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Everything I learned from this year’s D&AD festival

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to the D&AD festival at the Old Truman Brewery in London.

There were three days of keynotes, fireside chats, workshops and masterclasses from the world of advertising, art, design, fashion, film, and much more.

The theme of this year’s festival was Shaping the Future. Throughout the three days, leaders in creativity shared their thoughts and insights on the future in the creative field across three key tracks. 

It was awesome – full of the best professionals in creativity and showcasing new talent in a series of exhibitions and fringes.

I went to a number of really great talks at D&AD, but one really stood out to me, and that was called ‘Beat The Bullshit: finding creative clarity’ by Kate van der Borgh & Matt Baxter (from the well known creative studio Baxter & Bailey).

I almost found that once I’d been to this talk, none of the others quite lived up to it – it was a mixture of super interesting content & really engaging delivery that made it so great. Kate and Matt were both obviously experts in their industry and really knew how to talk to a crowd while keeping them interested. They also made the talk really practical; making sure they summarised each section of the talk with a ‘practical tip’.

The talk

The talk focused on the title ‘Beating The Bullshit’, and the parts I found most interesting were Kate’s thoughts and research into the way we talk to each other via written communication, be that colleague to colleague, or colleague to client.

Kate spoke a lot about the danger of ‘over formalised communication’, not specifically in the creative industries, but in all industries. She emphasised that their point wasn’t that formal language is bad, but is it necessary in the context, and what is it actually adding to the communication?

Consider who is reading it, how will this make them feel? Will they understand easily what you’re trying to say? This really made me think about the way we communicate with our own clients, and how we communicate the thinking behind our work. For example:

‘I require you to review the works and detail back with your observations.’

Could be:

‘Please could you take a look at the work and come back to us with your feedback.’

Doesn’t the latter read a little easier, and make more sense? Their point was – consider the words you’re using, do they communicate better what you’re actually trying to say, or do they just sound more formal and make you sound ‘better’ than who you’re talking to? It’s so easy to misunderstand written communication, so let’s make it as simple as possible.

The next point they moved onto was my absolute favourite and felt really practical when thinking about communicating work.

They spoke about a situation where you’re trying to communicate something to someone in writing that may be tricky understand… and how this can be difficult to communicate unless the person reading it can actually imagine in their head what’s being explained. So when you’re explaining things, talk about something real, something concrete that someone can form a picture of in their head, like people and action. For example:

‘A previous business review provided evidence of decreases in efficiency as a result of time management issues. The consequence was a focused programme of people training, and the latest business review provides confirmation of significant increase in productivity.’

Could be:

‘We looked at our business and found we didn’t manage time well. Our staff are taking a training course which has helped and we’re now more productive.’

Give the person a ‘window into the world’ (I love this term) by talking about people and action, so they can actually picture what you’ve written in their head.

Overall, this talk was really practical which is what I loved most, it gave me real tips that I can use in my everyday work.

If you’re in the creative industry like us – I’d definitely recommend the D&AD festival, the talks were the best I’ve been to and there were hours worth of exhibitions to see too. One tip – get there early!

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