Do the covers to the D&AD’s annuals – full of pencils, food, and covered in tactile stuff – tell us anything about the past 45 years?
British children are routinely told that ‘it’s not about the winning, it’s all about the taking part.’ For Design & Art Direction’s members, it’s all about being ‘in book’; anyone can enter the D&AD Awards, but only designers whose work is selected for the annual publication can become a full member of the not-for-profit organisation.
The job of art directing the increasingly weighty volume is another kind of accolade (or poisoned chalice), shared by the designers whose covers grace these pages, from Alan Fletcher’s photograph of his leather portfolio for 1963’s inaugural edition to number 45, the latest, designed by Neville Brody’s Research Studios, and also the first to be produced in a complete online edition as well as the usual printed brick.
As to what the covers tell us about the past 45 years, their preoccupations include food (beans, bananas, apples, carrots), hexagonal pencils and the colour yellow. Pastiche makes regular appearances, plundering everything – the Bible, dodgy pop compilations, ersatz Victoriana – in a restless, excitable search for winning metaphors.
Sex (which according to Philip Larkin began at the same time as the D&AD) gets a look-in with a pneumatic nude by Allen Jones (1972). Recent tomes, perhaps inspired by the inflatable 1983 cover, show a fascination with finishes: dusters, pin-pricked steel and the ‘one with the suckers’ making no. 41 a book you could never pick up.
[See all 45 covers in the printed version of Eye no. 69 vol. 18. You can now buy single back issues of Eye online at the Eye shop, http://bit.ly/backissues]