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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables (detail)

Work / Opinion

Why the ugly fruit campaign richly deserves its Designs of the Year win

After the Design Museum names its six category winners for the 2015 Designs of the Year, Rob Alderson argues that the victor in the graphics section is a very worthy winner. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below.

And so 76 became six, as the Design Museum jury announced its Designs of the Year category winners across graphics, digital, transport, fashion, architecture and product. As ever there’s lots of chat among the design community about the rights and wrongs of the six selections and the reality is that choosing the “best designs” is always going to be a subjective process. But I was particularly pleased to see Marcel’s Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign top the graphics category and not just for selfish reasons (to get the full disclosure out of the way we were an early champion of the project, it appeared in our 2014 It’s Nice That Annual and it was nominated for DOTY by our managing director Alex Bec).

The campaign for the Intermarché supermarket was to advertise its 30% price cut for “ugly” fruit and vegetables, to make shoppers think about food waste and the amount of products that go unsold because they don’t conform to unrealistic aesthetic norms.

The relationship between design and advertising is not straightforward. D&AD – as per its name – separates the two quite distinctly, suggesting that advertising and design should be judged on quite different criteria. DOTY doesn’t, and this has opened up Marcel’s victory to some questioning.

Over on Creative Review, Rachael Steven wrote that the Marcel initiative was “an odd choice of winner,” and suggested its success might be down to either its “worthiness” or for hitting a zeitgeisty appreciation for food waste initiatives. “The print ads are well designed, and it is a strong campaign” she continues, “but the idea itself seems the strongest element, rather than the craft behind it – particularly when placed against extensive identity systems, handcrafted books and a radically different approach to banknote design."

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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

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Marcel: Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

I’d go in to bat on Marcel’s behalf for two reasons. Firstly I think idea and craft need to be taken together – a mischievous extrapolation of Rachael’s comment is that it would be fine if the craft was much stronger than the idea, just not the other way round. But secondly and most importantly I don’t think the craft lets down the Intermarché ads. Patrice de Villiers’ photographs celebrate the imperfection of these edibles using the same visual vernacular that traditional food stylists employ, and through this (seemingly simple) decision, she celebrates their oddities without resorting to cheap finger-pointing.

The copy is great, the look and layout is eye-catching and it all goes towards making a difference – pretty sound criteria for award-winning design I’d argue.

I sometimes struggle to champion the graphics category in DOTY when it comes to a straight shootout with, say, the Portable Eye Examination Kit which won the product category last year. So it’s great to have a graphics winner that has a genuinely, genuinely, useful end-goal (which ins’t to denigrate the magazines or identity system or pretty banknotes with which Marcel’s campaign was competing).

This is a fine winner, and a fine moment to celebrate graphics’ – and in particular advertising’s – creatively-led capacity for good.