A great leap forward

A series of Penguin books, a quirky Honda advert and Hong Kong towers were just a few of the winners in 'Creative Review' magazine's Annual, which celebrates the best of innovative thinking

A psychedelic Honda advert, a sprint up a Hong Kong skyscraper and a special edition of Machiavelli's The Prince. No, they're not part of Alastair Campbell's morning routine, but some of the winning entries into Creative Review magazine's third Annual, released this week.

A psychedelic Honda advert, a sprint up a Hong Kong skyscraper and a special edition of Machiavelli's The Prince. No, they're not part of Alastair Campbell's morning routine, but some of the winning entries into Creative Review magazine's third Annual, released this week.

The Annual's remit, as always, was to bring together some of the most innovative and creative works from advertising, graphic design, music video and related areas. Out of more than 1,100 entries, 129 projects were accepted into the Annual, but it is the 20 "Best in Book" winners that really stand out.

Those 20 form an eclectic bunch. As well as the Honda advert, the Hong Kong publicity stunt and the 70th anniversary Penguin covers, Creative Review has brought together such disparate creations as a knitted music video, a Scottish school playground and an animation website. But the only thing that these winning entries have in common is that they have all taken a sledgehammer to the rulebook and come up with a striking new angle.

One such project, the Honda Grrrr television advert, has been a huge commercial success for the Japanese car manufacturers. "It was really Kenichi Nagahiro, the engine designer, who started the whole thing rolling," explains Sean Thompson of advertising agency Weiden and Kennedy. "He said he hated diesel engines, and would only design one if he could absolutely start from scratch. And that's where it came from - this idea that hate could be used positively." Some quirky Chinese propaganda-inspired animation, a catchy song, and some flying engines later, and you have an award-winning advert.

And Thompson knew they were on to a winner from the outset. He explains: "We'd written this song with lots of whistling in it, and, before we even approached the animators, we played it to Honda with the storyboard in the background. You could have heard a pin drop. The client just said, 'I want it to go through absolutely unchanged', which is really unusual."

Another winner whose commercial success has been on a par with the Honda adverts is the series of special 70th anniversary edition Penguin "Great Ideas" covers. With 20 books ranging from first-century Seneca to the mid-20th-century writings of George Orwell, the Penguin series is a stunning collection of non-fiction, presented with arresting, words-only covers. "There was a huge amount of discussion in Penguin about the covers," says art director Jim Stoddard. "But we eventually decided that we did not want pictures on the front of these books. Pictures would have distorted our message.

"The books in this collection are fundamentally about the power of words, about a 2,000-year-old literary tradition, so we had to make our covers stand out in a new way. It was important for us to remember that these books were strong enough for the words to sell themselves, and we couldn't be happier with the end product."

If Stoddard and his team were rethinking ways to attract new readers to old texts, the team behind the stunning new school playground in Auchterader, in Scotland, was all about creating a text out of the natural landscape. The artist Gordon Young, whose most famous work remains the Cursing Stone in Carlisle, was approached by the people at the Scottish community school in Auchterader, who were building a new extension to the school. They wanted a piece of art to accompany the new installation, but when Young visited the school, he found himself staring at the space between the two school buildings, and imagining a map of the view.

Having approached the graphic design team Why Not?, with whom he had worked on previous projects, the team got to work on designing a unique colour-coded map of the view from the school, which would then be built in the playground. "It's so site-specific," says Young. "If you moved the map a foot, it would be completely different. The result is that you have X-ray vision all across Scotland. There's geography, geology, English, history, everything. It's a piece of hard stone landscaping, but there's so much complexity that you can weave into it as a teacher. I'm very proud of it."

For all these projects, being mentioned in the "Best in Book" category, while not being the reason for their existence, is welcome praise for outstanding work. Stoddard's delight is that Creative Review has recognised Penguin in particular, "because there aren't a lot of books in there, and there is so much wonderful book cover design", while Thompson is pleased "because we're one of the only projects from advertising in there".

With so many fields for Creative Review to choose from, inclusion in the 20 best means that these creative teams are right at the top of their respective fields - something to mull over while they locate their next "Eureka" moment.

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