Bucking the trend is a trend

Dave Birss, writer, speaker, advisor

26 April 2018

The worlds of design and advertising are populated by two kinds of people: those who’ve been in a D&AD annual and those who haven’t.

Their stubby little wooden pencils spur people on to try harder and come up with better ideas. So I was massively flattered when D&AD asked me to help write a trends report a few months ago.

A small team of us, including Luc Benyon and Victoria Foster, went  through the best work of the last couple of years to find the common threads and predominant influences. And we narrowed it down to three main trends:

  • What is human? – about making people the best they can be and driving equality
  • Fractured society – about reacting to negative elements in the political and social climate
  • Access all areas – about redefining and reinventing media channels

These trends aren’t some hokey, futuristic prediction of what will happen in the industry; they’re documenting what is affecting the work that is being produced now. They’re revealing the elements that make work powerful and relevant. They’re showing people where to dig rather than what to do.

You can download the report right here to see for yourself.


I’ve been interested in this area for a long time. For nearly ten years I’ve been running sessions for agencies and marketers to show them how they can learn from great work. These sessions are all about helping people find lessons they can apply to their own work rather than identify cool things to plagiarise. From experience, it makes a big difference to the kind of ideas people generate. (Drop me a line if you fancy a bit of that!)

Yesterday, I ran a session on the three trends and the opportunities they offer at the D&AD Festival. It was unexpectedly popular, with almost as many people standing at the back of the venue as filling the seats. Thank you to everyone who attended!


I was joined onstage by Andy Sandoz (former D&AD President) and Kath Tudball (D&AD Trustee) to talk about the trends, how useful they are for directing people’s thinking and how they might evolve in the future.

Some of the things we talked about include:

Companies have a responsibility to improve the world

Just like humans, companies (which are merely a collection of humans) should be trying to make the world better. For everyone. Especially their audience. And there are lots of opportunities to do that, whatever area you operate in.

It’s important to have an opinion

Brands have a point of view by their very existence. So they should have a point of view on things that affect their audience too. Admittedly, this may alienate some people but it will also deepen the connection with a larger part of their audience.

Agencies’ persuasion skills should be applied to good causes

In recent years we’ve seen charities take branding and marketing more seriously. They’ve been successfully working with agencies to make their work more effective. There are big opportunities here for both agencies and charities.

We need to keep breaking the rules

Zigging when others zag has always been at the heart of great creative work. We need more punks and pirates to keep doing that. And more clients to be willing to break out of their unnecessarily restrictive comfort zones.

The opportunities are everywhere

It’s not about new media and old media. Every form of media holds a bunch of opportunities if you know how to look for them. It’s all about being different to everyone else.

After going through the trends, we looked at some of this year’s awarded work and showed that the trends are every bit as relevant now.

Here’s an example for each of the trends. (Click on the images to see the case study films on the D&AD site.)

WHAT IS HUMAN? – Driving equality

FRACTURED SOCIETY – Moving the moral compass

ACCESS ALL AREAS – Subverting the channels

We’re talking about continuing to evolve this trends document. So hopefully we’ll be back soon with more insight into the minds of the creative industries.

In the meantime, make sure you download this report and use it to help you come up with more relevant and meaningful ideas.