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D&AD New Blood 2014: Judge Graham Shearsby on what makes a winner

Last week we heard from someone who won a D&AD New Blood award in 2013, and heard how it catalysed his young career. This week – with the application deadline less than five weeks away – it’s time to hear from one of the judges. Graham Shearsby is executive creative director of Design Bridge, an organisation with a longstanding relationship with D&AD, both in setting briefs and picking winners.

You can see all the briefs over on the New Blood site, and read Graham’s insights below…

Graham Shearsby

We believe in growing our own talent at Design Bridge and encouraging the next generation of creators. The D&AD New Blood Awards and events are a fantastic showcase of 21st Century future industry stars. It’s vital the creative community gives a little time, encouragement and hopefully a chance of the first foot on the creative ladder.

From a personal perspective, judging at New Blood is a huge responsibility, a balance of firm but fair, and a generosity of spirit and encouragement. Our judgement criteria are absolutely the same as the Professional Awards. Is it a brilliant idea, is the execution great and have you answered the brief? All the while you remember you are judging youthful imagination, not well-honed and experienced creative minds.

So what are we looking for – what’s going to get you a Yellow Pencil? Well, the shock of the new; really original thinking. In this age of mass saturation of visual image, truly original thinking is increasingly rare to find, but the real gems shine through. Remember that a jury will be looking through hundreds of entries, so your work really has to fight for attention and steal our hearts and minds.

From a branding and packaging point of view, ask yourself, is your idea powerful enough? Can it adapt and come to life across other media? Make sure your presentation is clear, insightful and inspirational, with a strong narrative that guides us through and sets up your solution. Make sure you craft every detail thoroughly. Fully research the category you’re working in and beware of generic trends out there! Go the extra mile to really bring your idea to life i.e. make mock-up designs, photograph in situ, show next to competitors if relevant. Convince us and seduce us, make us think: “I wish I’d done that!”

“Our judgement criteria are absolutely the same as the Professional Awards. Is it a brilliant idea, is the execution great and have you answered the brief?”

Graham Shearsby

Over the past two years we have recruited three New Blood Pencil winners – Melissa Preston (Edinburgh Napier University), Morgan Swain (Norwich University College of the Arts) and Chris Algar (Lincoln University). All their work hit the brief on the head, and surprised and delighted all judges with their broader thinking, adaptability, refreshingly different solutions and beautifully crafted and executed presentations.

As well as winning a Pencil for last year’s applied graphics brief, I met Morgan at the Diageo-sponsored Academy in 2013, and I’m thrilled she is now working on two live Diageo briefs.

I spotted Chris work when voting for Student of the Year – it was a unanimous decision that his V&A work captured imaginations with its timeless beauty.

Melissa picked up a Pencil in 2012 for challenging category conventions for Scotch whisky, for a Design Bridge-set brief in packaging – she is now applying this thinking to live innovation projects.

So in summary future creators: it’s tough out there, there’s a lot of competition but there are plenty of opportunities if you get out and make us aware of your work. Be keen, be original, work hard and be nice to people.


Graham Shearsby with Melissa Preston


The New Blood Academy 2013 with Diageo


The New Blood Academy 2013 with Diageo