The Russian Newspaper Design Competition

While the Chicago meetup was taking place at Tribune Towers, halfway around the world there was another SND event happening in Moscow — the Russian Newspaper Design Competition.

This was the sixth annual contest, which had 48 newspapers entered from Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan. The judges handed out 56 awards to 17 newspapers. The winners will be announced on Friday, May 29.

How the contest works

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There were four judges from Russia (pictured from left to right): Ivan Anishev, art director from Delovoy Peterburg; Alexandra Konstantinova, art director from Vedomosti; Alexandr Vasin, a gifted editorial illustrator; and Svetlana Maximchenko, editor of “World’s Best-Designed Newspapers™” Akzia and SND’s regional director for Russia. The international judges were Marco Grieco, art director from “World’s Best-Designed Newspapers™” Expresso in Portugal, and myself, Gayle Grin, managing editor of design and graphics at the National Post and immediate past SND president.

The judging process was very thorough. Entries that received three votes from the six judges were given MUCH discussion. That entry then could be eliminated, given an award or elevated to a medal. I appreciated the thinking behind Russian design through these discussions. Oleg Dmiitriev, the interpretor for Grieco and me, was amazing. As we waded through the entries, he informed us of everything we needed to know. He was so good, he even interpreted our body language!

The entries

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The larger papers showed some European influence, especially business papers from Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russia’s visual journalists are keen at finding papers from around the world as inspiration, in both design standards and visual techniques; however, there is still a definite respect for local flavor, and these papers seem in touch with their own communities.

Although I could see the growing impact of globalization in their design, the Russians’ vibrancy dominated their pages. The designs ranged from muscular to quietly elegant, very intelligent and linear, with great attention to details and consistency. The instinctive Russian preference for color is refined.

Many small regional papers with few resources entered the competition. They’re still learning visual techniques to tell local stories and are trying hard to implement design standards. It was pleasing to see the strong connection these papers have with their communities.

Russian newspaper history

The history of the newspaper scene in Russia is fascinating. After being suppressed by the Communist regime, there was a huge hunger for information and opinion, which resulted in a newspaper explosion. Free journalism created great enthusiasm but with a lack of a business plan, some of these papers were short-lived. But the hunger for print remained.

Six years ago, Dmitri Surnin (Russia’s first SND regional director) saw the need to help visual journalists in his country. He began a Russian-based workshop and competition. At that time, Surnin was the director of the Russian Independent Print Media program at the New Eurasia Foundation and arranged for a sponsorship. Dmitri is currently the editor of Moy Royan, but the New Eurasia Foundation still sponsors the workshop and competition.

Great hosts

Maximchenko and Surnin are typical of the youth, vibrancy and enthusiasm of the Russian media. They have done so much in promoting high visual standards in this area and were hospitable hosts, escorting the judges through Moscow during the Eurovision traffic jams on Saturday night.

After the judging was complete we went to the 20 Century Fine Art Gallery. The gallery was amazing! I began to understand 20th century Soviet art, from the impressionists to the propaganda art prevalent during Stalin’s tenure. Surnin explained how propaganda was very influential, especially to school children. I also was impressed with how artists from the Leningrad School were influenced by impressionism and cubism in Europe, but yet they interpreted those movements in a very Russian way.

Many thanks to the hosts for inviting me to be a judge and sharing their passion to grow visual journalism in Russia.

Spasibo!

Gayle Grin is the managing editor of design and graphics at the National Post
and the immediate past president of the Society for News Design.