British Design and Art Direction
176 pages, $63.00
Long copy is dead, says John Hegarty. Hell, just about any copy is dead. If you don't believe this, read his Viewpoint piece in last month's Creativity. Of course, it's easy for Hegarty to stand up in front of the One Club and tell aspiring ADs and CWs that print advertising has to learn to communicate more quickly, more succinctly and more visually, because he's an art director, and an influential one at that.
Here's proof: while he can deliver a polite slight to D&AD's The Copy Book, which was published last year, he's also one of only 28 art directors worldwide included in D&AD's companion volume, The Art Direction Book, which was released in London in February.
The second title in D&AD's aptly-named Mastercraft series, The Art Direction Book is, as you'd expect, a beautifully produced, oversized hard- backed gem, perfect for that coffee table in your creative director's office. Its clean, simple spine will be easily noticed by anyone silently scanning your bookshelves while visiting your office or cube. Set it up right there between your complete collection of the last two dozen issues of CA and your copy of Chiat/Day: The First 20 Years and your guests will discern you as the learned student of advertising that you clearly must be. On top of this, it's a pretty neat book, too.
Subtitled, "How 28 of the world's best creatives art direct their advertising," and designed by Peartree Design Associates in London, The Art Direction Book is a whopping compendium of great print art direction, culled from the portfolios of a roster of world-class ADs, most of them, obviously, English (with the occasional stray Aussie thrown in). Of the 28 talents covered, six made their names here: Helmut Krone, Bill Taupin, Amil Gargano, Sam Scali, Nancy Rice and Warren Eakins.
Their work is laid out in a simple, clean design, with a minimum of text, as befits a book about art direction. Each section includes a photograph of the art director, a short, often funny career recap and then each AD's own pearls of wisdom on the advertising craft, followed by page after page of print work. Writers will be pleased to note that much of it is produced large enough that they can even make out the copy, which is nice, even though we now know copy is dead. Only a few TV spots are included, mercifully, and they all belong to Paul Arden.
As you might expect when reading helpful hints from award-winning art directors, the writing isn't all that captivating, and much of it is somewhat predictable. Certain themes recur frequently (such as admonishments to not be complacent, work with good people, seek new perspectives, etc.), and they range from wordy to austere: Steve Dunn, a veteran of both Wieden & Kennedy and Leagas Delaney, writes a tome, Arden a tidbit. Ron Collins, the C in London's WCRS, sums up one oft-repeated viewpoint by writing, "Paradoxically, the last place you should look for 'inspiration' is this week's style magazine or last year's D&AD annual. Original thinkers are eclectic and inquiring: they are not copycats."
One interesting theme that emerges from the comments of these renowned art directors is the role of visual vs. verbal communication, of how the design of a printed message adds so much nuance and tone to what it actually has to say-or, more frequently, has to communicate the message entirely on its own. "Visual language is more important than the word," writes Eakins, a former Wieden & Kennedy art director who is now pursuing a film directing career. "We see before we can read. In all communication using type we perceive the look, style and attitude of the letters before we read the message. Visual language is universal, communicating across culture and language barriers."
And of course, another recurrent theme is the seemingly apparent but nonetheless easy-to-overlook primacy of the idea, which brings us back to John Hegarty: "Sadly, this is being forgotten by many art directors and award shows that increasingly give out gongs for craft," he writes. "Without an idea, art direction is nothing but candy floss. It melts to nothing under the heat of scrutiny."
If anything, the book seems a little light on contemporary work, and particularly light on its inclusion of younger American art directors (where's Todd Tilford, Jeff Weiss, Gary Goldsmith, Chad Farmer, Michael Prieve or Bob Barrie, for instance?). On the other hand, a fair amount of the U.K. work seems quite recent and fresh, and may well turn up in next year's awards-show annuals, which means you can get a jump on them by scoring a copy of this book now.
To order The Art Direction Book, call D&AD in London, 011/44/171-582-6487, or