How great craft makes a difference in design

Having witnessed a lack of advertising craft skills in this year's D&AD Awards entries, judge Louise Sloper argues digital is increasingly the place for them to thrive.

It was a great privilege to be foreman of the Crafts for Advertising jury at the D&AD Awards this year. We spent days in the vast beauty of London's Olympia, fuelled by cups of coffee and bacon sandwiches, sifting through the huge amounts of entries; the good, the bad and, in some cases, the ugly.

A select number of pieces shone out like beacons, exquisite in their crafting, making us exclaim D&AD's very own mantra: "I wish I'd done that". Many of the best were in the digital categories, which surprised me. It really shouldn't have, but coming from a background of 'traditional' crafts, I was expecting to see a plethora of typography, intricate printing techniques and experimental illustration.

Mac it up

With a great deal of sadness, I have to admit that typography was both shockingly under-represented and woefully poor in my category (both in print and digital). This is perhaps a reflection of, in my opinion, the lack of importance given at many an advertising agency in recent times to carefully crafting the final execution rather than just 'Mac-ing up' an idea. There were numerous mouth-watering, eyeball-popping typographical entries in the Graphic Design categories, which just goes to show that the appetite for type and craft is most definitely there.

It's often discussed that over the last few years advertising designers have less time and budget given to them to execute their work, compared with our graphic design counterparts. It most certainly is not for lack of talent in the field, as many of the most accomplished and creative typographers and designers I know are working in the design departments of advertising agencies. But I digress - rant over.

In the digital categories, it was a great pleasure to see innovative technology that seamlessly intertwined with incredible visual and sound design. The coming together of these elements into one package is a huge step forward in this field and has resulted in some exceptional work of late. Good examples include the multi-award-winning Dumb Ways to Die campaign (John Mescall, the executive creative director at McCann Australia, was on the Crafts jury), and the Sound of Honda film and website by Dentsu, Japan.

Evolving media

It is so refreshing to see a technical piece of programming also looking the part. The investment and development in skillsets to get this right has naturally been slow, but is now bursting into life with some serious talent working in the digital field. The front-runners in this area are merging the teachings of 'traditional' media with the excitement of the fast, ever-evolving multimedia sector.

Exciting things lie ahead in digital. And I'm so pleased that craft is taking equal limelight, as great craft in any medium transforms a good idea into a truly exceptional one. I will watch with interest to see what happens in the next few years.

Words: Louise Sloper

Louise Sloper is head of design at BETC London, last year picking up awards including a Campaign Outdoor Hall of Fame, an Epica and an ADC. She is a D&AD 2014 juror and a committee member of the Typographic Circle. This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 227.