Brandcenter students are awarded the ultimate accolade at the D&AD New Blood Awards

award winners standing outside the ceremony with yellow and black pencils

Not only is Brandcenter incredibly proud to have fifteen students and recent grads recognized at the 2024 D&AD New Blood Awards, but, for the first time, a Brandcenter team has claimed a top recognition – a coveted Black Pencil. A Black Pencil is the ultimate creative accolade at the event, reserved for work that is ground-breaking in its field. A mere handful, if any, are awarded each year. Prior to the 2024 competition, only twenty have been handed out in the history of the New Blood competition. This year, we are delighted to share that the Brandcenter “Adobe: Scan to Revolt” campaign received one of the three New Blood Black Pencils handed out globally, in addition to a Yellow Pencil.  Brandcenter entrants also garnered a Graphite Pencil for “Durex: Say Condom,” a Wood Pencil for “Kraft: Self-Kare,” and four Brandcenter members were among the Portfolio winners.

In a brief for the competition, Adobe asked New Blood participants to make their software the go-to tool for Gen Z. The “Adobe: Scan to Revolt” campaign tackled the challenge by “exposing Gen Z’s design icks and letting them do something about it,” says their entry. The project features visually striking out-of-home ads that reference design cliches. Viewers can scan a QR code to make their own version in Adobe Photoshop or Express and then “Scan to Revolt.” Adobe would then strategically replace the out of home ads with original work to spike engagement.

The “Scan to Revolt” team—Boyan Zlatarski (Copywriting, 2025), Henry Coffey (Copywriting, 2025), Callum Leitenberg (Copywriting, 2025), Alex Ward (Art Direction, 2025), and Emma Kerencheva (Creative Brand Management, 2025)—talks about the process behind the idea. “The social listening we did confirmed that there was already conversation about design icks going in our generation. Going off of this existing behavior, and with ‘rebelling against sameness’ in mind, we eventually landed on ‘Scan to Revolt’ — equipping the Gen Z creative rebellion while also being a stage for it.” 

Case study video for “Adobe: Scan to Revolt,” Black Pencil and Yellow Pencil

The team acknowledges the mentorship of Brandcenter faculty on this campaign. “We enjoyed a lot of encouragement and support from Tom Scharpf, Holly Hessler and Kevin Rothermel. All of them showered us with useful advice, and always ended with ‘but make what feels right to you.’”

Excitingly, the “Adobe: Scan to Revolt” team was able to make the trek across the pond to attend the awards ceremony in London. They wrote that, “The win came as a huge surprise, and we are very thrilled and honored. Of course there was no world in which we expected any of this to happen, but we’re convinced that none of this would be happening without our Brandcenter faculty, staff, and peers pushing us to greatness.” 

Two additional teams, both mentored by Brandcenter faculty member Berwyn Hung, were recognized for their campaigns based on briefs from real world clients. “Durex: Say Condom” by Debashish Dumbre (Copywriting, 2024), Tanmay Kumar (Art Direction, 2025), Mahek Asher (Art Direction, 2025), Agrim Prakash (Strategy, 2025), and Vanessa Galdamez (Copywriting, 2025) received a Graphite Pencil. “Kraft: Self Kare” by Raquel Fereshetian (Art Direction, 2024), Celeste Chance (Copywriting, 2024), and Catherine Emblidge (Strategy, 2024) received a Wood Pencil. 

Case study video for “Durex: Say Condom,” Graphite Pencil

“Durex: Say Condom” (also recognized in the One Club’s Young Ones Awards this spring) encourages Indians to “say condom” to destigmatize the word and receive discounts on Durex products. Team member Asher says, “With our shared background of coming from India, we had unique insights to draw from. We had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas, using our personal experiences and cultural understanding…That’s when we hit on a simple but powerful insight: in India, people often avoid saying the word ‘condom.’ This realization felt significant, and we trusted our instincts.” Dumbre concurs, “Research for this was essentially…nostalgia. Our campaign tackled an Indian problem, and being Indian, our most valuable resource was our experiences growing up in our homeland! The problem and the insight we landed on felt organic precisely because of that.”

Galdamez credits Hung for his mentorship. “It was essential to us as a team and people of color to have a mentor who was also from a similar background who understood ethnic and eastern cultures—and who basically understood us. Berwyn was incredibly supportive, listening to our ideas, questions, and doubts. He continuously challenged us to just go for it and to go against the status quo.”

Case study video for “Kraft: Self-Kare,” Wood Pencil

The “Kraft: Self Kare” team’s campaign drew inspiration from Gen Z and millennial behavior. The team writes, “Our concepting began with lots of laughter, ‘what ifs,’ and ‘wouldn’t it be funny…’ As we circled around the big brief question to find what brings comfort to Gen Z and younger millennials, we quickly realized there was a strong relationship to self-care that we experience ourselves. The first spark of the Self-Kare Kit came from the simple thought that the cheese powder packets in Kraft Mac & Cheese have the same consistency as add-water powder face masks.”

They also praise Hung for his guidance throughout the development of “Kraft: Self-Kare,” and write, “We can’t thank Berwyn enough for seeing our idea through, pushing us, asking us critical questions, and giving us great feedback through the process.“

Brandcenter also had four students recognized in the New Bloods Portfolios, which recognizes excellent portfolio websites across a number of disciplines including Advertising, Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, and Digital media. The portfolios received over 800 entries this year.  “Scan to Revolt” team member Mahek Asher (Art Direction, 2025), “Durex: Say Condom” member Debashish Dumbre (Copywriting, 2024), and Dipanshi Agarwal (Copywriting, 2024) were winners in the Advertising category, and Regan O’Donnell (Art Direction, 2024) in the Graphic / Communication Design category.  The portfolios are a culmination of an entire body of work and a real testament to our students. 

Asher acknowledges the surprise and joy that came with her win, “I was in disbelief when I received the email saying I won the D&AD New Blood Portfolio award. I was overjoyed in tears. Being an international student is tough, but this win made it all worth it. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my professor, Tom Scharpf. Big thanks to Brandcenter for making this dream a real one!”

While enjoying this moment of recognition, everyone is eager for the work to come next. Class of 2024 members are traveling the globe to start new gigs, and Class of 2025 members still have another two semesters here in Richmond. High off of their win, the “Adobe: Scan to Revolt” team members will be back soon for fall semester and say, “More than anything, we’re excited for the briefs that we get to tackle next.”

D&AD is a global community of creative, design, and advertising professionals that work to support and celebrate excellence in the field. Their annual awards started in the ‘60s with the first presentation of their iconic Pencils, which have since become a tried-and-true mark of accomplishment in the industry.  Their student competition, the D&AD New Blood Awards is one of the largest open to students, recent graduates and emerging creatives. A New Blood Pencil or Portfolio Award can serve to open doors for young creatives launching a career in the industry.