Design Lions Preview

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Sylvia Vitale Rotta of Team Creatif
Sylvia Vitale Rotta of Team Creatif
In its second year at Cannes, the Design Lions saw a one-percent bump in submissions, which is not bad at all, considering all categories but Promo saw significantly fewer submissions and the festival's overall submissions dropped nearly 20 percent since last year.

In anticipation of this year's awards, we checked in with design jury president, Sylvia Vitale Rotta, CEO and cofounder of Paris-based design firm Team Creatif, and juror Marc Shillum, R/GA's director of brand design.

While the creation of the Design Lions were generally lauded for recognizing the importance of design in the brand world in 2008, post-Cannes, some, including then-jury member Jonathan Ford of Pearlfisher, challenged the next-generation award-seekers to submit true design work, instead of beautifully art directed advertising.

Marc Shillum, R/GA.
Marc Shillum, R/GA.
Below, Rotta, who also sat on the design jury last year, evaluates how 2009 submissions and the awards process in general stack up to 2008 and Shillum weighs in on his first design jury experience.

How have the Design Lions evolved from its inaugural year? Were categories rearranged to better distinguish design and advertising? What challenges were overcome this year?

Rotta: The categories did not change, even though last year's jury, which I was also part of, had strongly suggested it. The organizers preferred to keep the categories the same to be able to compare. It makes sense and is worth using 2008 as a benchmark for 2009; some good insights will come forward. What is good, however, is that agencies better understood the categories and therefore projects were better placed this year.

Last year, there was some criticism that many of the design submissions were still pretty ad-focused--Jury member Jonathan Ford of Pearlfisher had a few suggested improvements. Did you see similar trends this year as well?

Rotta:Yes, 2008 was pretty ad-focused. I'm really happy to say 2009 is sincerely more digital and design-focused.

Shillum: Was the IBM rebus poster created by Paul Rand a piece of design or a piece of advertising? Was Ladislav Sutnars posters for American Airlines either? Advertising as a description seems more about function, context and authorship than a distinction in crafts. But from this description I can say that there has been a healthy selection of more informational, self-authored design, yes.

Did more design companies enter submissions this year?

Rotta:Yes, more design companies entered submissions this year, especially France. I'm very proud of the French design world—these submissions add confidence for designers and the clients that commission design work in France.

Shillum:Hard to answer, I wasn't a judge last year. But I'm not sure we can distinguish a design company from an agency with that level of clarity. It's better to look at what is good and what is well designed.

Did more ad agencies submit "true design" work, instead of beautiful ad posters? From festival submissions, is it apparent that agencies are producing more design work in general?

Rotta:Ad agencies submitted design work, especially concerning poster and self-promotions categories. They are "designed" projects with some good creative ideas, so they deserve to win just as good design from true design agencies do.

Shillum:You mean self-made rather than outsourced, not design rather than advertising. There has been a great deal of self-authored work. I think ad agencies have always made good design: Paul Rand at Bernbach, Saul Bass at Buchanan, Brownjohn at JWT. I know even in my time at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, Robert Nakata, Gary Koepke and Betrand Floret were producing some of the best design I had ever seen. I think in some agencies, that is still true today.

How was the increasing importance of design in brand creativity reflected in the award submissions? How about in the judging?

Shillum:I've seen some quite wonderful creative expressions of brand in this year's submissions. I was specifically looking for a perfect balance between design and concept. Equally, a strong ability to solve a problem helps work stand out. Companies more than ever have to open themselves up to their customers in interesting ways to form partnerships. That was reflected in the submissions this year.

Can you identify any trends from this year's body of work?

Rotta:Two styles seem to stand out: the brightly simple, from black-and-white work to simple flat-colored work, and the very crafted work, as well as the huge impact of digital.

Shillum:A digital shift is taking hold in the heartland of brands. Graphic design is less central to this trend than the observation of behavior.

Do the Design Lions benefit or suffer from their affiliation with the preeminent advertising festival? Why?

Rotta:Design alone cannot pay or attract as much media and exposure as advertising. However, design will grow and will bring important quality to the festival, as well as exhibit the change business will undergo in the coming years to fully answer the changing needs of consumers.

Shillum:I think that the Cannes Lions are perfectly situated to dispel the myths of the old codes. Advertising is melting, design is shifting to behavior...and creativity is better for it.
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