D&AD President’s Lecture 24.10.12

26 Oct 2012 - Paul Mann


We descended upon the ever-dependable Logan Hall for Neville Brody’s first ever D&AD session as president. Branded the #DigitalRevolution we were all ‘teched’ up and ready to be inspired.

Before getting underway there was important D&AD news to share.

The White Pencil Symposium is coming next month, it will involve a panel in conversation about ‘the power of commercial creativity to make our world a better place’ before the presentation of the first ever White Pencil takes place. Be sure to head on down to that one. The idea of last night was to merge two tried and tested formats into one event by merging Pecha Kucha with a standard lecture. It was imaginatively titled a Pecha Lecture with the idea being to get the 6 speakers to talk for around 7 minutes each. A nice theory but it didn’t work as there was no timed element. Maybe it should have just been called a lecture after all?

That aside the calibre of the speakers was very impressive. The lineup included Neville BrodyNat Hunter, Tomas RoopeLaura Jordan-Bambach, Andy SandozJohn Fass. Here are the bits we loved from what was discussed.

Neville Brody talked about ‘the digital public space’. The are always movements, much like the Industrial Revolution in the 17 and 1800’s. We’re now in a ‘Knowledge Revolution’. A book is a museum whereas digital data is fluid. The fact that the space can change results in dynamic information.

Nat Hunter began by talking about the way the #DigitalRevolution is moving us away from products to services. For example we used to buy CD’s and now most of us are subscribers to services like Spotify. And this is an evolution that reflects the state of humanity and resources. Products are going to be phased out as they are made of things that are running out fast. For example a mobile phone has 35 components. Interestingly China controls 97% of the ‘rare earth’ market and these kind of facts dictate our movement into the digital services domain.

Some websites that Nat confessed her love for were Zipcar and Airbnb. The phenomenon of digital creates trust between complete strangers across platforms like these. We can use digital to address some of society’s problems. For example GoodGym takes two problems (many elderly people are lonely + many thirty-somethings find any excuse not to exercise) and addresses them both at the same time, solving both issues.

She went on to explore what else would be valuable and innovative in life today. What about a fridge which tells your phone it’s about to break? “How about you be here at 8am Wednesday to replace me?”

Then there’s digital pioneering in projects like ‘Question Box’

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. But don’t forget there are two types of magic, black magic and white magic. We’re the ones deciding the future so let’s invest our time and effort into the good ‘white’ magic.

Laura Jordan-Bambach began talking about her love for Ray Bradbury, he was a fellow who predicted things like smart household objects becoming reality. The coolest part, he made the predictions in the 1950’s and most of them have come to fruition.

Laura then started sharing examples of pioneering digital ideas she loves. Newstweek is a device for manipulating news read by other people on wireless hotspots. Then of course there’s this fella:

Closing the show was the ever-pioneering and always unpredictable Andy Sandoz. He began t0 question the future. What is it? I don’t know. But the past is a bitch too because it keeps coming back. Time isn’t linear, it loops. Maybe if you look at the past you’ll see the future. To explore this I thought i’d look at art to potentially identify a pattern. Perhaps we’re looking at the digital renaissance – for example Instagram, it’s a tech platform which just adds layers of feeling and time onto your photo. Craft skills are coming back. Kickstarter and similar ventures mean we are getting hands on again. And of course it’s digital that has empowered this movement.

James Bridle has a project underway entitled ‘The New Aesthetic‘ James describes it as “needing to see technologies we actually have with a new wonder. Consider this a mood-board for unknown products.” Day to day how much of what you (the audience) do all day could be automated? For example design equals moving shit around until it looks right. Surely that could be an automated process in the near future? The final thought from Andy was about the new movement. What is the title of this movement that we can embrace? ‘Contextualism‘ think about it, break the code, break the wireframe!

Even after listening to opinions of such a qualified panel of speakers I think the majority of the audience left with more questions than answers. Personally I think this was to be expected when dealing with a subject so unpredictable and ever-changing as the #DigitalRevolution.