The world’s attention seems to focus on Cannes in the South of France each spring, at film festival time. But the phenomenal buzz of the renowned International Film Festival is not confined to the latest movies and its stars. The stars of the global creative industry also gather here as the city plays host to the annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
Now in its 56th
year, the global communications festival is going strong. Not only was
the 2008 event the best attended to date, but, this past year,
organizers added an award category dedicated to design-a huge and
timely step forward for the whole industry.
years of pitting design against its advertising counterparts, it’s
immensely exciting that our industry has been given the status it so
rightly deserves and that the two disciplines are being showcased and
rewarded under the one creative umbrella.
as a member of the inaugural jury for these new Design Lions awards in
Cannes, and it was a great honor. I certainly relished having the time
and opportunity to discuss global design and its effectiveness with the
diverse and passionate group of designers that rounded out the jury.
The high quality of entries showed that creativity
is thriving across the globe-with Latin America and Brazil putting on a
very good show and with Russia, South Africa, Australia, China and New
Zealand also very well represented. There was an overwhelming consensus
among the jurors that we should be proud of what the global design
industry has to offer and that we should welcome the opportunities
presented by this new annual showcase.
festival did raise a few interesting questions about design, how it is
categorized and just how much value we place on the discipline. The
jury spent time discussing this and, on their behalf, I wanted to share
their suggestions here.
forward.First and foremost, the design versus
advertising issue must be resolved once and for all. The fact that
design awards have been added to the festival program is a markedly
positive step forward, but there is still work to be done to ensure
that the event is no longer known as just an “advertising” festival.
The heritage and prestige of the event should pave
the way for the future success of the Design Lions program.
But, the advertising versus design issue also
presented problems on a category-specific level. Specifically, the
judges had something of a tricky time trying to separate “a creative
idea using design” from “design”. The poster entries-quite frequently
advertising posters-were particularly difficult to reward on merit when
we had to be clear that our focus was not about beautiful art
direction, but about compelling design.
The way the
Design Lion awards were categorized also brought to light an issue that
plagues design: how to segment it and break it down. The categories for
the Design Lion awards “broadly included” Brand Identity, Packaging
Design and Environmental Design, with product or architectural design
entries invited to submit to any of these three groupings.
And while we applaud the acknowlegement given to
Packaging Design with its own category, it could have benefited from
more logical segmentation (the Festival divided the Packaging Design
awards into product sectors). Personally, I feel that this may not be
truly representative of packaging’s increasingly important role in
icon.That said, the governing aim of the festival was
concise and business focused. The Design Lions awards recognize and
reward “the creative use of design as a lever to influence consumers
and its use as an aid to the communication of brand and product
And, with this mission statement front
of mind, the jury was unanimous in its decision to award the inaugural
Grand Prix to Turner Duckworth for Coca-Cola.
America’s leading cultural icon, the brand is still
setting the ultimate design benchmark. Its newest packaging is a
perfect example of de-cluttering design: stripping back packaging to
essentials so that the uniqueness and character can stand out. And, of
course, it is a perfect illustration of how the Coke contour bottle
leads all other brand communication from transportation to advertising.
This win not only underlines the importance of
packaging design as the key consumer touchpoint at point of purchase.
It also opens up the debate on where we look for global design
Even with the world getting smaller
and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) starting to make
their mark on the design direction of the world, it is clear that the
United States still has a lot to offer, particularly in terms of a new
and challenging design approach.
consumers probably feel that they can spot a U.S. brand at a million
paces. It has generally-and historically-been considered that the
United States produces brash designs and big and instantly recognizable
logos and that this “formula” has created shelves of colorful
On the other hand, European
design has always been credited with a cleaner, simpler and more modern
approach. Probably due to their smaller and more regional biases,
European brands have tended to rely far more on visual subtlety,
leaving their design open to interpretation and, as a result, targeting
and connecting with a far more diverse audience.
But it’s clear that we can no longer make such
sweeping and generic assumptions. What’s probably fair to say is that
U.S. design has traditionally played to the heart and European design
to the head. But since the zeitgeist currently dictates the idea of
physical touch above an intellectual connection, Americans are
currently streets ahead in the design stakes.
also fair to say that every brand owner aspires to create the next
all-important iconic brand. Without doubt, Europeans-and now probably
the rest of the world-are envious of the sheer number of brand icons
that the United States has produced. Not just Coca-Cola, but Apple,
Jack Daniels…the list goes on and on.
brands can’t-and don’t-just rest on their laurels. Again, it comes down
to design-and more significantly packaging design-as the most effective
way to stay fresh and update the iconic status of these brands.
The challenge for Coke, for instance, has always
been living up to its role as a cultural icon while continuously
renewing itself-without ever losing sight of what the brand represents.
This most recent update of Coca-Cola’s core
packaging design, balanced with interpretive brand extensions like Coke
Blak or the M5 design collection, shows how brand intelligence and
self-understanding can be hugely successful. Coke’s iconic design has
been reinvented, but it still captures the true spirit and authenticity
of the original.
design. And while iconic brands have heritage on their
side, we are seeing a new breed of innovative challenger brands
snapping at their heels with the potential to set a new design
Again, we see that some of the best
challenger brands-Method and Y Water are good examples-are currently
coming out of America. These entrepreneurial challengers understand
that, when it’s at the heart of a brand, design can relay substance, a
fresh attitude and a brand personality that has the power create an
By looking at historical America, we can get
a handle on why this is happening now and the potential for the future.
The United States has an indisputable entrepreneurial spirit that’s
fostered by a history of breaking new frontiers; that makes it the
perfect haven-and platform for growth-for new challenger brands.
Such brands, which exhibit what I describe as
“desirability by design”, will undoubtedly become the benchmark by
which we judge other brands, iconic or new.
fact, the design force being generated by these U.S.-based challengers
is starting to inspire a “can do” spirit across Europe and the rest of
the world. For a long time, Coca-Cola has been the undisputed master of
the “can do” spirit; the master of brand reinvention and evolution and
an example to all of how design can make the world’s biggest brand.
But the field is wide open for a leader of a new
and challenging design offensive to take Coke’s crown at next year’s
Design Lions awards-to lead design into the next century and become the
next benchmark of global design creativity.BP
Global Design: Who's leading the way?
January 13, 2009