Graphic designFeature

Six decades of D&AD awards: the 1960s

D&AD's design awards have enthralled the industry for over half a century. In the first in a series of articles, R/GA's George Prest looks back at some of the winners from its first decade.

Design and Art Direction (D&AD) was founded in 1962 by a group of London-based designers and art directors including David Bailey, Terence Donovan, Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes (who designed the original D&AD logo). The group was dedicated to celebrating creative communication, rewarding its practitioners, and raising standards across the industry.

Today D&AD has evolved into a major global organisation that exists to promote excellence in design and advertising everywhere through educational programmes and rewarding great work through its annual Yellow Pencil awards. Here D&AD's George Prest (above) recalls some of the most memorable winners in its first decade, the 1960s...

It seems so strange, sitting here now, with so many media spaces available to us that in the sixties it was all so different. I hesitate to say that it was simpler, because the business of designing things to connect with people will always be complex. Simplicity and magic are never easy to achieve, but there is no denying that we live in a crazy media landscape these days.

A quick survey of the D&AD winners from the 1960s only serves to reinforce that. Predominantly print with a smattering of moving images. Lots of packaging design but none of the stuff that we would consider core now - the engagements, platforms and systems that sit at the middle of communications and design.

There’s much to admire here - undeniable brilliance - but after spending some time in the sixties, I can't help feeling that things have got a lot more interesting recently.

01. Goldfinger titles

Put next to the other selections from the '60s D&AD annuals, these seem to be from a totally different age. They’re modern and dynamic. You wouldn't blink if a film had a variation on them today. There's obviously the questionable projection of men onto a woman’s body but such concerns didn’t carry much weight back in the day. Appropriately they won the Gold award in 1965, the equivalent of a Black pencil these days. I reckon they’d be pretty high up in a list of 'Gold of Golds'.

  • Year: 1966
  • Award: The D&AD Gold Award
  • Feature film titles: Goldfinger
  • Contractor: Eon Productions
  • Art Director & Designer: Robert Brownjohn
  • Production Company: Dart Films
  • Lighting Cameraman: David Watkins

02. 'Let's get out of here...'

This is notable for two reasons. The endline is still going strong today, a full forty-seven years later and it was possible in in 1966 to win outstanding poster of the year with a big, fat, hairy pun. Not just that, a pun uttered by a sultana. Epic stuff.

  • Year: 1968
  • Award: The W. D. & H. O. Wills award for the outstanding poster
  • Client: Cadbury
  • Agency: Young & Rubicam
  • Art Director: Rosemary Oxley
  • Designer: Rosemary Oxley
  • Photographer: Tom Belshaw
  • Copywriter: Ceri Jones

03. Nova

There is irony at work here. This won for outstanding use of colour photography but the only record of it is in black and white. Nova is still hailed as an iconic magazine, held up as an artifact from the halcyon days of fashion.

The wonky type in the headline, the justified, uncomfortably tight copy underneath and the insouciance of the model all add up to something wonderfully distinctive but I can’t help feeling as I often did as a young lad, forced to watch snooker on a black and white TV.

  • Year: 1968
  • Award: The D&AD Silver Award for the most outstanding editorial colour photography, sponsored by the British Painting Corporation
  • Publication: Nova
  • Publisher: George Newnes
  • Art Director: Bill Fallover
  • Designer: Bill Forover
  • Photographer: Hans Feurer
  • Writer: Caroline Baker

04. Vietnam

Don McCullin is amazing. He famously said that for him photography is not about looking but about feeling and looking at this shot of a young soldier, you can see that he walks his talk. I’m not surprised that this Sunday Times cover won best of its year. Interesting though that when you Google McCullin now, this isn’t one of the images that comes up. The algorithm has deemed others to be more important.

  • Year: 1969
  • Award: The D&AD Gold Award for the most outstanding item in the 1969 show
  • Publication: Sunday Times Magazine
  • Publisher: Times Newspapers
  • Art Director: Michael Rand
  • Designer: David King
  • Photographer: Donald McCullin
  • Author: Donald McCullin

05. Sunday Times old age piece

It’s fascinating to look back at things that look forward. Especially this piece, which projects famous people from back then into old age. We get to judge the work, not just on its craft, which is lovely but also on its accuracy. Amis, yes. Kennedy, nearly. Bardot, sort of. Thatcher, yes. And so on. Some of the people I don’t recognize. This is, as the category it won in suggests, beautiful editorial art but it has gained more power than that with the passage of time.

  • Year: 1968
  • Award: The D&AD Silver Award for the best piece of editorial art by Winsor & Newton special mention for editorial design
  • Publication: Sunday Times Magazine
  • Publisher: Times Newspapers
  • Art Director: Michael Rand
  • Designers: David King/Gilvrie Misstear
  • Artist: Michael Leonard
  • Feature Editor: Peter Crookston

Words: George Prest

George Prest is executive creative director at R/GA London and a member of the Board of Trustees at D&AD.

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