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Paula Scher on judging the D&AD awards

As a creative person, what do you see as the main benefit of awards schemes?
I don’t think there is a direct client benefit. It’s more of a design reality check. the question is, can your work hold up on the table against a thousand other projects that may be bad, indifferent, good or excellent. I think it’s important to compete with your peers. It keeps you honest and competitive.

What’s special about the D&AD Awards, and why did you agree to judge them?
I like to see what’s going on. There is always something to learn from someone else whose work you’ve never seen before. Competitions are currently derided in the States, so it can be harder to see a designer’s work out of the context of a promotional posting. You certainly don’t see the best work by simply going outside or surfing the web.

What are the key criteria for judging work?
We looked for originality, intelligence craft and general excellence. There’s nothing new about that.

Are the entries and winning projects indicative of trends in the industry, and did you spot any?
Personally, I think trends are useless. If something is a trend, there’s no point being influenced by it because then you are following something, not leading. The most upsetting trend I saw were entrants who submitted work in the Brand Experience category, and then told you how many tweets they got or how many Facebook pages were launched because of their design. It was laughable and nauseating. I couldn’t vote for any of it. Stop that right now.

What was the toughest part about being a D&AD judge this year?
Judging the Brand Experience category: it was long, boring and dishonest.

What advice do you have for someone who’s thinking of entering next year?
Do wonderful inspiring work, from your head and your heart, and put it on the table and compete with your peers.