One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been the chance it has afforded me to spend time with incredible creative people, particularly in the advertising industry. That’s as true today as it ever was. 

It also has a key role to play in tackling climate change. We recently held a session at D&AD discussing ways forward for the industry and it was encouraging to hear the seriousness with which agencies are engaging with the issue, both internally and with clients. There’s a long, long way to go, but I’m excited by the potential to make real change here.

Design is beginning to be genuinely valued as a major contributor to success. We’ve seen not just tech businesses but all kinds of organisations making significant investments in design capability as they attempt to create seamless, excellent customer experiences. 

In more general terms, digital media and social platforms have lowered the barriers to entry in creativity. Now, anyone with an Instagram account can be an illustrator or photographer with an international client list. It doesn’t necessarily mean the work is going to be good, but the opportunity is there for talent to shine through in a way it has never been before. There has never been a more exciting time to be a creator, with a worldwide audience at your fingertips.

What should leaders of the creative industries know about new talent starting out today? And what does the industry need to do better to attract diverse talent?

Young creatives are still excited by the potential of working in the ad industry, but they will be expecting more of employers, particularly around purpose. At a time when creative agencies insist that their clients have a "purpose", we shouldn’t be surprised when their employees question what their own is. 

Younger creatives have embraced the idea that advertising, design and marketing are not just about selling but can use their power to address the world’s ills – we can’t then expect them to stay quiet when their employer’s actions appear not to be in line with those ambitions. Nor can we be surprised when they point out the incoherence of agencies arguing that clients must sign up to an ethical, purpose-driven agenda while failing to do the same themselves. 

If agencies want to continue to attract the best talent, they need to fit with the ambitions of the young people who will be their future. 

Reflections from Tim Lindsay, chairman and former CEO

When I joined D&AD nine years ago Campaign ran an article with the headline: "Does D&AD still matter?" The conclusion then was "maybe not", but I believe that it does. Here are some of the reasons why.

The team here has worked tirelessly to preserve and enhance D&AD's reputation as a campaigner for excellence in commercial creativity, in the belief that the good stuff creates better outcomes for everyone – commercially, socially, culturally, environmentally, politically. Within this, we have preserved the near-sanctity of the Pencil and our reputation as a tough, prestigious but fair competition.

We have stayed true to our not-for-profit remit by putting all the money we make back into the industry we serve, mainly through the much-expanded New Blood programme. Originally founded by then president Sir John Hegarty 40 years ago, it’s now composed of sponsored briefs, awards, a festival and an academy, accompanied by a global outreach programme to arts universities. New Blood provides a conveyor belt of tried-and-tested new talent to the industry, without which it would be much poorer.

We have also created what is on its way to becoming a world-class festival of creativity and culture, which will become more powerful as The Guardian joins us as partners from 2020.

We have campaigned for a fairer, more diverse, better gender-balanced industry, in the firm belief that this will enable the business to serve clients better. To this end, we have pioneered New Blood Shift in London, New York and (soon) Sydney – a 12-week night school for creative people without qualifications who haven't found a way into the industry. Shift has a 70% success rate in getting its recruits into the business. Working with the rawest of talent, it has also opened the eyes of the community to the desirability of looking in new places for talent. It is a vital and important augmentation of the regular New Blood programme.

We have walked the walk when it comes to gender and diversity issues, although we can always do better. We have a very diverse workforce and strong female representation in the company and at senior management level. We have achieved a 50/50 or better gender split on juries and festival speakers for the past three years and, having had only one female president in our first 50 years, we had four more out of the next 10 (Rosie Arnold, Laura Jordan-Bambach, Harriet Devoy and Kate Stanners).

We started a new awards show in New York, D&AD Impact, for work that is purpose-driven, which seeks to celebrate and encourage business to operate more ethically and sustainably. This has exposed us to a wider business audience beyond our traditional core of advertising and design practitioners. It's also our research and development lab, where we try and test new ideas and programmes.

We have developed a training business with many off-the-shelf and bespoke modules, designed to give the creative community the skills they need to thrive. And we are creating a digital campus that will take these modules to wider audiences.

We touch creative people throughout their careers. For many people, D&AD represents and fights for all that’s best about our industry and, importantly, campaigns against the many negative forces that challenge it.

We’ve tried a lot of new things and inevitably not all have come off. But we are, as we speak, a group of 60 people in east London taking D&AD’s offering to an expanded global audience. There’s a huge ambition to do more, go further, reach higher. And under Patrick Burgoyne’s leadership, I have no doubt this wonderful organisation is in good hands. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to serve.