DU040 – D&AD Awards – Judging New Blood – Daniel Hirschmann and Sila Nur Isik Interview
The D&AD New Blood awards are for students, grads, and aspiring creatives between 18 and 24.
Real briefs, set by real clients, judged by top creatives.
Carla interviews two fellow judges from the DNDA awards – Sila Nur Isik and Daniel Hirschmann.
They discuss new technology trends, advice for young designers and recommendations for the next generation of entrants.
The Design Untangled Podcast
Episode: DU040 – D&AD Awards – Judging New Blood – Daniel Hirschmann and Sila Nur Isik Interview
Host: Carla Lindarte
Guest: Daniel Hirschmann and Sila Nur Isik, D&AD Award judges
Duration: 31:01 minutes
May 13, 2019
(00:17) Carla: Hello everyone. I am here with Daniel and Sila. We have been in a room for about, how many hours?
(00:24) Daniel: Gosh, a couple of them, and that is all I can say. More than one, less than ten.
(00:28) Carla: Four or five hours judging at the D&AD New Blood 2019 Awards. We had to go through, how many applications was it?
(00:41) Sila: Twenty-five.
(00:41) Carla: Twenty-five applications or submissions. And it was quite interesting to see where people, thoughts are in terms of the use of technology. So if people do not know what the D&AD Awards are, it is a very traditional design, an award that has happened for 40 years, I think.
(00:58) Daniel: New Blood is the 40th year next year, but the D&AD itself, I think is 60 something, as again, that is a number you should check.
(01:06) Carla: Yes, it does not matter. So how it works is that brands put out some briefs. So brands that sponsor the awards put out some briefs and students throughout the world. Answer to the brief, so today we were looking at these admissions of Coots.
(01:28) Daniel: It is one of the oldest banks in the world.
(01:29) Carla: Yes. One of the banks in the world. And I am here with Daniel and Sila, as I said, because they have been a judge, like myself are going through all these submissions today. So first of all, let us start with a little bit of about yourself. So Sila do you just want to tell me, what you do and why do you think you are here?
(01:49) Sila: Yes, I am Sila, I am from Turkey. I am from Istanbul. I am a designer by background as well. I came to London for my graphic design masters here and then I started working as a designer but then jumped into advertising. And then I set up my own agency. I ran it for five years as a digital creative agency. And then I pivoted the whole idea into going more on the technology side of things and trying to bring agencies together with creative technologies so that they can actually lift their creative pitches in front of their clients. So now I am working in that area, in between.
(02:28) Carla: That is really cool. What about you?
(02:31) Daniel: So my name is Daniel Hirschmann. I am the cofounder of a toy company called Tech Will Save Us, which we make kids toys that help them to learn how to become creative with technology. And I am actually wearing my other hats, which is the CEO of a company called Hersh and Mann, where we build a experiential interventions for various brands. Where we elevate a technology for the sake of a meaningful experience for the customers of that particular brand. That often happens in retail, at events, and sometimes even in cultural spaces.
(03:02) Carla: Oh, that sounds like a really cool job. So is this your first time here being a judge or have you been a judge before in D&AD?
(03:11) Daniel: My first time as a New Blood judge. Way back in almost a previous life, I was a judge for the festival, but that was so long ago, I almost forgotten that.
(03:23) Carla: Showing our age. Don’t tell anyone.
(03:26) Sila: It is my second time as a New Blood judge. I was here again two years ago, judging for a BBC brief.
(03:32) Carla: Okay. Has it changed a lot, or no?
(03:35) Sila: The process of the D&AD? No, I do not think it changed a lot. It was the same process just sitting here looking, going through the work together and just discussing how we feel about it. I think it is very similar to that.
(03:49) Carla: This was my first time actually. So I found it very interesting the way it works and it is very, very cool to see, all different minds, and young minds thinking differently about the problems that you actually see in an agency, or in your own work. So what were the biggest strengths that you saw today, happening in the submissions? Who wants to go first?
(04:15) Sila: Well, I can say that the students are definitely exposed to the new trends, which are wearables, AI, what else? The voice technologies, as well. So they were trying to touch on that while they are answering the brief. So I think that was one. Especially the mobile apps together with voice recognition and a bit of AI touch as well. That was like the main trend that we were seeing repetitively today. So yeah, I think that was one.
(04:48) Carla: Do you think is a good thing or a bad thing?
(04:50) Sila: It is good to touch up on that, as the industry is definitely there. But the question is, is it just for the technology sake of doing things or just looking into the technology, understanding the technology and if it is really beneficial for the brand. And the brief itself is the main question here, that they were trying to struggle deciding on, as well.
(05:14) Carla: Yes, that is what I saw as well. A lot of like tech-led ideas.
(05:17) Daniel: Yes, just to add to what Sila was saying, AI was definitely the most regularly thrown around term and technology. I would say the majority of which, did not fully genuinely understand the application of that technology. And I think that is one of the struggles that a brief which is intended to celebrate or make use of more contemporary on new technology, you tend to get mistakes like that, where people will throw around technology for technology’s sake. The concept of that technology will be used. What I found really interesting, this is for Coots, which is a bank. Blockchain, which is obviously something that you would expect to hear a lot about in relation to banks, was mentioned by only one of the applicants. And that I found quite surprising because it seems to be almost a given that at least a reference to that. I know it is complicated to understand how it works, but it has been around long enough now, and demystified enough for what I would expect to have seen, which is a few more making use of that technology. A couple of notes on the voice. The voice stuff I think was interesting. Mentioning an assistant take like, Cortana, or Google Home, and Alexa, that was not as much of a trend, as I have may have expected it to be. I mean, in fairness it was for a bank. So how much are you allow to access by those tools?
(06:41) Carla: Especially, that type of bank.
(06:41) Daniel: Exactly. But I thought, those are very in vogue at the moment. Those sorts of voice activated assistants in one’s home. Are very meaningful and well, they are, at least everywhere now, and they are a growing trend at the moment. And the value of them in our lives is increasing at the moment. So I think I would have expected that to be a bit more present in the applicants.
(07:06) Carla: Yes, a lot of wearable stuff, which is weird to hear that. It sounds like a trend that has been going on for a while, but actually dying right now rather than increasing?
(07:21) Daniel: I think the interesting thing about these trends, the hot terms, wearables and IOT, then blockchain, these are all very, very exciting in vogue terms that that always happens before. What happens when people talk about those things is there is a real drive, and interest, and focus in these kinds of technologies or these worlds. But really it takes five plus years quite often for them to truly take on. So, people were talking about IOT what, like four years ago, I guess, now we are seeing the homes sort of starting to be a bit more intelligently connected and that is exciting. But is it new tech? Actually, yes it is, to us as consumers it is 100% new tech, but for the people who are at the edges of what is currently being spoken about in technology. It is old. Which I find that is a weird dichotomy, right?
(08:09) Carla: That is so true because maybe because we have been in this industry for a while. We see that as a being old, but you are right, perhaps is not old because it is actually happening right now, and maybe we saw it as something that was coming out, but it is actually, now happening.
(08:26) Sila: Also, imagine the students receiving this brief, which includes awarding, like you will have to come up with new and innovative technology solution for this brief. So imagine yourself and not being in the industry practically, just searching for what is out there right now, what are the new technologies? Then you will actually find AI, visual search or voice search, all of these keywords. And I think that was their starting points, just to match the brief. And then, for us, maybe as judges we are too much into it and just seeing, oh actually this was done before or it is not well thought of. But from their point of view, I think that is considered as very new, emerging, as well.
(09:12) Daniel: One thing I will just add to that though, is I think that perhaps one of the recommendations that would make for students doing this sort of thing in the future, is, you should be putting the technology into some, and this goes back to almost the first comment that was made. You put the technology in that is right for the concept you are trying to deliver on. And do not pepper it with other technologies because that does not get you more points, right? You do not get the technology points for every single time you mentioned a really hot term. Rather, it is a great execution that leverages a technology in the right way to deliver an awesome concept, that is what you want to try and get right. If it may be one technology that happens to be contemporary or quite new, but it is a great execution using that technology, man, that would have won everything. And I think we tend to want to try and like convince people that we understand new tech by throwing lots of it at the idea.
(10:07) Carla: But that does not happen only in the students. And that happens everywhere. You talk to people, they all throw the same words.
(10:14) Sila: It is actually, you should nail the idea. And then, with the technology, you just enhance the execution and the delivery of it. So that is the sequence of thinking.
(10:26) Carla: For the winner today, obviously we are not going to say, who is the winner. But for the winner today, what I thought it was…
(10:34) Daniel: Wait a second, there was a winner?
(10:38) Carla: Yes! What I thought the successful part of the idea was the connection between an insight and a concept rather than technology itself. So something that I saw in a lot of their submissions was like tech, tech, tech, and then at the end, let us show you some research of why we came up with this idea, but it did not really link. So I think, I do not know what you guys’ thoughts are, but rather than solely focusing on the tech, as you said, it is like the simplicity of traditionally, when you come up with creativity is, you start from an insight. So just working on that insight first, and simplifying it, and coming up with a good idea to answer it. I though that was the best execution, if that makes sense. So would you agree with that?
(11:23) Daniel: Yes, I think it is an interesting one, because on the one hand, I guess Apple says this, “if they were to get user feedback, they would not design”, oh, what was this, sorry, there is a great quote by Henry Ford, right? It is the, “if we would have asked people what they needed, they would have wanted faster horses. Instead we made the cars.” So, there is a little bit of both of those things. On the one hand, you definitely, an insight should drive, an insight related to a particular brief or question, should definitely help you to drive why you may approach something in a particular way, and then you attach the technologies as required to that. But at the same time you may just have another of really awesome idea that you want to explore and express. My point is I do not recommend only doing it the one way. It is worth kind of having that big blue sky thinking, even for a moment. So you can just explore what is possible, and then realize maybe, that does not work at all. Or maybe there is something there that you can apply to the other ideas that you were coming up with. So, I hear you, but I definitely think do not discount the other way.
(12:33) Sila: When you talk to the clients anyway, at the end of the day, you will hear back about what is doable, what is not. Even in this judging process today, we had someone representing the clients here and it was great as having a soundboard kind of person, who is actually saying, well, this insight is not correct, or because as judges, we are not in that industry. We do not really know their rules and regulations. It sis banking, it is a bit mysterious, it is not very well wide ope,n to know. So it was great to have that kind of viewpoint as well to actually take everything back to the brief, and to actually what they want, validate the insights, and that is how we come up with the winners actually.
(13:20) Carla: Yes. It is also a very hard audience to research. For normal students to be able to tap into millionaires which are actually the people who bank with this bank. It is a hard audience, but there is still data available to help you shape your idea.
(13:40) Daniel: Exactly. I think the fact of matter is, we are living in a world now where you have access to a lot of insight. Whether that insight is correct or not is another issue entirely, but the fact is you can still find nubs of ideas or valuable metrics you can apply to whatever you are trying to come up with. Again, whether that is believable data is another point entirely. So even though it was a difficult audience, I kind of agree that it would be great. It is great when you saw people gathering insights and sharing those as the things that helped them to shape their ideas. It definitely helped.
(14:17) Sila: Well, some of those insights as well were surprising to the judges too. If you remember looking at some of the applicants. Some people were pointing out, oh, even if the work itself is not a good execution, they will point out this is a great insight. How did they think of just looking into that particular place basically. So it was actually surprising some of the judges as well. So it was great research done by some of the students.
(14:46) Carla: I felt if you were to combine bits of different ideas into one idea, it would have been a very good result.
(14:53) Sila: Yes, exactly.
(14:54) Daniel: Absolutely, I think that there were moments where, I think an idea may have been, how do I say this? There were ideas that probably were intended for one thing and we saw it as something entirely different. And in some cases it was a better idea, the way we understood it, than the way they intended it. And other cases it was the opposite. But what that speaks to for me is, it is really important. This is student work. It is amazing what kind of work we were seeing? Some work was not great, and some of it was really outstanding, and you remember it is a student, you kind of be like, oh wow, that is actually quite impressive what they were able to come up with, without any of that professional experience. But what I would always recommend is you should show the work that you are about to present as your application, to somebody who has no idea what it is you are doing, so that they can at least let you know, hey, do they understand the brief? Have they answered the brief? Are there any obvious holes in the proposal that they are coming up with? Visually, does it tell the story in the right way? And if you get the checkbox from your friend or whomever it is that did that assessment, then you can submit it. But quite often we do things so last minute, we do not give ourselves that space and time to review things. But I highly recommend, make sure that somebody else has sense checked whether or not the idea you are trying to get across, is what they understood.
(16:22) Carla: Testing it. They should test their idea and the final outputs before they submit them.
(16:29) Sila: Show it to some other people, just get their opinion, if it is clear enough, because what we were struggling with some of the applicants, as they had, it does not matter how many slides you have, or you presented with the video, or the format obviously depends on your idea. But some of them, we really struggled to just understand from the copy that they write. Or some of them were really detailed and too much information that was not enough for all these judges in one room, with having maybe two minutes each of looking at one project. So just be clear as you can, basically, to convey the idea.
(17:08) Carla: Yes, concise. I think it was a good thing that people think about, oh, they believe that showing the design process end-to-end is valuable on a word submission. So what I mean is, that we saw a lot of detailed design and pictures of workshops that they have done together, and flows, et cetera. Which I think, it is valid in an academic context, but as you said, we only have two minutes. We are reading off a screen, and people tend to not engage with that level of detail as much. So, even though maybe the work and the ideas were great, I wonder how much on the execution is actually, potentially more valuable for you to be shortlisted?
(17:56) Daniel: It is a good question. It is that balance between execution focus, versus concept development. Honestly, my personal opinion is you focus on concept development first, and execute what you need to other concepts. So it is clear and concise to your point. What we busy discussing, there were a couple of really great demonstrations of high end, well let us call it high end execution. Somebody who really knows how to do great wire frames, graphics, tell a user story however they need to do it, in a way that feels professional. But they were doing such a great execution for an idea that just did not let. And, so that is why if you focus on getting the idea right, then you execute what you needed to tell that idea. Then, that is it. Just remember two minutes, to you guys’ point. It is just two minutes that somebody has to absorb that information. And by the same token, we will make mistakes. Unfortunately, this is still a subjective scenario. We are still judging based on what we know, and what we feel, and what we have seen, in that day. And so, if you are a student listening to this, is my apology for those of you who did not get what you were hoping to. That does not mean that the work that you do is not great. It just means that in this moment, with this group of people, it did not land according to what we were expecting from the brief. So, the execution may have been brilliant. I am telling you, there is some big things that did not go through that had amazing execution. I would hire those people, but not for concept development.
(19:28) Sila: And also during the discussions as well, looking at just the execution. If there was a video, for example, just explaining the whole thing. There were some questions from the judges at the end asking, so what is the insight? We do not know where did they come from, to this, because they left it out. If you are doing a video, fine. But then you have to mention some of the facts or figures, or where do you get that insight, that feedback? So it matches with the idea that you are trying to put forward. Because unfortunately, some of them, although they had great ideas or executions, the judges were puzzled at the end asking, but how did they come up with this? Or what are they based on? So that should not be left out in those kinds of presentations.
(20:16) Carla: And you leave room for interpretations, because there was a video that we were all discussing. I had a completely different interpretation to all the people who had different interpretation. You should not really do that in an award submission, because you really want people to understand your ideas you just mentioned. But it was great. I think it was an excellent experience. It was my first time, and I would do it definitely again. It is really inspiring to see people coming out with new ideas and answers to problems. Just to wrap up? So where do you see, the new breed of designers focusing on, in the next five to ten years.
(20:55) Daniel: Wow.
(20:56) Carla: Who wants to start?
(20:56) Daniel: That is a tough one. Newbie designers. Okay. So, we have a really interesting challenge these days because there is so many different things going on in digital. It is getting deeper and deeper, and wider and wider. And the pond is so much bigger, that you do not know which fish you want to be in it. And I think that is a really interesting world that we are growing into. It means that we are getting more, and more of these. There is a great stat that we often reference, which is something like 60 or 75% of kids today will have jobs that have not yet been invented and things like that. So, if you ask me what kind of designers are we expecting to see in the future, I would not be able to answer. But maybe there is personality designers for AI, you know, things like that become super interesting. I cannot wait to find out what they are. It is going be so fascinating. When I was growing up and when I was in uni, the concept of a viral seeder as a job was such a different, like what does that even mean? But then, seven years ago that was a job description I saw online. I was like, oh my goodness, this thing is a real need. People get paid to do this? What a concept. You are paid to be an influencer? What does that mean? So it is a whole lot of changes that have affected our world, to be a designer within that. I think it is just as exciting because there is so many new areas, and environments within which one can be a designer. I think personally speaking 100% -based on what I believe in, and I am passionate about, I hope to see more and more physical, tangible experience design coming back. So it is not all so digital and screen oriented. I really feel we often forget that we live in the world, and so I want to make sure that, the designers that I am personally interested in, are those who have a great way to balance between digital and physical, because in the world is where the real magic happens. Let us be honest.
(22:56) Carla: Definitely I agree with you. I think when you look at the UI design, app design, et cetera, it is very difficult to really say this is amazingly different. Like everything, I think web and app design has become, so same-y, if that is a word. And that it is hard to say is this actually groundbreaking? Because everything is just so functional and I actually, absolutely agree with you, going outside of digital and making it more physical and connecting technology to that. I think is a great area.
(23:32) Daniel: Unfortunately, just more expensive. That is the unfortunate thing.
(23:35) Carla: No. Maybe we would not be in the future. What about you?
(23:38) Sila: I was thinking as well, in terms of, in the past when I was working as a designer we were looking at basically knowing all the design principles and executing them at a high level. Plus a bit of creativity, will do the work, and we will do our own research. What would be the client guidelines of course, it is still going on. But nowadays, there is this other thing which is the fast pace ecosystem. It is what they call the expectation economy, people are always finding out new apps, new ways of service design. And so people are constantly exposed to it. So as a designer, I also suggest looking at where the world is going, trying to be there when it happens. So then to reflect that knowledge and insight back into your design because only those ones actually make the cut at the end of the day. Not everything is too much personalized. They are trying to get feedback from each and every individual that is using your app, or using your website. Like the world is obsessed with gathering that data and just understanding how efficient is their design. So in that environment, then you have to go on that personal level and understand how people are receiving your app. And just knowing those trends and just answering back to the people, to get a high satisfaction level. I think that is a challenge but also, the way that, as he said as well, now we are exposed to that insights, it is transparent now. In the past, we did not know as much. We were just like this is a great design. Let us just print it out and then you would not really know, the perception of it out of focus groups and all. But now, you have, sensors on billboards, like how many people are looking at it? Where does their eyes see. Online as well. These heat maps tracking. It is great to be a designer maybe at this age with this expose of information, to actually make yourself better, and better. Everyday optimize yourself, as well, as a designer.
(25:48) Carla: I think that is a very good point because I was surprised about the lack of data understanding. A lot of the ideas were great, but how do you track that? How do you make sure it is actually going to be feasible? How you think about data to enhance that. And then all these data is available. Traditionally, data is not something that creatives would look at. Actually now, more than ever, it is important that creatives having an understanding of that. That it exists. Not necessarily getting the too complex, but understanding what they can actually track, and how they can make the products much better.
(26:26) Daniel: I think data visualization is the design version of what, that is how it started, I guess. But I am hearing what you are saying, and I also think to myself, you know, these a students right now, how can they know all these things? I mean, yes, I have expectations. I expect to [inaudible 00:26:41] everything all the time. But the reality is, that is not how it is. You need to have somebody who truly understands the value of data, analytics and being able to do that optimization. People who truly get that, are not necessarily the designers, but working with the designers to find the best pathway to get that optimization. So it is about partnering with the right talent. And so what I would say to that is, I recommend finding the people that your colleagues, your peers, people who are really good at those things, or may not even be designers, but have a really interesting insight around an approach to understanding a system, or an idea, or testing that idea, and then utilize those processes that they use, in your own work. So it is in the same way in the world, you have biomimicry as an approach to kind of mixing and matching different kinds of really interesting phenomena in the natural world. And doing that with technology. I think you could be doing that same thing in, across different roles in business. That was a hell of a crazy statement at the end. I am sorry, but I just think it is interesting. We are all collaborating with each other, all the time, anyway. We have to.
(28:03) Carla: I think the silo-y of the world, that we had before, even from a basic, or you go from UX to UI, it does not exist anymore. Everything is all about collaboration. So I would say, just to finalize, and wrap up, one of my biggest advice for people, future designers is to get to understanding data better for yourself. Even if you do not do the current change, you have to, you have to understand data. That is my advice. What other advise would you give to designers? Obviously as students, and as well as like designers that are currently on their jobs right now.
(28:42) Daniel: My advice would be to, we are absorbing so much information visually, particularly these days, that I would advise you to not forget to go and experience things in the real world. Because those are the things that will probably stay with you longer. And they will inform the decisions you might make. Or they might influence you in different ways. Do not get me wrong. The digital stuff that you see and absorb is incredible and so much of it. But it is, that so much of it issue, that, how do you sort through it all. Whereas, a physical, tangible in the world experience is something that is quite unique in its own right. I know I am banging on about that, but I really think, do not forget the world. There is so much that has inspired the people whose shoulders we are currently standing on, that came from all this real world stuff. So it is still out there. Do not forget about it.
(29:38) Sila: Yes. I have a comment as well. I would say, and be where the audience is. So when you are really consumed much into your own work, maybe sitting in a studio with some fellow designers in an agency or anywhere, you should still have a part of you, as you say, to get out in the real life and be. Actually, where you want to target, is where you should be as well. Just to understand what is the actual needs of your design or your service. So if you do not nail that, the amount of work that you do at the end of the day would not work as much. So that is what you should not forget basically.
(30:21) Carla: And I think that is what made the winner of today, be the winner. It is just trying to understand the human behavior, and created something for that.
(30:31) Daniel: And the winner was… I am joking.
(30:31) Carla: Oh no! All right, well thank you so much guys. Unless you want to add something else. No? Thank you so much for this it was great. Okay, thank you.
(30:40) Daniel: Bye.
(30:40) Carla: Bye.
Narrator: Search and subscribe to Design Untangled using your favorite podcast app and leave us a review. Follow us on the web at designuntangled.co.uk or on Twitter @designuntangled. Become a better designer with online mentoring at uxmentor.me.