News & Views

Cannes Lion: Design and Product Award Winners

by Contagious Team

While it’s common to see Cannes Lions entries scooping awards across several categories (see Dumb Ways to Die), this year’s recipient of the Design Lions Grand Prix truly epitomised great design. 

‘This is the only category where it would have won,’ jury member Barry Quinn of Juniper Park said of the winning project for the Berlin International Festival (above video). ‘It isn’t an ad trying to be design. It truly was a very complicated design project.’

Agency Anti, Bergen, was tasked with creating a visual identity for the art festival, which features art in every guise from opera to street performances. The solution was to create a logo compromised of a single element that could grow to form different shapes, much like several pixels can create one image, or several notes a chord. As the agency explained: ‘Using this singular element to build the iconic F logo, like a chord constructed of various notes, we were able to establish a mathematical system—a system that allows the logo to grow, subdivide and rhythmically repeat like musical units creating a beat or tempo.’ The logo (always in black and white) featured on notebooks, business cards, a Tyvek rain poncho (Bergen is pretty rainy) and a Norwegian wool sweater. 

The jury especially appreciated the seemingly infinite possibilities for the logo and how it could be applied to so many different areas in creative ways. ‘It’s a beautifully simple idea executed wonderfully across so many different touch points,’ said jury member Claire Parker of Design Bridge. ‘It shows the depth of what design is all about nowadays.’ 

This year’s Cannes Design Jury was insistent on rewarding entries than were more than just beautiful. ‘The winners’ list is making a point about the places where design can play a unique role, it is not just communicating something but solving a real world problem,’ said jury president Ije Nwokorie, who is also the global CEO of Wolff Olins.

One of the jury’s favourite entries that did just that was a Gold Lion-winning campaign for Colgate in Myanmar called Turning Packaging into Education, by Red Fuse Communications in Hong Kong. The brand turned the boxes it used to transport toothpaste to rural communities into educational posters that depicted ‘Cavities Attack at Night’ or ‘Grandpa’s Teeth’. Rural shopkeepers could then donate the boxes to local schools and the posters featured a phone number to help teachers with lesson plans about oral hygiene. 

‘Anything in terms of design that can change human behaviour is a powerful piece of communication,’ said Pum Lefebre of Design Army. ‘This is a good example about when design has become very democratic.’

Another favourite was Paper Prison for the Mandela Poster Project, which also won Gold. Interbrand, New York, created something that looks like a book, but then opens up to become larger and larger until it becomes the exact size of the 8ft cell that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in. ‘There’s something profound about using media in a different way,’ said Alisa Wolfson of Leo Burnett. ‘Through a simple piece of paper you can evoke the drama of the human experience.’ 

The jury acknowledged that it was especially valued award work with a purpose that was trying to do good. The Street Store, which scooped a Gold Lion, was exactly that. The project from The Haven Night Shelter in South Africa, by M&C Saatchi Abel, Cape Town, featured paper clothes hangers hanging in the street, to encourage people to donate garments, creating a type of pop-up store for homeless people. 

The Design winners represented a variety of sectors and media, but the jury admitted that they had wanted more non-traditional design to make the list. ‘For me there wasn’t really enough well-crafted digital/ screen based media across all platforms,’ said Adrian Burton of Lambie-Nairn. ‘The pieces at the top of the winner’s list, there’s a lot of paper there.'


This year Cannes Lions added a shiny new category to its existing roster of gongs, with the inaugural Product Design Awards. 

The very first Grand Prix to be conferred went to Dutch denim brand G-Star Raw, which won the award for its groundbreaking Raw for the Oceans line, a collection created in denim woven from waste plastic collected from the sea.

Jury president Dong-Hoon Chan, EVP/ head of design strategy Samsung Electronics, started by explaining the three key factors used to select their winning products, the principles ‘defining the basics of product design for Cannes Lions’. First is physical properties; second, the tangible interaction between a product and a user; and third, the notion that good ideas can raise awareness.

With a range of entrants and Lion winners that ranged from Amnesty International’s Freedom Candles to Not Impossible Labs’ 3D printed prosthetic limbs, to the Samsung Galaxy Core Advance smartphone, their choices were nothing if not diverse.  Disappointing, then, that the jury, while undoubtedly eminent, thoughtful, charming and enlightened, contained not one single woman.