9 June 2010
Some things you let pass by, others you have to challenge. The new D&AD campaign is a case in point. Part of me wants to ignore it and not even give it the time of day. I do not want to be complicit in its game and give it the oxygen of attention that it so desperately craves. However, it is probably one of the most ignorant and insensitive pieces of communication design I’ve seen in years.
The concept and imagery has split opinion. Have a look at the comments section, a good number believe the campaign to be funny and take the stance that the detractors should lighten-up. I’m afraid I can’t laugh, a set of signifiers, that in effect, conflate students and suicide is way too close home.
What is interesting is that this is yet another example of graphic design’s inability to either deal with ‘context’ or, it’s wilful denial of context. The imagery is promoting ‘New Blood’ a showcase of this year’s student talent, and it is this particular association that must render the whole campaign questionable.
Anyone who is (even remotely) involved in contemporary education will be painfully aware of the increasing number of students presenting with serious metal health issues. In higher education, “depression is endemic”, statistically and anecdotally there is a crisis. And of course, on top of all this, there is the added complication of events in Cumbria— somehow, shotguns aren’t funny either.
For me, the whole thing smacks of creative bankruptcy, a cheap and easy set of ideas that reveal a deeper structural fault within the industry as a whole. A little bit of research and a smidgen of empathy should have instantly problematized these images. The fact that they were not reveals that graphic design continues to be encumbered by its modernist legacy— obsessed with isolated design artefacts. It still struggles to fully understand the relational approach of ‘metadesign’ and the extraordinary power of networks and context.