32nd edition Best of News Design competition, coverage set to begin

SND entry audit director Shamus Walker

The 32nd edition of the Society for News Design print competition is essentially ready for take-off.

10,515 total entries have been received, audited and readied for the judges.

The 21 judges for the print portion of the competition along with dozens of professional and student assistants are arriving and preparing for things to get under way.

And SND entry audit director Shamus Walker’s greatest challenge of the season has been met. He’s been running the audit since about 1992. This means leading a team of volunteers and part-timers who have to open, review and dissemble every single entry, dividing them from their originating paper and back into their themed categories.

This year, Shamus has been working on the 32nd edition audit in Syracuse since about Jan. 8th getting everything ready and set for when everyone arrives this weekend.

This year, Walker tells us, the competition has seen even more international entries than years past, according to his unofficial assessment (we’ll try to get specific numbers on entries and track them as the weekend progresses).

“We got a lot of entries from China, and at least one from Japan,” he said. “We also got entries from Estonia, Poland… we got stuff from almost everywhere.”

The World’s Best-Designed category has received more than 230 entries this, said Walker. That’s down only slightly from 2010, but down nearly 100 entries from 2008.

World’s-Best entries by year:
~230 WB entries in SND32 (2011)
240 WB entries in SND31 (2010)
301 WB entries in SND30 (2009)
343 WB entries in SND29 (2008)

Looking ahead as the judging begins early Saturday morning, Walker is optimistic. “I’m hoping everything goes smoothly. Today we’re setting up Drumlins (the venue where the competition will unfold through Monday evening). Tonight we’ll meet the judges and get their portraits taken for use in the annual Best of News Design awards book.

Q: Are there any changes to the competition process or the overall mechanism to managing the logistical complexities of the weekend?
WALKER:
We have to iron all the winning pages before they get photographed for the awards book so they look their best. This year, “the ironing will happen at the Newhouse School so they can continue working into next week while setting up for the World’s Best next weekend,” giving the crew more time to prep the entries for photography.

Q: How much does the competition itself change each year?
WALKER:
“There’s always something that changes each year — we improve the process, we’re always trying to make it better and make things run smoother. Every year we’re tweaking it a little bit. it you look year to year it doesn’t look so different, but if you look back 10 years — we’ve really changed the process a lot” by finding efficiencies and improvements.

Q: So part of the audit involves making sure entries are paid for, but also that they’re placed in the right categories so judges can compares apples and apples and move efficiently, right? Do entries ever get disqualified during the audit process? What happens when an entry is disqualified?
WALKER:
“We try to do something with every paid entry [even if it’s submitted incomplete. One common example is a portfolio entry with only 4 pages — instead of the requisite 6 pages]. We might move it to a category that’s more appropriate. People did a lot better this year following the rules, I think. Some of the entries that can’t be shifted into an appropriate category instead go into the disqualified pile for later review from the edition coordinator. For example, if someone enters the redesign category and only sends two samples of their “after” paper, or just one sample of an “after” — and no “befores” it can’t really be judged fairly against someone who followed the rules.” This is a rare example.

Q: So what happens after the competition, how does SND decide if and when to adjust the rules?
WALKER:
“We look at entries each year and that influences how we suggest the competition committee can adjust the rules in the future.” For example, if a category gets no entries, or very few, it’s generally a candidate for adjustment in some way the following year.

Q: What are you most looking forward to seeing as SND32 gets under way?
WALKER:
“When we do the audit each year we see a lot of the entries, we try to guess which ones will do well in the competition, but its always neat to see what actually wins — usually when we’re ironing them, getting them ready for the awards book.”

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STAY TUNED TO SND.ORG:

Return to www.SND.org all weekend long for live coverage from the 32nd edition judging site

VIDEO: Live streaming video from the competition will begin on Saturday; there will also be judge interviews and other looks behind the scene.

NEXT WEEKEND: Come back Feb. 11-15 for live coverage from the World’s Best-Designed judging in Syracuse

PLUS: This year we’ll add live coverage from the SND Best of Digital Design competition, hosted by Ball State University in Muncie, IN.

STEVE DORSEY is the vice president of R+D at the Detroit Media Partnership and the president of SND for 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @dorsey