Last week a few of us went along to the D&AD President's Lecture to listen to Bob Gill, Sir Alan Parker and Lord David Puttnam review 50 years of the industry organisation, at the Mermaid Theatre on Puddle Dock (Puddle Dock being one of the cuddliest street names in London.) Once we had established in the cab that we weren't going to see the typographer Eric Gill, we were all set.
The lecture marked 50 years since the beginning of the D&AD and was constructed in a sort of 'Parky' style interview with a nice man (Tom Sutcliffe) asking the three men questions about their career. Sutcliffe began with an introduction which framed 1962 for the audience. Most notably it being the year in which The Sunday Times produced the first ever colour supplement, which all three men agreed had a profound effect on advertising and design. Sutcliffe also helpfully referred to it as being the year in which Don Draper worked on the American Airlines campaign. It turns out these men on stage were the ORIGINAL MAD MEN! Very exciting!
Bob Gill got the ball rolling by talking about moving from NYC to London on a whim for a couple of weeks, and then deciding that he wanted to stay for the rest of his life, which makes you feel very proud to live in London village. Even though it's only 50 years ago, which is really only a teeny amount of time, it was incredible to hear how much the industry has changed. He talked about starting Fletcher, Forbes & Gill (with legendary Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes) and not having a phone in the studio for the first year. Amazing! This was around the time they started the D&AD, an organisation which was created as a tool for designers to showcase their work. Gill talked about how impressive he thought the organisation and standard of work still was today.
All three men chatted easily about their careers, which often overlapped, and have been incredibly varied and ever changing, which was really inspirational in itself - Alan Parker (very likeable and British - sounded a bit Michael Caine) started out as a copywriter and went on to become a distinguished film director, directing films such as Bugsy Malone, Fame and Evita. (He even told us a story about Madonna- good name drop) Finally David Puttnam, originally an account executive (I had Pete Campbell in mind) showed a Levi's ad by Ridley Scott that he had to sell to his hesitant clients, despite being nothing like anyone had seen before- multiple angle shots and lots of 1970s whizzy movement. It was amazing to see how far we have come in terms of advertising.
However, the most memorable part of the lecture had to be Bob Gill's thoughts on how to get a good idea. He was berating how easy it is for us designers these days to have everything at our fingertips in terms of research and information from the internet. And despite being able to access information at the click of a button, it doesn't necessarily help form original and great ideas. He used designing a logo for a launderette as an example. His advice was to forget everything you know about launderettes - all your preconceptions, and find one. And sit. And talk to people who work there, people who use the service. Just take it all in - and once you have taken it all in - the sounds, the smells, everything that makes the launderette what it is, you will come up with an original idea. Listen to that idea, and from there the creative part will be easy.
This makes so much sense! Let's get out from behind out macs more. I know I usually come up with my best ideas on my walk home to Waterloo train station. And I'm now excited about putting this in to practice more often than I already do. Another tip was to draw, draw, draw, which I guess we just don't see enough of these days. He said going straight to mac is dangerous because you spend yonks tweaking what might actually not be a really strong idea. If you draw it on a Post It you won't feel too precious about throwing it away if in hindsight it's a bit shonky. What sensible advice! Layouts come second to the big idea and he talked about how easy it was for people to forget that.
I came away feeling really inspired and smiley. You left feeling like you'd happily swap maybe, Stephen Fry say, at your dream dinner party for one of these creative geniuses. (Unless Jon Hamm happened to be available that is)