ADC's Young Guns Prepare for Battle

[Editor’s note: In the spirit of fairness, we asked Justin Gignac, the ADC’s Young Guns committee chairman, to respond to August Heffner’s earlier post lamenting the combative nature of the competition’s call for entries campaigns. Below is his reply.]


By Justin Gignac

As chairman of the Young Guns committee and a former winner (YG5) I feel an obligation to reply to August Heffner’s recent post criticizing the Art Directors Club’s Young Guns 9 call for entries campaign. I absolutely agree that a culture of forced long hours and sacrificing personal life for work is no way to live (and definitely not a way for any creative to strive), but I disagree that we’re promoting that mentality.

“You fight for your work. Now it fights for you” is about rewarding all of the time and hard work young creatives have put into their projects – both personal and professional. It uses metaphorical imagery of people in battle to encourage creatives to let their work fight it out with the best in the world. This is an entertaining way to bring the creative struggle to life and just a good excuse to wear fake blood and jump on trampolines.

Above and below: Young Guns 9 poster designed by Nessim Higson and photographed by Brady Fontenot.

Yes, late nights are one battle we mentioned on our poster because it’s relatable, but it’s not a standard to judge work by. This definitely isn’t a timesheet competition. We all “fight” for our work in different ways – through late nights, stress, insecurity, clients, whatever. I’ve probably pulled more all-nighters on my personal projects than I ever have at an agency. And it has everything to do with my own ambition and desire to express my artistic vision.

Most of the Young Guns I know work compulsively because they’re committed to their project and love what they do. They’re obsessive noodlers and perfectionists. Those details excite them and sometimes that enthusiasm manifests itself in staying up til 4AM editing a video or designing a website. Nessim Higson (YG5), the creator the Young Guns 9 campaign, and photographer Brady Fontenot have worked tirelessly on this effort because they’re passionate about the work. You can see that same passion in the portfolios of the Young Guns winners. We’re not telling people to work harder, we’re celebrating their hard work.

People like Stefan Sagmeister, James Victore, Deanne Cheuk, Christoph Niemann, Julia Hoffmann, Andrew Zuckerman, Tom Kuntz, Peter Buchanan-Smith and Jessica Hische (all past winners) didn’t get where they are today because someone told them they had to sit at a desk for 20 hours a day. Young Guns winners have created their own success through hard work and dedication. They’re people I admire and feel lucky to be in the company of.

The ADC Young Guns is the only global, cross-disciplinary portfolio competition. It exists not only to find the best young talent, but to unite them as well. We want designers to befriend photographers who befriend copywriters who befriend illustrators and film makers and architects and interactive designers. It’s the antithesis of an “only socialize with your co-workers” attitude, we’re all about inspiring creativity and an orgy of multidisciplinary collaborations.

At the end of the day, this is a campaign for a competition. It’s about fighting to be one of the 50 best young creatives in the world. It seems worth putting in a few extra hours for that.

Young Guns 8 poster designed by Justin Gignac.

Young Guns 7 poster ("Words are Pictures"), designed by Craig Ward.

Party Like a Young Gun!
The Young Gun kickoff party, poetically titled “A Young Guns Parade and Funeral March for Fighters and Lovers,” is this Thursday night from 7-11pm at the ADC Gallery. It will feature live rock n’ roll by Nihiti and a DJ set by The Surveyor. The “fight” theme will be brought to life by the Gorgeous Ladies of Bloodwrestling.Tickets can still be be purchased at

Click here to enter and learn more about the Young Gun program.

15 thoughts on “ADC's Young Guns Prepare for Battle

  1. Andrea S

    It used to make a lot of sense to have award competitions for the young talent, because older, more experienced talent had the monopoly on all the incoming work and large company portfolios. Thanks to the digital age, all of this is turning around. That’s why we’re seeing this backlash of angry older-than-30’s who are looking for their piece of the pie. Generation X got pushed back by the Baby Boomers, ransacked by the ‘war on terror’ and now that they’re finally getting a foothold, they’re getting squeezed out of recognition and successes by groups and organizations that fawn over Gen Y. 
    AIGA of Portland, ME added ten to each side and it’s widely popular. 40 Under 40. Reason being, since the economy has been shot to hell for quite some time, the chances of success for many ‘young guns’ was pretty perforated, from the outset, for good many people. Simply because their opportunities weren’t present immediately after schooling doesn’t mean that they aren’t or couldn’t be as good or better then their similarly-aged peers or younger counterparts.
    Towards and for those people who were cheated of youthful glory days, I think the more clever and auspicious design groups have seen the gap and are moving towards recognizing and awarding people who have worked to come up in the ranks through the trenches, embattling the global economy and ‘that evil latin dictator, Status Quo’.
    Remember kids, the foundation of your haus was built by your predecessors.

  2. Elizabeth Thacker Jones

    This discussion recalls a conversation I had once with a designer from the UK.  We were discussing the expectation of designers in NYC vs. Europe (and the cross-industry reputation of design).  I work in another industry but have a strong love of design.  Friends and colleagues that know this about me frequently ask me whom I know that will produce free design work (“It’s a portfolio builder!,” they say).  The best designers I know have top-notch portfolios.  They volunteer their time because they believe in social change.  Flat out, I don’t believe the design profession in the US is as respected as it should be.  Perhaps this ADC campaign can bring to light a deeper meaning; that designers deserves the lifestyle that Heffner envisions?

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  4. philatus

    aha, awards. hahaha. who needs awards anyways? especially those awards which seem to be more like a giant circle-jerk? an industry celebrating itself celebrating itself celebrating itself – that’s what (graphic)designers seem to be really good at. did anyone of you ‘award-winning-specialists’ ever think of bringing good (graphic)design out there in the normal world? or why does almost everything still look like shit out there? just an idea…

  5. Mindy

    You know what? I really would love to see a real graphic design competition for everyone (at any age). On TV, I’ve been seeing a lot of food competitions and some other artistic competitions like the recent show “Face Off”. Why not graphic design competition? I’d apply for one right away if I ever hear about one!

  6. Jane

    Don’t fret if your 30+. You’ll be fine without an award — if anything you’ll be taken more seriously on account of your age and people won’t expect you to do work for free. 

  7. Joe

    I have to agree with Janice’s comment… what about those of us that are just getting started in the industry and are slightly above 30 eh? Young Guns seems a little discriminatory towards age. So I find myself in the same position as those 10 years younger than I on the same playing field, yet because of my age I am not given the same opportunities to show my talent as the twenty-something crowd. Guess it just means I have to work and fight harder for it. You can keep your awards twenty-somethings: I’ll be over here working my ass off to make a difference in the world.

  8. Steven Heller

    There’s an elephant in the room. And I wonder if any knows or cares.
    This exhibition is quite valuable in bringing new talent to light and sometimes more. But am I alone in thinking the title is lame.
    Even Washington Bullets had the good sense to change to Wizards.
    Guns??? Young Guns??? I know it sounded cool at the time. BUT guns kill (and not in the good sense).
    Truth be known, Young Guns is a dumb title, and silly honorific.
    If I were on the committee, I’d pull the trigger on the name, AND ask all the past winners to come up with a new one.

  9. Jack Mello

    Hello…I do PR for ADC, just wanted to confirm that the theme and images are meant to illustrate the fight to create great work.  As the program press announcement said: “The creative process is a battle.  This includes the initial inner struggle to come up with the concept, fighting for an idea through the politics of an agency, and the difficulties of dealing with client approvals.  This year’s ADC Young Guns competition recognizes how shepherding ideas along the road to reality can be painful for creatives, and will award 50 entrants who successfully withstand those battles and deliver great work.”
    It’s about fighting for great work, not necessarily working long hours.

  10. Janice Boltif

    Wow I was hoping that the rant against Young Guns was that it is AGEIST. New talent to the industry as a cut off of 30? If I were going to make a blog rant against Young Guns is that the young should apply to time in the industry and not birthdate.
    People staying up late at night to earn their stripes is par of the course. i think the original protest is bollocks.

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