When my daughter was doing her Design Technology A level she showed me a great design for a CD rack.

She just cut 30 slits in a piece of wood and leant it against the wall.

So, by a cantilever effect, the CDs supported themselves.

I thought that was really smart.

Just one simple piece that did the job.

No assembly, no brackets, no glue, no screws.

A great example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s maxim, ‘less is more’.

Then the teacher told her, if she actually submitted it she’d get an ‘F’.

I asked the teacher how could that be, it was such a good design?

He said, “It may be a good design, but it shows no evidence of understanding different manufacturing techniques.

It doesn’t demonstrate knowledge of pressure moulding, metallic properties, extrusion forming, etc.”

I said, “But the course is called DESIGN technology. Don’t you give marks for design?”

He said, “Design is subjective. Most marks are given for things which can be learned and demonstrated.”

So that’s what gets the good marks in DT.

Not the D, but the T.

A few years later I went to see my son’s art teacher.

She’d just given him a ‘C’ in his mock A level exam.

I asked why that was, given that the art itself was really good.

She unfolded the marking chart and showed me that he hadn’t fulfilled all the criteria.

She said, “There are marks for using different media: oil paints, photography, charcoal, etc.

Marks for drawing influence from different cultures.

Marks for drawing influence from different historical periods.

Marks for demonstrating knowledge of different art movements. Etc.”

So I said to her, “You mean the more of these things he puts in his piece of art, the more marks he’ll get?”

She said, “Basically, yes.”

So, in both cases, we’re not judging the quality of the design itself, we’re ticking boxes to demonstrate things have been covered.

Now in an academic system that seems reasonable.

Just learning facts, and regurgitating them on demand.

But it’s pretty much the opposite of either art or design.

Because what it doesn’t do is teach you to find a new, unexpected, better way to solve a problem.

What it isn’t, is creative.

This is the equivelent of the Gunn Report.

The Gunn Report is an attempt to reduce creativity to a box-ticking exercise.

The thinking is that it’s too difficult for a non-creative person (like a client) to work out how creative an advertising agency is.

So let’s reduce it to something they can easily understand.

A creativity-ranking system.

Let’s just give out points.

Then, by adding up all the points, they’ll know who’s best.

So what they do is give so many points for every award an agency’s won.

The more awards you win, the more points you get.

The more points you get, the better you are.

But how about the fact that these awards cost lots of money to enter?

They’re not free.

How about the fact that bigger agencies can afford to enter more of their work than smaller agencies?

How about the fact that bigger agencies can afford to enter more award schemes all over the world than smaller agencies?

This is like being surprised that a football team that plays more games, scores more points than an agency that plays fewer games.

It’s also like equating the creativity of a matchbook cover with the creativity of a massive TV campaign.

This is creativity reduced to book-keeping.

Can you truly judge creativity that way?

Is Degas a better painter than De Kooning because he used more colours?

Is Rauschenberg a better artists than Titian because he used photographs in his pictures?

Is ‘Guernica’ a better painting than ‘The Night Hawks’ because it’s bigger?

Is Michelangelo a better painter than Da Vinci because he could do ceilings?

The Gunn Report is the latest manifestation of the ridiculous obsession with awards.

Something isn’t any good until a panel of people vote on it.

This is reality TV come to creativity.

The belief that a vote from whoever, on whatever, means something.


Here’s a fact about creativity that’s uncomfortable for a lot of people.


Not everything important can be measured.

Not everything that can be measured is important.