Each year, The One Club for Creativity, a leading non-profit organisation recognising creative excellence in advertising and design, hosts the renowned Young Guns competition. Launched in 1996 as a way of showcasing emerging talent, it has grown to become one of the most prestigious awards that a young creative under 30 can win. From illustrators and animators to filmmakers and art directors, thousands from all around the world and across the creative spectrum enter the competition every year.
In the latest edition of Young Guns, 85 finalists were whittled down to a group of just 29 winners, each having impressed the judges with their enviable portfolio of work. The jury this year was made up of 100 creatives – many of whom are previous Young Guns winners – from 47 different countries, representing a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines.
Among the 29 winners was Canadian graphic designer Marie Chénier, whose practice combines typography, lettering, motion design and illustration. Working as a designer at Montréal-based design studio Caserne, Marie also spends much of her spare time on personal projects and independent work. In fact, she lists her biggest recent achievement as designing the debut album of local artist Guillaume Bordel, titled Enfanfleur. “I had the chance to be involved very early in the process and to lead all aspects of the creation, from photo direction and styling through to designing the vinyl album cover and launch campaign,” she says. “I’m very happy with how it turned out and I definitely want to do more projects like this.”
Marie’s aesthetic is ever-changing and she says she lets “each project and its unique challenges define the visual style” in order to keep her work feeling fresh. As a result, she creates room for experimentation and avoids “falling into patterns”. She goes on: “Rather than limiting myself to strict principles or trends, I try to draw inspiration from different schools of thought and play with codes from past eras to bring something new and contemporary.”
Speaking on what it was like to be a Young Guns 2023 winner, Marie tells us that “it still seems too good to be true”. Having always been impressed by the accomplishments of the previous winners, becoming one herself seems like a surreal success. “Now it seems like I’m part of that roster, so I feel very privileged and grateful,” she says.
Another of this year’s winners is Chinese illustrator Jiaqi Wang, whose colourful digital artworks are a feast for the eyes. Often composed in a maximalist style, she says “finding order in the chaos” is one of the driving forces behind her work: “I love to add details and capture moments,” she says. “Characters are a big part of my work, so I am constantly people-watching and making visual diaries of all kinds of hairstyles and fashion.”
Having worked for global brands such as Apple, Google, Adobe and Nike, and for major publications including The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, Jiaqi is yet another Young Guns winner whose young age belies their significant accomplishments. Even Jiaqi’s main current project is for a big fast-food chain, for which she is designing new merchandise.
But even for a creative with such extensive success, the Young Guns win is a special highlight. Jiaqi says she gave it a go this year because she was turning 30 and it felt like a good way to kick off the next decade. “This has been a bright start,” she tells us. “It’s definitely given me more confidence in myself.” For Jiaqi, the Young Guns awards are a great opportunity to look back at the work you have done in recent years, and to remind yourself of what you’re truly good at. “These awards also help creatives to find their voice and go on to enrich the industry,” she adds.
Filmmaking is another discipline celebrated at Young Guns, and one of this year’s winners is quickly becoming one of his generation’s most promising practitioners. New York-based director C.T. Robert is represented by renowned creative agency Partizan and has already had his work recognised by leading brands such as Google, Nike, Aperture and The New York Times. With a background in journalism and public broadcasting, he describes his signature style as “grounded”.
“I take a very documentary/journalistic approach in the stories I tell,” he explains. “I always try to tell stories that are grounded in some sort of truth and reality and I always aim to tell the most ‘honest’ version of these stories – even with things that visually push our expectations of reality.” The themes C.T. covers in his work include Black history, culture, family and beauty, and outside of his personal practice he’s even setting up a creative agency called North*Star which, among other ambitions, aims to “give Black up-and-coming filmmakers a space to thrive and learn the game.”
For C.T., receiving the Young Guns award was one of his biggest highlights of 2023. “Just knowing the legacy of winners from the past, I feel honoured to be in the mix,” he says. “I’m super confident in my work, but I can’t act like I wasn’t surprised that I was chosen as my work isn’t necessarily as flashy or trendy as a lot of other stuff.” He continues: “Being creative can often feel lonely. You spend countless hours self-analysing, criticising and overthinking your decisions… But having a north star [like the Young Guns awards] to help guide creatives who may feel lost at times is essential.”
This year’s winners will be celebrated at the Young Guns 21 Ceremony and Party at Sony Hall in New York on 15 November. Described by The One Club as a “raucous” evening, the ceremony draws in an exciting crowd of industry trailblazers, from current and past winners of Young Guns through to aspiring creatives and people simply there for a good party. It’s the perfect chance to meet potential clients and collaborators, or even just some new like-minded friends.
To see the full list of winners from Young Guns 21, and to find out how to enter next year’s awards, head over to The One Club website.
The One Club for Creativity is the world’s foremost non-profit organization whose mission is to support and celebrate the global creative community. Revenue generated from entries to its global awards shows goes back into the industry to fund programming under the organization’s four pillars: Education, Inclusion & Diversity, Gender Equality, and Creative Development.
Tess Ayano: Japanese New Yorkers (Copyright © Tess Ayano, 2023)