The entries to the Cannes Lions Design category for 2020/2021 reflected how much the world around us has been affected by the pandemic and how much it has changed.  Despite the current climate of optimism and signs of pandemic recovery, I relived the pandemic all over again while judging the entries, experiencing the worst, the scariest, and the most human moments that have underscored the past few years.  As a designer, I felt immensely proud that design and creativity has the power to solve so many of these problems and to inspire action and change. I also walked away from this experience with a new understanding of what it takes for design to be considered successful in today’s world.

Incorporating Multiple Disciplines of Design 

The strongest pieces combined Service Design, Graphic Design, Experience Design, Retail Design and more, and really displayed how all aspects of design can work together to create incredible experiences. The 2021 Grand Prix Winner, H&M Looop, was a prime example of this. So many different design disciplines came together to create an effective and compelling story and the ultimate in-store retail experience. Our Business of Experience point of view at Accenture also confirms that customers want holistic experiences and that design and creativity play a key role in this experience-led transformation. 

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Design is no longer a siloed craft, but instead must come together to create impact.

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Driving Design Forward

This year, it was more than just the pieces with beautiful fonts and graphics that were award contenders. They were the pieces that were bold and brave and really used design to drive change. The best pieces pushed the design agenda forward and used design to improve the world we live in and create an environment for humans to progress. Designs that followed this shift and celebrated these ideas were the most powerful. I was surprised to see how many big brands were willing to change their most prized possession – their logo – to advocate for social good.  

As designers, we should progress our skills to match these changing priorities. We need to show that we care for our planet. We should show that design can be used to inspire political change, to protect our children, to address modern health issues and to pose solutions to so many more issues.

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Using Design to Solve Problems of Our Time

Design that addressed modern day problems such as gender inequality, climate change, politics, race, and sustainability really stood out. The 2020 Grand Prix Winner, Notpla demonstrated this with the design of food packaging made from seaweed instead of plastic. Google’s Timelapse is an incredible data visualization tool showing how our Earth has drastically changed – for the worse - over time. If anything, the entries I judged proved that design is an incredibly powerful tool to drive the agenda for change. But, I was also surprised to see that design was also used to keep things light in what is probably the most difficult moment in our lifetime. With pandemic fatigue setting in, design was used creatively to provide quarantine relief, solutions to social isolation, and, combined with technology, to bring the experience of live events right inside people’s living rooms.

The design entries from the past two years really serve as a historical record of the times we are living in, the unique challenges of our generation and how we creatively proposed solving them. And therefore, while executing at the highest level of craft was still an important criterion in judging the design submissions, we as the jury also found ourselves asking if the entry was innovative, impactful, and brave. These are the new principles that will drive the design discipline forward.

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Dida Atassi

Design Director – Interactive

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