Well, nothing was going to live up to last year’s Black Pencil at the D&AD Awards. But we were chuffed enough to have had another piece of work accepted into the 2009 annual in the Writing for Design section. 

 ‘The Yellow Book – A Prototype Wayfinding System for London’ was one of only 13 to make it into the hallowed pages this year, so that’s pretty good going. Particularly when you consider how many of the successful entries were self-promotional projects, where the writer had no client to answer to and could really cut loose (see totalblog for details). The Yellow Book, by contrast, had to satisfy four clients – Transport for London, the Mayor’s Office, the London Development Agency and ORB (Oxford Street, Regent Street & Bond Street Action Plan). Not to mention AIG, the information designers who developed the prototype and got Jim in to write the text. 

The Yellow Book’s accolade at D&AD follows a top prize for promotional brochures at the Design Week Awards. You can download a full pdf version of the Yellow Book and see what all the fuss was about here.

It was one of those surreal moments. This afternoon, there I was standing outside Marylebone station minding my own business, when I noticed a rather portly photographer giving it some ‘exude’. I couldn’t make out what he was shooting as the subject was hidden from my eye-line in an alcove. By the time he wrapped, I’d more or less lost interest and was looking the other way, as one by one, the New York Dolls shuffled straight past me and into M&S food hall. And the thing was, they really looked like dolls… they were tiny gnarled things, who seemed like miniature caricatures of themselves. Still, it was a thrill to be inches away from the seminal proto-punk crew, and I’m sure they too will be dining on the encounter for years to come.

The votes have been counted, the nominations and in-books have been revealed… so I can safely share some thoughts about judging Writing for Design without fear of vicious reprisals from the D&AD police. First of all, entries were up (though surprisingly there was not a single digital entry), and the overall standard was far superior to four years ago, the last time I donned the old horse-hair wig. We also had two quite brilliant, stand-out nominations in Nick Asbury’s Corpoetics booklet and the Christopher Doyle™ Identity Guidelines.

In Corpoetics, Nick takes boring ‘about us’ sections from web sites and mission statements and transforms them into poetry. He does this simply by changing the order of the words around, editing some and repeating others. The results are astonishing – telling, poignant, and amusing – and oddly, they often convey the spirit of the company better than the original.

Our foreman, Adrian Shaughnessy quite rightly asked the question ‘what’s the point of this, what’s it trying to say?’ To which I’d answer, it shows that there’s poetry hidden somewhere – in even the most mundane paragraph – if only you know how to find it. It’s also a wonderful calling card for Nick – without puffing out his chest and telling everyone how great he is, he’s demonstrated that he has a talent for an original idea and a great appreciation of words. Corpoetics really is one of those ‘wish I did that’ pieces.

Christopher Doyle™ Identity Guidelines is a beautifully observed, po-faced spoof of corporate guidelines. The eponymous hero of the piece is an Australian graphic designer, who stars on every page. The tone of voice is spot on, totally undercutting the language of the genre and the hackneyed notion that a brand is like a person. “This is a guide to how I should look, feel and sound as a person; a guide that should serve as an aid for myself and for those around me in ensuring my identity remains clear, consistent and correct.” My two favourite bits are a photo of Christopher packing some weight a few years ago captioned “My identity as it appeared between 2001and 2006 in Extra Bold”, and him sitting cross-legged on a chair captioned “Full Colour Seated_Casual”.

While I’m a huge fan of both these projects, my only slight niggle is that the only two nominations in the section went to self-initiated, self-promotional projects. (And there were others that made the book too like Mike Reed’s ‘And…’ and Radley Yeldar’s ‘The sad story’). You have to admire the initiative and effort involved in getting these pieces out there, but when there’s no client to answer to and no commercial imperative, such quietly subversive, lateral work is far more achievable.