Strong characters, emotions and messages were at the forefront of the 2018 PromaxBDA Conference staple “State of Design” which gathers together some of the best design work throughout the year.

From incorporating new technology to powerful animated shorts, Stephen Price of Stash Media curated examples showcasing brand videos from the television industry and beyond that tug at the heartstrings, make us laugh out loud, take a stance on important social issues, and drive awareness and action.

In a brand purpose campaign by Uber, the rideshare company used cardboard boxes to represent cars, harnessed humor to make a statement about traffic problems in Asia.

Price also talked about the importance of characters—and expanding the idea of what ‘character’ actually means.

As 2017 came to a close, Strava launched its “Year in Sport” campaign, which created a personalized video based on individual athletes’ key stats from the past 365 days—converting raw fitness data into feelings and memories.

“The character is the user, and because the films are personalized, the user is also the audience,” Price said.

Energy BBDO Chicago also got personal to raise awareness and pay tribute to the 22,000 people who lost their lives in 2017 to opioid addiction. This spot showcases a memorial featuring thousands of pills carved with human faces as part of a campaign for the National Safety Council.

Speaking of ongoing issues, how do you harness all the emotions around a topic that’s had people on edge for nearly 400 years?

A&E Networks continued to conversation about race with an animated promo for the Biography Channel documentary Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G. The clever spot is positioned as an open letter commemorating the 20th anniversary of the rapper’s death, within the context of a broader cultural shift that he cultivated.

Brands also addressed another polarizing topic: immigration.

Blinkink’s spot for UK-based aid organization Help Refugees follows a young Syrian boy who is separated from his family during an aerial attack on his home, and makes a long, dangerous journey to be reunited with his parents.

The strategy behind this video, said Price, is that while the concept of bombs falling on your house as you’re in it remains completely abstract for all but a tiny sliver of an audience, the shock and grief of losing a family member hits home for everyone.

The importance of family values has been prominent in design work throughout the year, which is demonstrated in this Leroy Merlin spot that uses no dialogue—just strong visuals and music—to make its point.

Preparing for the future was also a theme for the University of Melbourne, which promotes its curriculum through the lens of an explosion of experimentation that is changing the workforce as we know it.

Of course, not every vision of the future is as spectacular, such as the post-apocalyptic video game trailer for Overkill’s The Walking Dead.

Price ended on a positive note, highlighting BBC’s opening for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“It generates tons of excitement, with a strong sense of style,” he said.

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