Reading through the categories on D&AD is a sort of guess who of overlapping fields. Were I entering this competition, I’d find myself incredibly puzzled; is this packaging design not also graphic design? I’ve used Typography on the packaging as well as illustration and I certainly was involved in the art direction of it. I think perhaps we have entered a more all-in-one world of design, which expects designers to do a bit of everything which leads to these blurred projects. I personally am a typographer, photographer, illustrator, web designer, video editor as well as so many other things, sometimes on a daily basis to provide results to my clients as quickly, efficiently and as skillfully as possible. Not out of desire to spread my own “category” skill set, but out of necessity to afford a living.

It’s curious to consider whether the categories at D&AD will grow, or if the scope will start to widen to embrace a new mindset within design. In 2020 the category Design Transformation was added. A perhaps much needed direction for graphic design categories.

Design thinking that drives business change, leading to the transformation of existing products and services, or the creation of new ones. Entries should have approached design transformation holistically across the business, including, how brands operate and how they manage customer engagement. Judges will consider how the change achieved through design transformation, such as growth for the business, and impact on customers, staff or suppliers.”

That these categories blur enormously is not a surprise, the more diverse and creative offerings we can provide as designers, the more we will push to categorise what we do, particularly within an award setting. I’d personally like to see D&AD recategorise to suit a more modern worlds needs and priorities: Ethical Packaging, Bi-Lingual Design, Educational Design, Local community projects, Global community projects, Social Justice Projects and so on. These concepts are winning the awards at D&AD (I particularly liked Burger King’s “Melt Down” campaign from JKR Global) which proves that design can be both corporate with ethics.

I was particular impressed that D&AD have included Side Hustle as a category, which I think is a fantastic nod to and understanding of the motivations of most designers. Having worked on many projects that I’d describe as a “side hustle” before, it’s a great recognition that some of the best work comes out of those moments of creative expression and play . The winners of this category look as though they very much fall into the conceptual or social change kind of projects. But establishing that importance for designers to strive to do more with their side hustle is a great category. Does this encompass all other categories “type, brand, video, transformation, product, illustration” etc? Well sure. But ALL these projects do.

In general, I think that D&AD is a bit of a dinosaur in the design world. With a focus on “PR” as a category and “Art Direction”, categories like this, it does it’s best to inspire these classic titles in the minds of the designers who worship at their Shoreditch altar, but the bigger picture does seem missed to me. Rather than becoming a stepping stone for success based on categorisation. D&AD would be the perfect opportunity to lead the priorities of the industry with a radical rethink of how we categorise creative output.