D&AD Writing for Design awards: why you should enter

Writing for Design judges Elise Valmorbida, Julia Woollams and Claire Parker. The other judges were: Will Awdry, Chris West, Deon Wiggett, Mark Wood

Elise Valmorbida reflects on her recent experience as President of the Jury, offering you not one, but five good reasons to enter next year’s awards.


It was a lottery company that gave the world an incontrovertible strapline: ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’. The same goes for D&AD. But you knew that already. What you perhaps didn’t know is that the Writing for Design category tends to be undersubscribed. We had only one day’s worth of entries to judge on-site (and some long-form work to read in advance). Other categories had days and days and days of judging to do. Your work has a better chance of standing out.


In 2013, it was a joy to see the Black Pencil award go to GOV.UK. It’s not flashy. There’s not a pun or chatty tax code in sight. In 2017, I can think of beautiful projects ‘out there’ that didn’t make a showing ‘in here’. (We did, though, see a lot of jaded self-reference and parody, prompting one of our jury to call it “cynicism meets narcissism”.) Next year, if you complete a project that is quietly, modestly, the most perfect it can be, don’t hold back. (Ditto if it’s dazzlingly clever.)


We wandered away from Writing for Design and coveted beautifully written work entered into other categories, like Branding. Why oh why did that project not appear on one of our long tables? If you have a generous competition budget, and your work is all-round excellent, enter more than one category. If resources are slim, think very carefully about the aspect of the project that excels most. If it’s the writing, persuade the designers that winning may be more important than kerning.


“As a non-profit, all of D&AD’s surpluses go straight into programmes that inspire the next generation of creative talent and stimulate the creative industry to work towards a fairer more sustainable future.” Beyond the blurb, something else is going on, which has to be a good thing for those who can’t afford our indecent university fees: D&AD New Blood Shift. A free night school for untapped talent. A new creative generation. Yes.


It’s easy to be cynical about the tears of compassion in an advertiser’s eyes, but I dare you to dismiss a dynamic braille smart-watch, a nifty flat-pack house for displaced people, an iconic newspaper created entirely by refugees, a six-pack yoke that’s edible and biodegradable, a cautionary imagining of a human body best suited to car crashes… A long time ago, when we were young and fabulous, didn’t we think design could change the world for the better? From beauty to truth, it still can.


The sparkle got serious after festival days of talks, workshops, shows and meetings. I’ll admit it: the awards night was a lot of fun. We made friends and allies across the disciplines, across the world. Non-profit dosh funded some showbiz, and that’s the point. This event builds cred, generates news and attracts people from everywhere. Which is good for clients, good for creatives. Now let’s get on with that fairer more sustainable future.

Visit dandad.org to see past winners, and sign up to stay in-the-know about future events and awards deadlines.

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