D&AD was founded in 1962 by a group of London-based designers and art directors including David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes (who designed the original D&AD logo).
A panel of 25 judged the 2500 entries to the first awards in 1963. They awarded one Black Pencil (to Geoffrey Jones Films) and 16 Yellow Pencils. In the early years, winners received an ebony pencil box designed by Marcello Minale, one of the founding partners of Minale Tattersfield, which contained a pencil with silver lettering. It was a thing of beauty but very delicate, so in 1966 Lou Klein designed the more durable Yellow Pencil. Its education programs in their infancy, D&AD launched Graphic Workshops in association with the Royal College of Art in the mid-60s – they ran until the mid-1970s.
Designer Michael Wolff became D&AD’s first elected president in 1970. Six years later, then-President Alan Parker gave the first D&AD President’s Award for outstanding contribution to creativity to Colin Millward of Collett Dickenson Pearce.
Initiated by Sir John Hegarty of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the Student Awards were launched in 1979. Bridging the gap between college and work, the awards present students with real world briefs to tackle. D&AD’s education programs continued to grow in 1978 when Dave Trott set up the D&AD Advertising Workshops. They aim to inspire and broaden understanding of advertising and help prepare participants for their first jobs. Alex Maranzano, Howard Milton and Brian Webb initiated the first student Design Workshops.
D&AD ushered in the eighties with the first video showreel of moving image work to accompany The D&AD Annual – it would take until 1987 for the book to be produced in full color. The Awards had already started to recognize a wider range of categories through the 60s and 70s and Photography, Retail Design (now Environmental Design), Music Videos and Product Design became part of the Awards in the 80s. The Awards also opened up to international entries for the first time in 1988.
Controversy surrounded a decision to hold separate advertising and design awards in 1986 and 1987; the separation, made for practical reasons based on the chosen venue, was seen by members as a split between industries. The ceremony did come back under one roof, where it has remained.
D&AD moved to Graphite Square, in Vauxhall in the 1990s. These were busy times for education; the first Student Expo (now New Blood) and the University Network – D&AD's membership program for university and college courses – launched in 1993. The first session of Xchange took place in 1996 – described as a ‘summer school’ for college lecturers; creative practitioners update participants on the latest industry trends.
D&AD entered the digital age with the launch of www.dandad.org in 1996 and introduced its first digital categories to the Awards in 1997. Not only was the media landscape changing, by the end of the decade, 50% of entries to the Awards came from outside of the UK.
D&AD celebrated its 40th birthday in 2002 with Rewind, a retrospective exhibition and book of some of the most iconic work since the 1960s at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
A new benchmark was set at the turn of the century when a double Black Pencil was awarded to AMV.BBDO’s ‘Surfer’ for Guinness for its visuals. This was matched 5 years later by ‘Grrr’, Wieden + Kennedy London's work for Honda UK. In 2006 another milestone was set as leoburnett.com won the first digital Black Pencil. Developments in the industry meant that two new categories were added in 2008 – Broadcast Innovations and Mobile Marketing, that year Apple Inc. won a Black Pencil for the iMac and the first-generation iPhone.
Design Workshops were relaunched in 2006 and D&AD North, its first regional network, in Manchester the same year. The Student Awards have become an increasingly international event – entries in 2007 came from colleges in over 40 countries. Italian design group Fabrica designed The Annual outside of the UK for the first time in 2007 and the showreel moved online that same year.
In 2012 D&AD moved to its current location on Hanbury Street, celebrated its 50th anniversary by honoring the most successful award-winners in its history, and launched the D&AD Foundation to nurture creative talent. Design book publisher Taschen released a limited-run book featuring 50 years of D&AD annual covers.
The annual D&AD Awards are highly respected, and regarded as one of the major events in the world of design and advertising. Two kinds of awards are given out, a Yellow Pencil (normally known as a gold award) and a Black Pencil (formerly known as a Grand Prix award), in various categories ranging from environmental design to billboard adverts and animation shorts. The Black Pencil is particularly coveted as they are given for 'outstanding' work and usually only one or two given out each year although in 2003 none were awarded.
D&AD also have Graphite pencil (equivalent to a silver award).