SND32: “i” of Portugal named World’s Best-Designed™

In its 32nd annual The Best of Newspaper Design™ Creative Competition, the Society for News Design has named Portugal’s i newspaper, a daily that launched in 2009, the World’s Best-Designed™ Newspaper.

Newspaper: i (short for informação)

Launched: 2009

Based in: Portugal

Size: Compact format, saddle-stitched, 250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim

JUDGES’ OVERALL STATEMENT

As judges, we may have been more surprised than anyone to see that only one paper ended up on the World’s Best list in 2010. In fact, we carefully “parsed” our decision — reached by secret ballot, hence the surprise — to see why one publication edged out the other world-class newspapers on the table in the final round.

In this era of great upheaval in media, the decision came down to innovation.

Many publications we saw are clearly operating at the top of their game, and have been tenacious and intelligent enough to emerge stronger from the economic battering of the last few years. But Portugal’s daily newspaper, i, stood out for its ability to take the best of the visual language of newspapers, magazines and other publications and create something new that is more than the sum of its parts.

The front page of i from Feb. 16, 2011: ''i is the best newspaper in the world''
It’s compact. It’s fresh. It’s consistent, yet full of surprises.

Its magazine-like size allows the reader to hold the newspaper close; the format invites the reader to engage more deeply. The publication is packed with information, yet extremely well organized, using elements of layering and editing to draw readers into every page.

i walks the line between newspaper and magazine with perfect balance. Its format supports the kind of flexibility that lets it focus on hard news one day and features the next. The editions we saw featured a lead story about a great author one day, then strong reporting of the Haiti earthquake the next. We encountered stories told with a sense of urgency and newsiness, and others told with subtlety and humor.

The paper delivers traditional newspaper content with new, engaging presentation.

This causes us to wonder: Is this where newspapers are going? Is it where newspapers could go, or should go?  Can new techniques make print even more vibrant and relevant?

WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT i:

The covers appealed to our curiosity, using techniques like thoughtful cropping of images to add intrigue. Color and variety drew us to the publication, providing provocation and an intellectual challenge. The cover featuring the Jose Saramago illustration “is amazing,” said one judge. “I just want to eat it. Every page offers up things that you want to devour.”

It’s smaller than most tabloids (250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim) and it is saddle-stitched, so it holds together like a magazine. Readers can easily fold pages back, navigate without difficulty and — perhaps — concentrate without the distractions encountered with larger, unbound formats.

Designers are clearly thinking about the way two facing pages work together, whether the stories are related or not. This creates a flow that encourages reading without interruption.

i is composed like a beautiful piece of music. It has the discipline to play only the high notes that matter most. For example, it uses its full bleed capability sparingly. It creates strong impact, even with small things. The surprise of occasional whimsy makes the content inviting.

The publication has a steady grid structure, type and color palette that create a strong platform for difference and surprise. The grid and space look effortless. But there is more complexity than it first appears.

Typography is classic, not trendy. From very large to very small, the principles of scale and contrast apply throughout their type palette. Sans serif feels serious; the serif is more playful. It’s a wonderful contrast.

Headlines are relatively small, but pop within the context of the page.

We found color on every page, yet it is used purposefully, with smart pacing. It’s as though the designers are using a highlighter to clue the reader in to what’s important. One judge called this “print search optimization.”

The palette is rich. Cyan, magenta and yellow create a base for navigation while richer colors provide depth and contrast.

Details in the informational graphics are lovely. They are efficient, distilling ideas down to their purist form. Icons are very simple, easily discernable.

A minimalist approach allows larger treatments to stand out. One example: a two-page graphic that starts the cover story for the “Zoom” section.

i has even rethought the ubiquitous weather page, with a smart approach to organization and color. The compact approach communicates lots of information quickly.

Much of the photo play in i is like a mini reportage. Informational photos are used well, often organized in a series. Most of these images aren’t huge, but they are used proportionally within the design. We were amazed at how compelling we found spreads that didn’t actually include a dominant image. The structure of the page tied it all together.

Mug shots are set up within a round frame. This balances the very rectangular format. It’s a nice trick. It softens the hard edges.

CONCLUSION

What we recognized in this year’s winner was its fresh, unique approach. “i” can inspire visual journalists and publishers anywhere in the world to rethink their models and revise or create new ones that best serve their audiences. They may look nothing like i. It won’t — and shouldn’t — represent everyone’s treatment.

We encourage all designers to apply similar creativity and tenacity to finding their own voice and expressing it with conviction and excellence, no matter the size of the staff or access to other resources.

The judges:
Haika Hinze, Die Zeit
Heidi de Laubenfels, The Seattle Times
Svetlana Maximchenko, Akzia (Moscow)
Carl Neustaedter, Ottawa Citizen
Sara Quinn, Poynter Institute


This is a flickr.com feed of the daily front pages from i, dating from June 25, 2010, updated daily.

About Lee Steele

is design editor of the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers and 2015 president of the Society for News Design.

128 comments

Que alegría, vengo siguiendo las portadas de i hace rato y es uno de mis tres periódicos favoritos en el mundo, muy de acuerdo con la desición de los jurados. Congratulations!!!!!!

Como leitor do i desde a primeira hora, congratulo toda a equipa por mais este reconhecimento (mais um!), e de salientar nos comentários do painel de juízes o reforço da qualidade do conteúdo, e não apenas o excelente design.

Parabéns, mais uma vez.

Mis felicitaciones a todo el super equipo ganador the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper que dicha que contemos con ustedes aqui en Rep.Dom.Un fuerte abrazo Javier!!!

“I just want to eat it. Every page offers up things that you want to devour.” The rest of the world should aspire to produce pages like this. Congratulations to all involved – keep innovating!

Muitos parabéns a toda a equipa do «I» em especial ao seu departamento de Arte. Mais um merecido prémio pelo excelente trabalho!

É com enorme orgulho que trabalho diariamente neste lindo e gigante jornal, a todos os meus sinceros parabéns, merecemos!…

a fantastic example of portuguese design quality and creativity. as a marketing/design professional, I’m starting to give more attention to what’s happening on that small but very original and inovative country… congrats to “i” and to all the designers involved!

Excellent work, neat and clean layout, so attractive, the best newspaper ever seen and there is the respect of the readers too.

Parabéns! O i é sem dúvida um grande vencedor. Muito bem desenhado, bem estruturado, fresco.
A minha sugestão para o próximo vencedor: Região de Leiria. Do mesmo designer do i – Nick Mrozowski (também autor do óptimo Virginian Pilot).

Congratulations! Newspaper i is with no doubt a great winner. Very well designed, great structure and lovingly fresh.
My suggestion for the next winner: Região de Leiria. From i’s same designer – Nick Mrozowski (also author of the wonderful Virginian Pilot).

Felicitaciones a todo el equipo de i. El premio de la SND es un estímulo a todos los diarios del planeta para que todos los días diseñen más y mejores diarios.

I am so proud of you, Nick.

When I met and interviewed you last year in Cologne for my documentary film I knew you had a very special opportunity in Portugal and you were making the most of it. Your collaborative spirit is the real fuel behind consistently producing this level of effort.

Mostly I appreciate how damn humble you are, despite being incredibly hard working and vastly talented.

In this ‘me-media’ world, your humility is the rarest treasure of all and that simple gift makes the singular honor of being recognized as ‘World’s Best’ that much more authentic.

Congrats and good luck in your new ventures.

Absolutely gorgeous design, especially for a daily. Congratulations on your achievement.

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Would it be possible to follow up this article with a more in-depth preview of the design/editorial team that produces this amazing paper week in and week out? I’d be interested in who the “faces” behind the pages are, and what their creative process is. Questions like how big a staff they have, how big (or small) their budget is, how they balance the pressures of advertising and deadlines, and how they deal with other “brass tacks” issues can be enlightening to those of us slaving away in trenches.
I think many of us are genuinely inspired when some of our fellow designers manage to succeed in producing a quality piece of design work like this.

Mark,

Yes, I agree. I think something telling us more about what happens (happened) behind the scenes at i would be very welcome. I’m sure we’ll try to put something like that together as soon as we can. Thanks for the feedback.

Now, if these designers could put their heads into a news-delivery design for a “paperback”-sized device like the Kindle, we e-reader folk might be a lot better off.

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a fantastic example of portuguese design quality and creativity. as a marketing/design professional, I’m starting to give more attention to what’s happening on that small but very original and inovative country… congrats to “i” and to all the designers involved! 😀

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