Spring 2003

What a wind-up! Four decades of problems and ‘style’

Rewind: 40 Years of Design & Advertising

By Jeremy Myerson and Graham Vickers. Phaidon, £45.00

British Design & Art Direction – D&AD – is 40 years old and, like many a person who feels the arrival of the fifth decade to be a milestone, it has been looking back nostalgically and celebrating in style, with an exhibition at the V&A in London and one of those huge, wrist-buckling tomes from Phaidon.

For anyone with an interest in the development of visual communication in Britain, the book is unmissable. There is, to date, no history of British graphic design, so any volume that dusts off so much fine work from the archive is bound to have great inspirational value. Rewind has larger, more contradictory ambitions, though . . .

. . . What emerges . . . despite D&AD’s huffing pretensions to international leadership, is the British design business’s ingrained parochialism. The notion that a set of awards, which designers must pay to enter, can adequately describe, shape and even regulate global design practice is deeply misguided. Anyone with experience of judging these beauty pageants knows how arbitrary, superficial, unreflective and biased by hidden factors the selection process can be. In recent years, there have been some penetrating critiques of design competitions, but Rewind betrays no sign that D&AD, as a self-appointed ‘standard-setter’ for everyone, is aware of, let alone trying to address, any of these problems.