The View From the Jury: Forest Young

ECD provides a day-by-day account of judging the ADC 95th Annual Awards Design category

Last week, the ADC Gallery played host to a phenomenal level of talent and wisdom, as the Design and Motion juries of the ADC 95th Annual Awards met to select the very best work of the past year. And while we can’t quite share with you who will be bringing home a highly coveted ADC Cube from the awards galas this June, we can give you a little taste of the experiences of the various Jury members who studied, debated and eventually choose which entries will be immortalized in ADC history.


Executive Creative Director
New York, NY
Design Jury




Day 1, The Torrent

The first day of judging the Art Directors Club 95th Annual Awards is a torrent. The 8:00am call time has nearly broken many of the jet lagged yet determined international jurors. They traveled over a combined 36,000 miles to provide a global perspective for criticism and curation. After all, this is ADC.

Catered fruit salads and omelette pastries work to quell personal hunger and the collective butterflies looming over five formidable tables. Spanning from wall to wall, these surfaces are covered by sedimentary layers of work separated by wax paper. This finely tuned run-of-show strategy is affectionately referred to as the “Lasagna method” as the award show tables resemble impeccably prepared lasagna portions. It works, people!

After an inspired welcome from ADC Board Member Brian Collins, the design jury split into two groups to divide and conquer. The instructions are simple: keep or kill. The jury is encouraged to put a sticky on the design pieces sparking visceral emotion. Nothing on the others. With over a thousand submissions, it is imperative that the jury gets large quantities of less-than-exceptional work out of the way as fast as possible. Day two will be a different animal altogether. Slash and burn. My fingers, coldly accustomed to light and frequent touching, tapping and swiping on digital screens were suddenly holding, turning, opening and tilting compelling design artifacts with considered textures, finishes and presence. Some of them.

“My fingers, coldly accustomed to light and frequent touching, tapping and swiping on digital screens were suddenly holding, turning, opening and tilting compelling design artifacts with considered textures, finishes and presence.”

Day 2, The Arc

After an initial day of high-volume elimination, day two is a welcomed change of pace. The ADC reunites the jury with the aim of creating, over the course of the day, an arc of appreciation. This arc teases out exceptional work along a 10-point scale. Not an exact science, but close. A score of 10 signals a Best-in-Show candidate, perfect and brilliant. A 9 is synonymous with being exceptional, a Gold Cube contender, and rare for a reason. 8s and 7s are great ideas with minor craft flaws. 6s are well above-average, but pale in comparison to the higher-scoring pieces. As a general rule, anything 5 or less is not going to be something anyone will fight for. iPod voting makes an otherwise tedious process feel enjoyable. Day 2 ends knowing that the jury has the ingredients for a great ADC show.

Day 3, The Show

At 9:15am, fourteen jurors eagerly wait at four roundtables. This is the moment of truth. The ADC 95th Annual Awards Design jury is the embodiment of perfect symmetry: half American and international in composition, and equal parts men and women. The disciplines of photography, illustration, branding, publication design and packaging are reflected in the expertise of one or more of the jurors.

The curation of the ADC 95 show is a highly collaborative and charged session. There is no hiding behind a device, voting tool or secret ballot. All ADC Cubes are awarded by a transparent show of hands, interspersed with spirited debate and dialogue. The Black Cube is awarded only at the discretion of the jury and must receive a unanimous vote. The Gold Cube is top of the podium, with Silver, Bronze and Merit at respective tiers. The Designism Cube is awarded to the highest-rated non profit submission.

One of my favorite aspects of day 3 is the option to use your jury wildcard to advocate for something that did not make the final round. Miracles can and do happen on Day 3. After rounds of “objective subjectivity”, arguing the relative aesthetic merits and craft superiority of a particular submission, we arrived at our show. Amen.

“Miracles can and do happen on Day 3.”

Brett McKenzie, Content Manager at ADC, treated the design jury and supporting ADC staff to an adventurous and bespoke cocktail — with pop rocks candy garnish. The three days flew by. A great time. Special thanks to Natasha Jen, our fearless design chair, and to my international design colleagues who travelled so far — from Dublin, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Palma, Oslo, Melbourne and Athens to make sure we arrived at an ADC 95 show that had breadth and perspective.

The ADC 95th Annual Awards Advertising and Digital judging takes place April 11–15, 2016.