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“Substance Over Style” - One Judge’s Plea


Google Creative Lab multidisciplinary designer and Creative Circle Gold judge Mary Leonard shares her thoughts on this year’s medal-worthy work

“Substance Over Style” - One Judge’s Plea
As Creative Circle reveal the 2019 Shortlist, this year’s Gold Judges have confessed they’re ‘kind of hard-arses’ when it comes to selecting work worthy of metal. One of the UK’s biggest exports is Creativity and with 2018 - 2019 proving to be a tumultuous year for Old Blighty, it seems the industry’s top creative minds are reviewing our country’s output with meticulous scrutiny.  

In this interview Design Gold judge and Google Creative Lab multidisciplinary designer Mary Leonard urges designers to prioritise substance over style and reveals why younger creatives may hold the keys to higher industry standards.

Q> What was the quality of this year’s work like, Mary?

Mary Leonard> As is typical of industry awards generally, I found the quality of work in this year’s Creative Circle to be quite varied. Some projects were excellent (including many I wish I had made!), whilst others fell a little short in comparison. Overall, I always want to see more work that is truly innovative and creative - work that is comfortable stepping outside of what you’d find on a Pinterest board and gets to the real core of what the brief is trying to answer. I would love to see more creatives engaging with the thought and the purpose behind their work - rather than focusing on the aesthetics and presentation of the final piece.

Q> Did you have a standout piece of work this year?

Mary> For me, the standout project was Fontsmith and M&C Saatchi’s collaboration to create the ‘Lost and Foundry’ Campaign. I really liked this project because so often people think of typefaces as inanimate tools - soulless parts of our city that merely carry a functional role. This project demonstrated that typography is a core part of our cultural landscape and that it can tell a story, have a personality, and even form part of history.

It would have been easy for the type-designers to ‘modernise’ these historic typefaces or create their own personal take, but I thought there was a real respect and elegance in how they replicated the typefaces and then developed them for a digital place. This resulted in a project that was all about capturing the story of a place and translating it so that it could be celebrated and cherished by a new audience of creatives. 

Q> Were there any industry issues have you felt were particularly prominent this year, perhaps coming up in the judging discussion frequently?

Mary> A lot of our group discussion circulated around the idea of style vs. substance. I believe that design is not about making something look good but about solving a problem in an appropriate way. We have an opportunity as designers and creatives to produce work that is considered, intelligent and sustainable - something that can be helpful, tell a story, or create a behaviour. I hope that in this coming year I will see more and more work that chooses substance over style. 

Q> Is the judging process at Creative Circle different to other advertising awards? 

Mary> I really enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere on the day of the awards judging. Being in a room with so many different creatives, from different backgrounds, with different points of view was really interesting and truly inspiring. I thought the level of discussion and debate was very engaging and guaranteed that only the best work was awarded. 

What I think makes Creative Circle judging different to other awards is that they don’t pit the work in each category against each other. Instead every entry is judged on its individual merits, meaning that each category could have seven winners or none.The objective is to make sure that the best work is awarded and that if there is nothing of award-standard within a category - then no work is awarded. I thought this was a brave, fair and refreshing take on awards. It means the focus can be on the quality of the work and not simply ‘ticking a box’. 

Q> What are your thoughts on the new ‘free to enter’ categories for younger applicants - are these modifications important to make sure there’s a fairer opportunity for great work to be recognised?

Mary> I think these new categories are a brilliant idea - something that all awards should implement. As a young creative starting out, it can be really hard to get your first big client, role, or feature. Opening opportunities like this to younger people gives them a chance to get their work out there and share it on a larger stage. 

I also think it’s an important way for industry awards to maintain a level of creativity and relevance. Recently, I’ve seen fewer young creatives and small studios entering these awards, which has had a detrimental effect on the overall standard of the work being highlighted. So often I see something incredible in the world that I wish I had seen again during the judging process. I hope that by opening up some of these doors to individuals and studios from all backgrounds that we see an increase in the standard of work being awarded - hopefully helping to support the next generation of creatives in the process!

Tickets for the Creative Circle Ball on Thursday 9th May at The Troxy are now available. Each year tickets sell out fast, to secure tickets to the awards night, head to the Creative Circle bookings website.
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Creative Circle, Mon, 08 Apr 2019 14:08:30 GMT