The pandemic forced many things on us that we neither wanted nor expected. And one of these things is the digital acceleration that has taken place in all our lives. Work, personal relationships, shopping, entertainment – all these human activities have changed. Not always for the worse and perhaps forever.
In common with pretty much every company in the world, D&AD has been forced to reappraise its mission, programmes and activities – in the light of much reduced revenues and, sadly, a depleted workforce. We have concluded that the best way we can serve our global creative community is to reach as many people as possible, as affordably as possible, with the best possible content, talent programmes and learning products. Stimulation not congratulation on the broadest scale.
So as part of this programme, as you now know, we have decided to launch a better, more-fit-for-purpose, massively improved Annual. In fact a digital Annual. This discussion has been going on within D&AD for a long time and many a president has ducked the decision. Not Kate Stanners. To paraphrase the immortal Sir Humphrey: "Brave decision Ms President."
Why? The Annual is a D&AD icon, 58 years old, the acme of creative excellence, a source book, an inspiration. It adorns bookshelves around the world, is a collector's item and has birthed some of the weirdest, most wonderful cover designs ever conceived.
It's also the decidedly non-optimal way of celebrating work in the 21st century – static, expensive to produce and acquire, ruinous to ship, environmentally unfriendly and regularly remaindered.
The new, digital Annual will have all the Annual's good
characteristics and none of the bad. It'll have all the Pencil winners, of course, but in the form in which they were intended to be seen by their creators.
It'll have interviews with makers, jurors and industry leaders. It'll have analysis and editorial. It'll be the course content for New Blood, Shift and D&AD's Masterclasses. It will introduce an academy of all-time Pencil winners and a Hall of Fame. It'll detail how and on what we spend your money, for the benefit of the industry.
It will, in short, have breadth, depth, dynamism, movement and humanity. It'll be all the things a physical book can't be; a proper celebration of the great work our industry creates and the people who make it, judge it, sell it and buy it.
But here's the argument that clinched it for the D&AD management team, the board and for most of the people in the D&AD community we consulted on our long, painful way to this decision. The printed Annual costs D&AD about £80,000 to produce and goes to a few thousand people. At a cost of £75 a copy, plus expensive shipping, it still makes a loss.
The digital Annual – a richer, deeper product that will showcase the work in the way it was intended to be seen by its creators – will cost half as much to produce and will be available for nothing to every creative practitioner in the world. In the end, sentiment aside, perhaps not such difficult a decision to make
Some people are sad and upset to see it go (although using the word "tragic" in this context is just silly – particularly at a time like this). We're sad too. The book has stimulated and celebrated generations of talent, first in Britain and then around the world.
It's a lasting monument to the brilliance of British and then global advertising and design over many decades. It's attracted new generations of talent to the industry and served as a directory of the brightest and the best. But life and technology moves on and we have to look forwards.
As some of the pillars of the D&AD community, past presidents all said: "Honestly? You probably should have done it years ago."
Tim Lindsay is chairman of D&AD