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7 things I learned at the 2024 D&AD Festival

Last month I took a trip to the D&AD Festival, one of the UK’s leading design conferences and a creativity hub.

The event is filled with talks, masterclasses, and engaging experiences hosted by creative leaders, including Google Deepmind, COLLINS, Adobe, TikTok, and GANNI. It is a platform to dive into, discuss, and debate the creative excellence influencing us today and the future of the design industry.

It was a day to be proud to work in design. It was also a day to celebrate all that is good, bold, and brave within this ever-changing landscape. A day to embrace it for everything it is and be inspired by all its possibilities.

Now I’m back to work, and practising what was preached, here are just a few key bits I took from the event.

1. Being in a room of inspiring, likeminded people – you really can’t beat it

In-person conferences/events have the power to provide a meaningful impact that can’t be achieved by reading articles or watching a video.

You’ll rarely find this many people worth listening to in one place. Whether it’s an insightful speaker, a workshop, or talking to other creatives, these events present the opportunity to gain expert insights into the latest trends and solutions. Away from the comfort of your laptop screen, you aren’t just a bystander, you’re part of the conversation.

Everyone in attendance is taking the same time away from work, with the same clear focus – learning the best new ways to create content, provide amazing customer experiences, and essentially do their jobs better.

It really is the place to be! Not only did I leave feeling pumped full of new ideas and excitement for my job, but with a notepad filled with takeaways I can put straight into practice back at the office.

2. The importance of being in the room, not thinking about the next one!

Life moves quickly. It’s easy to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and an event like this is no exception. The jam-packed schedule is pulsing with opportunity, but it is also impossible to do everything.

I quickly realised that if I tried to squeeze too much into the day, I was constantly clock-watching and wasn’t giving myself a chance to fully engage with the current activity.

When I instead prioritised what to thought would bring me the most value, I gained so much more from each moment I experienced and came away feeling more inspired than I may have otherwise. Need I say it? It’s quality over quantity!

So maybe close your emails during that next meeting, otherwise you could risk missing out on a golden idea.

3. Ideas really can come from anywhere, and collaboration is key

To me, the talks were the most significant part of the day. This first-hand experience provided me with real-world design examples, discussed by leading design professionals in their most candid form.

It could be collaborating with others, or a chat over lunch in an office that sparks an idea. Ideas can come from anywhere, and to be successful it’s important to look at the bigger picture and consider other people’s perspectives.

Not one person is always right, and we don’t always have the best idea, but being open to evaluating our strategy and refining concepts will lead to what’s right for the work.

4. Sometimes you should break the rules – it might just pay off!

One talk that particularly stood out to me was an interview with English art director and graphic designer Peter Saville, who took a pit-stop journey through works that defined his creative practice.

He notably recalled the time Lacoste invited him to help them with an 80th anniversary rebrand. They wanted him to innovate their brand, but with the one catch of “don’t touch the crocodile”. So, of course, he did just that: 80 times.

He was able to release the icon from its usual boundaries and experiment with the limits of its recognisability. The project was disruptive and chaotic, but it represented the brand in an iconic way like never before.

Going against the brief was a risk, but when presenting the designs to the leaders of Lacoste, the outcome was fundamentally “Why not?”

Though this project was successful due to how well-known the crocodile mark is, there is something to learn here, with his advice being “stay true to yourself”.

Creative curiosity is not something to be ignored, and sometimes the best ideas happen when you don’t conform. It can take seeing what you don’t want to really understand what you need.

5. But what if it goes wrong? GOOD!

No, I actually mean that. None of us are too experienced to learn from missteps and sometimes a great idea can be born from an awful one.

This learning curve can unlock the door to a creative pathway which you’d never have arrived at if you’d not found that door in the first place – getting it now?

So, embrace the creative burn, throw your ideas at the wall, iterate relentlessly, and if they tell you to leave that crocodile alone… maybe it’s time to question it.

6. Technology is changing, so it’s time to get on board

Whether you like it or not, in the world of design AI is developing at an eye-watering rate. Technology is changing the creative landscape far quicker than it ever has before.

So, how can we harness these advancements and embrace this journey of discovery, rather than in opposition?

Well, before you bury your head in the sand, it’s important to consider that the experiences AI creates are based on data which, to be convincing, needs to be driven by us. Humans have intent, they have emotion, and they can make meaningful connections – AI cannot. When this is missing consumers can feel lost and unimportant, and step away from a process.

That’s why a human-centric design process is still prevailing in the industry. As AI progresses, it’s providing a shift in what we can achieve and empowering human-made creativity. It enables designers to focus more on developing strong creative concepts and brand strategies, which fuel the visual outcomes.

Despite technological developments, we as creatives are not spectators of the process, we are the architects.

7. 2024’s exciting take on branding

It’s time to start following your heart, rather than trends.

To stay relevant these days, you must be willing to reinvent and reimagine. In the early 2020s there was a call for minimalism almost everywhere. But a shift into 2024 has led us to question why.

Make it minimal but make it BOLD, be playful with illustrations or unconventional with typography. Brands are embracing innovation, allowing them to break free from convention, tell compelling stories, and make stronger connections with consumers. Being yourself is the new trend, and that’s pretty exciting, right?

Bring your branding bang up to date

Is it time for you to bring your branding into 2024?

That’s where we come in. Our branding team have worked exclusively in the financial services space for over half a decade now so, to find out how we can help, email or call 0115 8965 300.

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