The Caliber Blog

October 13, 2016

What we’ve learnt at the D&AD Creative Lab


Yesterday evening, D&AD hosted one of its creative labs at Whitespace in Edinburgh. The two main speakers were Bruce Duckworth, President of D&AD, and Steve Vranakis from Google. They once again reminded us that we all have creative super powers.

Bruce Duckworth


Bruce, who has been President of D&AD for a full three weeks, addressed the future direction of D&AD in his presentations, and reminded us why we should all spend our money on submitting our work.


D&AD has always been about what’s going on in the creative industry. But this year, they want to focus more on Design. He reminded us that initially, D&AD was set up by designers and that we should strengthen the relationship with them.


One way of doing this is through the annual D&AD festival. In the judging week, where industry professionals decide who wins the highly sought-after Pencil awards, the submitted pieces are still at the venue and can be viewed by the public. To make it more appealing for designers, they want to showcase more design-related work like printmaking, photography and many other “I wish I had done this”-type ideas.


For him, D&AD Pencils are still the ultimate award (he’s not biased, of course), because they are commissioned solely on the creativity of an ad, and don’t take effectiveness or strategy into account. And the (freaking expensive) entry fees for submitting work are all being channelled into professional development programs and education of the new blood. Amen.


In his opinion, creative excellence has never been so important. Well, Bill Bernbach always said we should all just come up with average stuff, right?

Steve Vranakis


The son of Greek immigrants in Canada, Steve always wanted recognition in his life. He worked his a** off, and is now head of the Google Creative Lab in London. That’s what I call inspiration.


Key Takeaways:


1. “A ragtag group of idealists & vagabonds.”
That’s how he described his team at Google Creative Lab, a small innovation team of writers, designers, coders, engineers, and so on. Growing up in the “Canadian mosaic” – something similar to America’s melting pot – he realised from an early age that the best creative teams consist of individuals with diverse backgrounds.


2. “Remind the world what they love about your brand.”
In his presentation, he showed us some of his campaigns for Google, including Project Bloks, a platform that reimagines coding for kids. He aimed not to make it too branded, but just wanted to do something good. Oh, and to give Google a good brand image, of course.


3. “People are more than just commercial transactions.”
Advertising is so much more than selling stuff. Creatives are capable of more and can really make a change. He showed us a project he was working on for Syrian refugees. Basically, it’s an app which gives them vital local information about their new home, e.g. directions, medical services and so on. His team built all this in only 36 hours. To make it easily adaptable for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it was built in Google Docs. So far, it has helped millions of people fleeing from war.  For Steve, we’re all creative activists.


After their presentations, people could (were forced to) ask questions, and the evening ended in us chitchatting about how we all have creative super powers. Maybe it was the inspirational presentations – maybe it was the wine.

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