Will Hudson on how D&AD judging changed his mind on design competitions

14 May 2015

It’s Nice That founder and creative director Will Hudson was part of the D&AD Black Pencil jury this year. Here he is on judging one of the industry’s main awards, and why it helped change his mind about creative competitions…

At this year’s D&AD Judging Week, as well as being a judge for the Magazine and Newspaper category, I found myself on the jury for the Black Pencil, D&AD’s highest accolade. Comparing the best of the best against each other, it instantly felt like the bar was raised. Even the chairs had changed – sturdier as if to reflect the heightened significance.

In both cases though the work is judged using the same criteria – the idea, the execution and the relevance.

Everyone’s vote is anonymous and I think that’s key in making D&AD stand out from other awards. In similar processes I’ve been involved with, you get one voice that’s louder than the rest, whether that’s through passion or self-importance, but at D&AD the anonymous iPad voting meant we were free to make our own choice.

Fortunately during Black Pencil judging, it was all very amicable, and it was great to be in a room of people whose work I admire and whose opinions I respect. The most challenging part was the cross-category judging; you have to change your mindset quickly and adjust to what you’re considering, but equally you’re then comparing all the work against each other.

As well as the great work on show, the conversations that took place among the judges were fascinating. One discussion revolved around the category a piece of work we were considering was in – some people felt this discipline rarely got elevated to Black Pencil level because it wasn’t one of the “sexy” categories everyone talks about. Insights like this confirmed to me why awards like D&AD are so necessary in our line of work.

It’s important to question what separates great work from good work, but also the real reasons why we’re saying yes to something and no to something else. Are we saying yes to this because the brand usually does good work and wins awards? Is this project being neglected because its brilliance isn’t as obvious as other projects? To have the opportunity to ask these questions in a room of people I admire was fantastic in challenging and clarifying uncertainties I’m sure we’ve all had.

In the past I’ve disregarded awards like D&AD, thinking we didn’t need them because creating the work was enough. But over the years, and having now been a judge this year, I’ve realised that there is truly nothing better than being recognised by your peers as doing something right. That’s the beauty of D&AD – it’s got a history and reputation people trust and the judges are part of the same community as the people entering the awards.

Winners will be announced at the D&AD Ceremony which takes place in Battersea next Thursday, 21 May. You can get more information and buy tickets here.

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About the Author

Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site, he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded to become The HudsonBec Group.


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