Sanky – creating ‘my’ D&AD annual

Published:  May 3, 2011
Sanky – creating ‘my’ D&AD annual

Each month, desktop invites a creative to write an open letter to the design community on a topic of their choice.

Words: Sanky

I was brought up to think about the effect that you have on others and your surroundings… understanding consequence, really, and the interconnectedness of the world. This brought me to a certain quandary recently when I became aware that one of the big, big responsibilities as this year’s president was the production of ‘my’ annual for D&AD.

You get quite a bit of free rein to make the book you really want to make and that immediately raised a whole load of questions regarding the format of the thing. I’ve pretty much always worked in digital. But, at the end of the day, we’re all creatives and we all appreciate the physical object, whether that be a beautiful piece of print or, indeed, a beautiful new iPad. I started out as a graffiti artist at the tender age of 12 or 13 and learned my ‘trade’, so to speak, in the public realm, creating art and messaging with a team of people in a real environment. Thus, the point for me isn’t that I am a ‘digital’ president and therefore I should make a digital annual. The question is really, ‘what is the most relevant way of communicating the annual to people these days?’ A physical record of some kind is definitely still relevant; after all, many people do treasure them and value the fact that in 10 or 20 years you can guarantee they will still be a functional object – in contrast to finding a digital format we have currently that’s going to last as well as paper. So sustainability is one thing that can’t possibly be ignored, and not just as a gimmick to ‘wrap’ the annual in, but as a real program that changes the way that the annual is produced in subsequent years. In that sense, I’m not as interested in ‘my’ annual, as in the legacy it creates and in turn the message that it sends out to the creative industries.

How can we improve this situation year on year, so that going forward there’s no question of waste? Because of the person I am, my upbringing and my experiences, this is the thing that has weighed heavily on my mind in terms of my decisions about the annual since I became president. And just on the recycled paper, that’s the other thing about sustainability – it isn’t that simple. Energy suppliers, where the printers are, paper thickness, logistics, physical size – the list of considerations gets bigger. The answer isn’t just replacing the physical with the digital – iPads have a huge carbon footprint and the risk is that the next tempting iteration of the device comes out long before longevity of usage offsets that footprint. Needless to say, the iPad and the looming gamut of Android-based tablets are platforms that certainly have to be taken into consideration with the annual.

This whole annual problem neatly brings me to something I’ve been thinking about recently, which is that, finally, previously fragmented parts of communication are undeniably coming together. For example, the annual is a real situation of user experience (UX) meets art meets advertising meets writing meets new platforms. I call it ‘the maturing of digital as a whole’. I’m feeling as if there’s a better acceptance of digital working more tightly with other disciplines in well-thought out solutions. We should accept that we’re inexorably flowing towards a totally connected world, where we’ll have to intuitively understand the exact location of that fine line where technology stops being clever, useful and appropriate and instead becomes distracting and gimmicky and leaves printed matter to do what it does best too.

In all this I have my opinions, but I’m not an expert. We are working with experts in this field and we have a journey of discovery ahead that, as designers and problem solvers, gives us the impetus to forge on and address some of the issues for 2011. Hopefully, what we find out will help others looking to work in this way.

It’s a time of play and invention again… which excites me.

Let’s make things more meaningful:

…with longevity

…with use and content

…with small thank-yous and details

…with people’s changing behaviour taken into account, and

…with care and ethics.

We have the world to talk to and it is listening and wanting to take part.

Sanky is a co-director at AllofUs, a London-based interactive design agency and is also the current president of D&AD.

From desktop magazine.

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