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Lisa Smith Looks Ahead to Judging Design Lions “From Every Vantage Point”


Jones Knowles Ritchie’s executive creative director and jury president of the Design Craft Lions speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about planning for her presidential debut, the key role of “gut-instinct” in judging and the rarity of “truly distinctive” campaigns

Lisa Smith Looks Ahead to Judging Design Lions “From Every Vantage Point”

“It’s not about superficial gestures. It’s about being authentic and genuine. Making an impact where you actually can. Pushing boundaries, breaking conventions, utilising new tech – but doing so because it’s right for the brand, not because you’re chasing the latest new thing.”

Lisa Smith, ECD at global creative agency Jones Knowles Ritchie, is looking forward to the first in-person Cannes in three years; attending the talks, meeting new global colleagues and - most importantly - leading the judging as jury president for the Design Lions. For Lisa, the “ultimate power of design” is its ability to communicate an idea in a transformative way, bringing brands to life and making an impact on people around the world. Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, Lisa talks through her preparations for her first stint as a jury president, the criteria for a successful design campaign and even shares a hot-take or two.

Read on to hear about Lisa’s “once in a career” moment as a jury president and what she anticipates from this year’s festival.

LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?

Lisa> It’s my first year as jury president so I’m currently learning just how much goes on behind the scenes to get ready for judging – believe me, there’s a lot happening! 

One of the key things I’ve been doing is working closely with the Cannes team and fellow jury members to prep the key criteria and themes we want to focus on this year. This is critical to shaping the overall direction of the judging process. Alongside this, I’ve been getting to know each of the design jury members, ensuring we’re all connected and aligned on our key goals and objectives so we’re ready to come together in the jury room.

LBB> For you and your leadership style, in your opinion, what makes a good jury president? And how do you hope to lead the jury room?

Lisa> I want everyone to have a memorable experience in Cannes. Judging the Lions is one of those ‘once in a career’ moments as a creative, so as jury president, it’s my job to create an environment that allows everyone to be themselves and voice their opinions so we can award the best creative to represent the year. 

My goal is for discussions to be open and collaborative – while of course encouraging some healthy debate. We’re a diverse group of individuals so we’ll all be bringing our unique backgrounds and perspectives into the room, which is what makes the jury process so interesting. When it comes to design, gut-instinct plays a key role. I want the jury to judge with their hearts. I want them to feel excited and inspired by what they see and champion and advocate for the work they passionately believe should win.

LBB> What is it about the category that you’re judging that really excites or interests you?

Lisa> The ultimate power of design. It’s transformative in delivering an idea, bringing a brand to life, and having an impact on consumers and the world. Seeing brands that appreciate this and put design at the heart of their entire business is so much more powerful than those that only use it as one part of the experience.

What makes this category so special is that we judge design from every vantage point — digital and interactive, identity, packaging, product, communications, experiences etc.

There are certain things that are table stakes now. We expect brands to be living their purpose. We expect them to have impact and behave responsibly. Now we’re looking for brands that are going beyond this. It’s not about superficial gestures. It’s about being authentic and genuine. Making an impact where you actually can. Pushing boundaries, breaking conventions, utilising new tech – but doing so because it’s right for the brand, not because you’re chasing the latest new thing.

LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted - how do you think that’s going to shape your thinking about your category in particular? 

Lisa> Seeing things in real life will make a huge difference to the experience. Some categories are more tactile than others so getting to see objects like posters and publications - not through the judging portal and case study video but in person – will allow us to really appreciate the level of craft and execution that is so fundamental to design.

LBB> What are you looking for in a great 'design' campaign, as compared to other categories?

Lisa> When it comes to identifying a great design campaign, the criteria we’re looking at is universal to all categories: 

- Is the idea original? 

- Is the work innovative? Breaking boundaries or solving challenges?

- Has it had an impact on society, behaviour, culture, or the planet?

- Does the work break with category conventions? Is it unexpected, surprising, or new?

- Is the work executed to the highest standard of craft?

When it comes to design, we’re judging entries on all the above but there will be a specific focus on craft. This is design, after all, so the execution of the idea is fundamental.

We’re looking for genuine impact across the board, so we’ll want to see that the work has driven positive change on society, behaviour, culture or the planet. That’s a key criteria. Purpose is important – why are you doing what you are doing, and can you make a genuine impact? Are you taking responsibility for your actions and driving positive change? These are just some of the things we’ll be considering.

LBB> What are the traps or pitfalls that 'design' campaigns often fall into that you'll be wary of in your deliberations?

Lisa> A great idea but poorly executed, we see this a lot. Perhaps one of the most controversial things I could say is that we rarely see brand-led and truly distinctive campaigns, they are few and far between. This is the design category so we can’t ignore other factors like the execution too. But we also must be wary of things that are amazing to look at as sometimes this is disguising the fact that there’s no strategy or real idea or any real purpose behind it.

LBB> Two Design Grand Prix were awarded to H&M’s ‘H&M Looop’ and Superunion London/Notpla Limited’s ‘Notpla’ last year. How has this affected the category and is there anything about these two winners that you'll be looking for in entries this year?

Lisa> I was lucky to be a judge last year so I’m familiar with both these pieces and the conversations and debates we had around them. We were rewarding two years’ worth of Grand Prixes, both had something different to say to the industry. 

Notpla was an example where the name, the material and product design were so innovative and genius, we just couldn’t ignore it.

On the other hand what I think was so special about H&M Looop is it had it all, a big, fundamental problem - at odds with their own business model - so the solution required them to break boundaries in the fast fashion industry. It was an incredibly well-designed consumer experience — physical, digital, CGI, motion and storytelling - one of the best things we had seen executed across the full experience from a craft standpoint. It’s rare you get one of these pieces of work where it ticks every one of the criteria you set out and the judges are unanimous. I hope we have one of these this year as you are jealous as hell and want to share it with everyone all at the same time!

LBB> The transcendent ‘big’ ideas are relatively easy enough to spot, but some work is smart in a more nuanced way. When you’re leading a jury, how do you give space to these ideas in the jury room?

Lisa> It’s easy to gravitate towards the big ideas – we all know this – they stand out and catch our attention. But I genuinely think as a collective of judges we’re more excited to see work that we haven’t seen before and learn from the other judges whose expertise or experiences can help bring more context.

As a jury, it’s our job to give everything the consideration it deserves. We know how much effort goes into prepping these submissions – it’s only fair that we give each one our time and attention, to watch, listen and read every word of the submissions to get the full context. Especially because such a wide variety of different cultures are being represented. As judges, we must focus hard on removing any bias or preconceived perceptions and look at the work as objectively as possible and really lean on the judging panel as a collective, with all our different perspectives to have much richer discussions around the work. I love listening and learning from other points of view, this is one of the best parts of judging for just this reason. But I can assure you we will not shy away from the difficult conversations, and I will try to encourage us to have rich conversations over the work. 

LBB> What are some of your main criteria when judging and where does ‘the craft’ rank among them, for this category and generally?

Lisa> This is the design category so we can’t deny that craft is a key factor. I wouldn’t say it’s more important than the other criteria though – it’s one element alongside being original, impactful, innovative and unexpected – but we might scrutinise it a little more.

LBB> Outside of the jury room, what do you think will be the big talking points of Cannes 2022?

Lisa> Hmmm this one is hard to predict. Obviously, it’s the first time in person since 2019 so I’m sure there will be some genuine excitement to be together. And perhaps the pandemic won’t be at the top of the list and the focus will be on some of the world’s other pressing issues like climate, sustainability, and diversity. I want to hear, see and discuss things that inspire and challenge me so I can take this back to my practice, teams and clients.

LBB> Are you attending in person? What events, talks or activities are you looking forward to most, besides judging? Are you looking forward to being reunited with the international community after Cannes’ in-person hiatus?

Lisa> Yes! I will be there in person. Can’t wait to attend the talks, meet fellow creatives from around the globe, spend time with the judges. There’s always so much to take in and see, I love dropping by all the fringe events to hear what’s being discussed, what’s new to watch out for, what’s happening in other markets. Bring it on.

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LBB Editorial, Mon, 20 Jun 2022 16:13:00 GMT