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Launching at The Future on November 3 & 4, 2017, Thread’s ninth issue, a collaboration between Thread and ICAD, presents ICAD members, winners and community alongside Thread contributors – positioning fashion, design, advertising and multifaceted creativity on a unique cross-disciplinary platform. In it, and as ICAD approaches its 60th year, Elaine McDevitt gives us an insight into ICAD’s early years, background and purpose.


‘A group of creatives meet in a pub. So far, so familiar.

They discuss, amongst other things, the need for improved creative standards as a means towards commercial success. So far, so … visionary.

This was 1958.

It was three years before the T was added to RTÉ; four years before the publication of Design in Ireland (now better known as the Scandinavian Report) or the foundation of D&AD; five years before the establishment, and seven years before the official launch, of the Kilkenny Design Workshops.

This group set about connecting creatives across agencies and studios, from art directors, copywriters, commercial artists and architects; including such luminaries as Sam Stephenson, Liam Miller, Gerrit Van Gelderen, Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy, Patrick Scott and Michael Scott. They published Campaign magazine (edited by Bernard Share and Isolde Farrell), which strove so seriously for an improvement in standards, it was often as scathing in its opinions as it was progressive in its design; inviting complaints from clients, which were largely disregarded, and instructions from its funders to tone the design down – also disregarded. They held exhibitions, talks and competitions, which soon evolved into the awards we know today.

ICAD was then, and still is, made up of Ireland’s best creative advertising and design men and women. Men and women who challenge and compete with each other. Men and women who learn from and influence each other. Men and women who are often fearless in their creative pursuits.

The membership base has expanded to include art directors, copywriters, designers, directors, producers, creative technologists, photographers, illustrators and anyone working creatively in the fields of advertising and design. Media, scale, clients, agency structure and even ICAD’s own budgets have all changed exponentially – there were some short-lived but heady days when the likes of Ruby Wax, Graham Norton, Barry Norman and even Mandy Smith presented the awards show – but our purpose hasn’t. We ‘foster, promote and reward creative excellence in Irish advertising and design’.

We do this by holding the Bell, our award, up to the highest standards, by nurturing future generations through programmes such as Upstarts and Portfolio Lab and by connecting and profiling our members at live events, in our awards archive and book, on our membership platform and through initiatives such as this one.

The organisation turns 60 in 2018 and is still fighting for, nurturing, protecting, and seeking creative excellence. A 1958 newspaper article announcing ICAD’s foundation, before our awards became the coveted and respected symbol of creativity they have been for nearly six decades, said,

‘The address is 63 Dame Street, and I do hope that, in a very short time, these young men will ring a loud bell from that particular belfry’.

We will keep ringing that bell, loud and proud.’