In 2004 Nick Bell became President of D&AD, one of his first duties was to choose the designer for the next annual.
He chose me, or CDD to be more precise.
In 2004, their annual was one of the few places you could get a concentrated hit of good advertising and design, as a result the annuals were revered and collected, so getting the chance to design one was a great honour.
I presented three ideas to Nick.
If an idea is printed in the D&AD Annual it’s out of circulation.
If it gets presented in a Creative Department thereafter, it’s killed with the chant ‘Been done!’
So the idea was to print the annual on overtly recycled, browny papers with a warning sign on the front saying ‘DO NOT RECYCLE’.
I liked the cognitive dissonance this would create, it looks ethical but and it’s anti-recycling?
Spoof the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ albums.
Less rational, but I thought it would be fun to be a bit cheesy and kitsch, possibly a reaction to some of the previous annuals that took themselves soooooo seriously.
I thought there’d be a lot of mileage in the music angle, we could parody music ephemera.
A pretty straight forward cover idea based on the thought that winning a pencil makes you and your work immortal.
It’ll live on for generations to admire.
The visual was three D&AD pencils shot against a goldy, dusky sky to look like the Pyramids.
A bit like that old Benson & Hedges poster.
No 2 was bought, the music idea.
I thought it’d be cool if all the category dividing pages were designed like albums.
The front cover could feature an image of the jurors looking like a rock group, on the back the jurors names would be arranged like song titles, the numbers worked – albums tend to have about the same amount of tracks as juries had jurors, eight.
I could ask all my favourite Designers and Art Directors from around the world to design one.
I started drawing up a lists, it was a great, I’d just look at my bookshelves and copy the names: Paula Scher, Vaughn Oliver, David Carson, Fabien Baron, etc, etc.
I tried desperately to twist designer Mark Farrow’s arm to do one, but he held out.
I just couldn’t breach the wall of protectors defending Fabien Baron.
I had a bit of an email dialogue with Lee Clow, but it dried up.
Weiden’s John C. Jay was too busy.
Apart from that, I got my dream team.
I thought I better work out a shot list for the photographer, Paul Tozer, to ensure each shot mimicked clichéd album covers, so he could recreate them with jurors.
This would also avoid the jury photos looking like jury photos, as well as giving each Designer a different steer.
I then mocked up the front and back covers.
Who goes on the front? Advertising or Design? One will read the same way up as the contents, the other will effectively be upside down.
Factions fought about who should get the premium side.
At one point it looked like this issue was going to kill the idea.
I thought of a solution – Lenticular printing, both could share the front cover and the book might also feel a bit more special and unusual.
I gave the cool design and illustration collective Me Company a very basic mock-up to fancy up. I angled the type to make it look cheesier.
Their first rough looked weird, I couldn’t decide whether it was so cheesy it was funny, or just rubbish.
I went back to the drawing board.
A change of brief: Yes a spoof, but a cool looking one. It’s the D&AD Annual after all.
Also, let’s ditch the red and concentrate on yellow, that’s D&AD’s colour.
New illustration comes in, much better!
We then had to figure out how the design would break into the eight pieces needed to made up the lenticular.
NEW PROBLEM: D&AD’s lawyers say we can’t spoof an EMI property without their permission.
Inevitably, they say no.
After a lot of negotiating, they say they’ll let us spoof their property providing a) we say on page one they gave us permission, and b) we give them a free ad in the annual.
The free ad:
I thought the best way of handling the permission part was to design the end papers, (the first spread you see in a book), like the inner sleeves of albums.
I briefed out all the dividing spreads but saved one for myself to to design.
The Nick Bell spread, he’d been responsible for giving me the brief in the first place.
I gave the photographer this reference for Nick’s image:
I had a go at turning it into an album cover.
It looked too cool.
I needed to spoon in some cheese, it looked too serious.
Maybe we could use that olde, Westerny style lettering The Eagles were fond of?
Or maybe we should make it look a bit psychedelic, like this?
We solarised the image.
I tried to make the design look more pretentious.
I reversed some type from the Trajan columns out of the image, which made it look self-important. In a good way.
The back. I needed a record label logo to help it look like an album.
Turning the old record label logo PYE into DYE seemed like a gift.
The designs started to come in.
(I was aware of this one way before the deadline, I was one of the idiots he got to dance in front of about a dozen people at the photography shoot. Cheers Mark!)
(A copy change came in after she’d completed her artwork, she simply rubbed it out, leaving a massive, weird hole in the text. Shame, it was so perfectly worked out before.)
I waited for Gerald Scarfe’s design way after the deadline.
“Monday, definitely monday.”
This went on right up to the day before we went to print.
I hung in there because, well, he’s Gerald Scarfe and I wanted one of his angry looking bits of design amongst the other more considered pieces.
A parcel turned up.
It was a small parcel, I thought he’d work bigger than that?
I wonder how he’s handled the type?
I wonder whether he has satirized the President aspect?
I wonder how aggressive he has painted Anthony Simmonds-Gooding?
I wonder whether it’s really gloomy?
Out pops the artwork.
I peer back into the envelope to look for the other bits.
Er…that’s it? That’s what I’ve waited eight weeks for? Where’s the words, the design the front and back?
And, I now have a blank spread and one cheeky little cartoon that seemed nearer the style of a seaside postcard than the ‘Fear And Loathing In Los Angeles’.
I can’t bin it, he’s done it for free.
I’ll have to build a cover idea around it. In 24 hours.
“Right…er…he looks jolly…er, music hall, show tunes, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the roof.”
To make it look like those kind of albums I needed lots of slugs of words, any half joke I could think of went in – Side 1 – his face, side 2 – back of his head…er? Sod it done, next.’
It turned out to be quite a pivotal moment for me, because I couldn’t over analyze, or even analyze.
It was almost like a stream of consciousness.
“Bit of an error, D&AD side I’m afraid… We’ve forgotten the sponsors spread! Just list the names, we don’t have to turn it into an album design, we don’t have time.”
Sod it! let’s just set it in that interesting kid font.
No, it’s a cop-out, it’s the only spread in the book that isn’t an album design.
Whoa! Literally hours…what to do? what to do?…What’s that record over there?
I took the ‘Six-Five Special’ cover as my ‘inspiration’.
(If you look carefully in the bottom right corner, there’s a code: H&O + R&C + 1. It stands for: H&O = Harry & Olivia, (my children), Roman & Charlie, (my step-children), +1 = an unnamed baby on the way, (now Louis).
I remembered the book was shrink wrapped, like albums, so thought it would be good to put stickers on that cellophane like albums too.
I managed to sneak one of my other annual ideas onto the back cover.
Waste not, want not.
This is the ticket for the launch of the book, you were only let in if you were wearing one of the stickers.
Thinking about it, that was like sending out 23 tickets to every person, gate crashing must’ve been rife.
Eight months later the book was finished, a lot of hours went into it.
At some point during the process, the print producer mentioned that the annuals cost about £13 an item to make, I asked him if he could get me a batch for us to give to clients, maybe fifty?
He said he’d just have to clear it, but couldn’t see a problem.
I chase him up after the launch night, “The Chairman says erm…” he sounds a bit sweaty “He says we can sell them to you for the wholesale price, £33… which is still £27 less than it should be…so…”
So I have worked for eight months for free and you want to sell them to me at a profit?
I gave the producer a message for the Chairman, a suggestion on where he could store his annuals.
Two weeks later fifty annuals turned up. No charge.
We printed up these stickers and sent it out to clients.
NB. Six weeks after the annual was printed, an envelope showed up at the office.
Inside was Lee Clow’s album design for the Packaging jury.
I’d replaced him, I didn’t even know he was producing one.
Annoyingly, I preferred it to the one we’d used, it spoofed The Beatle’s White album.
All white, minimal typewriter type.
No design for packaging design.
Very cool. Very, very late.