Michael Weinzettl talks to Lewis Blackwell as he ‘reboots’ CRESTA, an organisation that runs a global creativity awards, now in its 26th year but taking off towards new territories.
Hi Lewis, you are perhaps best-known for publishing (former Editor-in-Chief of Creative Review and author of bestselling books) and photography (global creative director of Getty Images, among other positions), so why get involved in CRESTA?
I was looking for a different way to support the creative industry worldwide. With my business partner Alan Page (a creative director who has won gold at Cannes and also led a digital agency), we thought there was room to further explore and elevate the value of great creativity and those who make it possible. Awards are a part of how that is done—as is the wonderful Lürzer’s Archive! But there is space for new ways of showing emerging trends, talents and technologies.
Alan and I both feel the global creative industry can be a fundamental force for positive change. Good advertising and design make the world a better place. This industry devises communications that move people, change behaviours and evolve communities through building businesses and culture. This is truly powerful stuff we deal with. We need more innovation in how we talk about it, learn and engage with other talents, develop it. We want to help.
But why CRESTA?
We alighted on the opportunity to take on CRESTA as a good base to grow from. CRESTA is a 26-year-old much-respected award, based on caring about global creative standards. Hence the name. The founder, Nancy Ross was looking to step down and pass it on. Nancy built a competition that saw entrants from almost 100 countries over the years but in recent time lacked investment. We took it on in late 2018 and have already relaunched the website and this year’s awards. We pledge to give fair prices with fantastic value in the coverage for winners. We brought in Fernando Gutierrez, a terrific graphic designer who has worked on the Prado in Madrid, Design Museum in London and much more, and we have the developers Thought Bubble work with us to create a state-of-the-art version of their entry system. We even have a competiton now dedicated to ‘The Future’. The craft is ready, now at the gate and its time to board! Of course, it’s when we start the ‘events’ that things get really interesting.
We look to create a range of activities and experiences around the world. With partners, we want to make the ‘global village’ of this industry a more close-knit and yet open experience. We aim to develop events that celebrate what we see at CRESTA and more. There’s so much more to do to foster discussion of great creative work and process. We want to help entrants, winners and partners recruit the talents and the clients that can make the next generation of work happen, too. We want the world to know this industry is on the heights of human culture… and can do much more.
Do you have specific campaigns in mind?
I see so much to admire in what W+K did with Colin Kaepernick. ‘From kneeling quarterback to Nike poster boy’ one snarky headline put it but that campaign helped hugely in taking a remarkable individual and his brave act from being controversial and oppressed to achieving a great global statement. That’s what this industry can do, commerce and culture uniting for good. We can’t do that all the time, of course. More conventional communication is the heartland but can find exquisite fresh form and value. Take, Lola MullenLowe’s lovely outdoor work for Magnum, with the illustrator Thomas Danthony : it’s in a great tradition of building brands and selling stuff while enhancing the urban environment. Or look at the provocative shift of HSBC’s ‘We Are Not An Island’, from JWT London, part of the global citizen campaign. It has attitude, immediacy, and complexity. We have immense resources at our command if we join things up. CRESTA can help that for our entrants and for all.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The environment, looking at what’s living around us and trying to step lighter on the world that makes us. I chaired the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition at the Natural History Museum in London and every year saw a great celebration and deep exploration of life in incredible variety. I’d like to draw in from that how we encourage the infinite possibilities of creative life.
Original photography of Lewis Blackwell by Patrick Gunning, on location Alexandra Road Estate, London. patrickgunning.com