Insights from a Cannes Lions Jury member 2023

Words by Vinia Zottnick
Date 2023-06-26

This year, Vinia Zottnick, Creative Director at Design Bridge and Partners Munich, attended Cannes Lions as a judge in the Design category. Here, she shares some of her insights and learnings from the week, highlighting the importance of an open and transparent dialogue about creativity as the real value of competitions.

Cannes Lions is a powerhouse of creativity – and the opportunity to be a juror is certainly not one to turn down. And yet, there is currently some scepticism and controversial discussion around the value of creative awards.

Leading up to Cannes judging week, all the judges in the Design category sorted through hundreds of entries in advance. In the Design Lions category, we had almost 1000 entries from Branding, Digital Experience, Spacial Experience, Retail, Promotional Items, Books, Editorial, Packaging, FMCG and more.

Quantity vs. Quality

The sheer volume of work is a real challenge to take seriously. The time required is one thing. Staying attentive, questioning critically, looking closely and researching in parallel is another – because the amount of work that seeks to have a deeper meaning seems suspicious. Purpose is everywhere. All of a sudden, media professionals seem to be interested in every social cause. It’s no secret that “Purpose Pieces” are particularly successful at Cannes, and I'm not here to condemn that, not at all. It simply makes it all the more important for juries to look closely. Because if we as creatives can truly contribute and add real value, then that certainly deserves recognition.

Exchange with meaning

Judging is also very time-consuming on site and demands a lot from you. In our case, ten industry experts from all over the world came together for 30 hours over two days to do justice to all the submissions. Yes, it’s intense, but it was such an exciting process. Our exchange was professional, and we were appreciative of everyone. Each of us was heard, everyone was open and highly interested in each other’s opinions, and it’s impressive from how many different perspectives you can evaluate and understand creative work. It was a deeply personal learning process, and I wonder if that’s where the real value lies. If in the end, it’s about the number of trophies that are handed out, or instead if it is the concentrated and differentiated discussion of the works that can really develop design further. To make it more emotional, more effective, more valuable. Whether we shouldn’t also talk about the Why – why one work resonates more than another. Isn’t that the very definition of purpose? Isn’t that the core and the most important criterion of Awards?

For me personally, I can take away three insights from this year’s Cannes Lions that demonstrate what the work in this category was really about:

1. Giving a voice to communities

Taking social responsibility is the next level of sustainability – design shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, take action and make a difference.

2. Innovative technology for good

New technologies are becoming a creative tool with a high demand for concrete, inclusive added value.

3. Blurring boundaries

The rules and conventions of categories are being stretched, expanded and reinterpreted. Design can become more fluid and therefore more culturally relevant and fresh.

The real value is not necessarily in awarding creative work, but in asking why a piece of work is awarded. Maybe that should be the topic of discussion, rather than debating the meaningfulness of creative awards, to help push our industry forwards.

First published in W&V Magazine.