In 1920, the Art Directors Club was founded, exclusive to the white men of New York City, "to dignify the field of business art in the eyes of artists". Over the past century, it has gone through a number of incremental changes — with a number of significant growth spurts in just the past year and a half, since the Board of Directors named Ignacio Oreamuno as its new Executive Director.
Oreamuno was an ideal candidate for an organization that realized it needed to globalize its network and expand its future-forward educational initiatives — all while celebrating the milestones of its own rich history. Born in Costa Rica, he has lived throughout Latin America, Europe and North America during his life. He launched three companies — IHAVEANIDEA, Portfolio Night, and the Tomorrow Awards — that have been absorbed into ADC because they preternaturally ticked the club's new boxes. His team from those companies merged with the inherited ADC staff to complete a holistic regime change.
For their sophomore effort, the new team had a full year to prepare for the ADC Festival of Art + Craft in Advertising and Design in Miami Beach. The theme — to re-introduce art and craft into the creative process — eschewed speeches and presentations for hands-on, cross-disciplinary workshops. Ian Padgham had participants work through his process for amazing stop-motion Vine videos, while Joshua Davis provided a spirited explanation of how to use a text editor to code vector art. Local street artist Kazilla gave out markers, watercolors and smocks along with the philosophical toolset that made her the darling of Wynwood, Miami's new epicenter for contemporary art.
Some workshops were more lecture-like. Renaissance man Javier Mariscal focused on his thousands of iPad drawings rather than the Brushes app used to create them. David Charles' documentary on artist Gary Baseman provided a prologue for a "Create your own mythical creatures," exercise (as Baseman had for himself and his father), but that task was shoehorned into the end of Baseman's speech and slideshow presentation. Which is fine. Attendees may have gotten clay under their nails when making a bust of Lionel Richie's head, but was it any more fulfilling or inspirational than the short documentary on Lee Clow? Overall, it was a balanced program that also provided opportunities for networking and socializing: from daily networking lunches and dinners at Catch, to sponsored cocktail parties from noon past midnight.
Further supporting the art and craft theme was Out of Office, a rotating l'art pour l'art gallery of paintings, photos and sculpture made by various creative directors, and Laser Cat, a massive repository of more personal art created by commercial artists and projected from an equally massive cat head.
Each evening concluded with an awards ceremony. Monday night fêted the Tomorrow Awards winners, which included Hands on Search — a search engine from Yahoo! Japan that connected a 3D printer to crowd-sourced 3D data to produce tactile representations of search words for blind children. Tuesday night at the Bass Museum of Art saw the first of two ADC cube award nights, this one relegated to photography, illustration and design. Edel Rodriguez — one of only two gold cube winners for illustration — grew up in Miami. It was somewhat of a homecoming for him. "My family came here from Cuba and my school had class trips to the Bass."
Wednesday night's ceremony, which took place at the New World Symphony space, featured the most outstanding work of the year in Motion, Interactive, and Broadcast Advertising. Let's face it — despite efforts to represent multiple disciplines and celebrate all creative fields, ADC is first and foremost an advertising club. While the night's categories of advertising, interactive and motion graphics incorporate impeccable design, photography, and illustration, it is only here that the Best in Show cube might be handed out to an agency.
Natasha Tsackos' performance piece opened with an extensive audio clip of Peter Finch's iconic speech from "Network." Written by Paddy Chayefsky 38 years ago, it takes on a chilling new relevance today. Yet more chilling were Emcee Cindy Gallop's opening comments. She recounted hosting the year prior when — looking at the ADC founders' group photo projected behind her — she remarked that the ensemble of singularly white male leadership had scarcely changed in the ensuing years. Oreamuno called her back two weeks later to ensure her that jurors for this year's awards would be evenly split between men and women. In turn, this launched the 50/50 Initiative; A call for gender parity at all industry levels that has been since been embraced by the Clios and will hopefully spread to the One Show, the D&ADs, Andys, Cannes and any juried competition. This would extend to diversity beyond gender — to race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, and all under-represented parties.
The winning entries were truly global and inspired. For every Old Spice win was a Volvo Trucks win. Indeed the biggest winner was Sweden's Forsman & Bodenfors, which took home fifteen cubes in all, including Interactive Agency of the Year, Agency of the Year, and the coveted black cube for Best in Show, which doesn't get awarded every year. Their "Live Test" series showcased Volvo Truck's commitment to safety, precision and power by putting engineers and celebrities in perilous situations with Volvo trucks. (You may have seen "The Epic Split," spot, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damm performing his signature split,feet mounted solely by gravity on two trucks' rearview mirrors as they drive slowly apart at high speed — in reverse — with the tarmac racing about 10 feet beneath him.) Another strong performer was CAA, whose "The Scarecrow" campaign for Chipotle won in a variety of categories, including a universal iOS app. The trailer for the app visually tapped into the industrialized fast food processing messages of Food Inc. while referencing a melancholy Sarah McLachlin ASPCA ad pathos, underscored by Fiona Apple's cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. On the scale of pure entertainment, Barton F. Graf 9000's appeal for Climate Name Change took the most laughs.
All seven student winners were from the School of Visual Arts and SVA took home the School of the Year Award accordingly, as they did last year and many others past. Local Miami Ad School students (many of them Art Direction majors) were in attendance and felt the pressure to up their game. As a two-year school, though, its students have historically won more ADC awards than most 4-year colleges. They tied with SVA for the School of the Year distinction in 2010.
Unlike many of the creative award businesses that have emerged since, ADC is a not-for-profit with a robust educational outreach program: at $100 per student, the organization deserves credit for making this conference affordable to most. For those students who did elect to come, attending these conferences provides a unique opportunity to build relationships and learn from professionals. Naadiya Mills, a design major from nearby Florida Atlantic University, reports, "My most memorable moment of the festival was my conversation with illustrator Renee Reeser. She spoke to everything that I have always thought and felt about art and design: that it was impactful, that it was everything and in everything. She also gave me one influential piece of advice that has now become my mantra: 'If you’re planning on something to fall back on in case your dream doesn’t work out, you’re already falling back.' Absolute Gold! Or in ADC terms: Black! The highest award there is."