SND34 judges pick World’s Best-Designed™ Newspapers

worldbestsnd34final

In the 34th annual The Best of News Design™ Creative Competition, the Society for News Design has named five newspapers, representing four countries, the World’s Best-Designed™ Newspaper.

They are:

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Sweden

Die Zeit, Hamburg, Germany

The Grid, Toronto, Canada

Politiken, Copenhagen, Denmark

Welt am Sonntag, Berlin, Germany

In announcing the winners today, the judges released this statement:

What distinguishes a World’s Best-Designed™ Newspaper? A culture of careful editing of all content that puts the reader first — through stringent attention to detail.

Too many designers are not driven by the content in front of them; they’re just moving elements around pages. In the best-designed publications, that connection jumps off the page.

Quite frankly, it was easy to weed out publications in the first round of judging. So many papers couldn’t nail the fundamentals of typography, grid, white space, hierarchy, etc. — the basics we’ve been talking about for 35 years as a Society.

That’s not to say that there weren’t many excellent entries. Everything that made it past the first round was solid, but it takes more than being solid. It requires diligent and nuanced execution — and tons of personality.

It’s disheartening to see so many American newspapers that, after decades of discussion and education, still pay little or no attention to inside pages. Publications that spend a great amount of time finessing their covers but treat their inside pages like vessels to fill with commodity news until they’re full to the top are missing the point and the opportunity to be relevant.

Another disturbing trend: the lack of illustration and especially information graphics in so many newspapers. These are the tools that newspapers can use to distinguish their content from the pack and add context and understanding to their report.

Several fascinating innovations popped up such as new micro format papers (Diario DF, Mexico City) and the use of technology like augmented reality to enhance printed pages (Reporte Indigo, Monterrey, Mexico). Many Asian papers are starting to use Western design methods but are still maturing (Qianjiang Evening News, Hangzhou, China). Latin American newspapers burst with energy but some lack focus. In the Middle East, the quality of printing and production is impressive; we look forward to the evolution of their individual personalities.

In the five publications we selected, details elevated them from their peers. In these papers, every page counts. These staffs perform an extra layer of editing to refine and strengthen the final product.

Ultimately, these winning newspapers have been brainstormed, edited and curated for readers. They add analysis and context and serve to connect readers to their larger community.

Paul Blickle
Steve Dorsey
Alexandro Medrano
Denise M. Reagan
Juan Velasco

About Lee Steele

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

28 comments

The winners are beautifully designed papers. Congrats to you all!

Thank you to the judges for your candid remarks. All valid points, to be sure.

Regarding the comments about American papers: I suggest that it is no coincidence that the drop in U.S. papers receiving World’s Best Designed began around the same time that many U.S. newspapers started the short-sighted practice of deeply cutting–or eliminating altogether–their design, graphics, photo and illustration staffs. And, in some cases, resources were simply diverted away from print, toward digital endeavors. While these are only two contributing factors–but they are important ones.

Unfortunately, in the new reality, many newspaper visuals teams–and their leaders–have had to prioritize the use of their resources (pick their shots) and sometimes that has meant using more templates (not always bad, by the way), relying on illustration and graphics shortcuts and, unfortunately, unleashing an epidemic of bad stock photography.

Still, we can’t diminish the importance of a strong base design, architecture and toolbox, lifted by elegant and effective typography. These things are not necessarily dependent on the size of our visuals staffs.

Luckily, as witnessed in the many gorgeous, intelligent pages and portfolios awarded individually, there is still a lot of care, passion and skill being focused at specific stories/pages/projects–and, notably, in U.S. papers! For me, seeing all of the work on Pinterest is a great reminder of how much talent there still is in our industry–and that the people who remain in this tough business really care.

(cue the stirring, patriotic music)

Of course, the biggest problem for U.S. papers is not that we aren’t winning World’s Best Designed awards from SND. Certainly, we all agree making content more engaging, well-organized and informative for our READERS is the ultimate goal. So, at U.S. papers (and beyond), our challenge is in overcoming the palpable distractions of the industry and not only maintaining quality, but elevating the energy and utility in our publications (on all platforms)–thus signaling to our readers that we are vital and thriving. Doing the opposite creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I know that here in San Diego, and elsewhere, we will all study what these five great publications do well. That has always been the wonderful service SND provides–the opportunity to learn from our peers.

Dear Kris –

important observations you bring to the table here. I think the trend of diminishing print budgets for print and diverting the money towards digital is the same in Scandinavian and perhaps also European countries, who are the big winners again this year.

These years the “full package” in the focus for most media companies, rather than building a great print product. I think that is a point to consider.

But I strongly agree with you when you talk about “the importance of a strong base design, architecture and toolbox, lifted by elegant and effective typography. These things are not necessarily dependent on the size of our visuals staffs.”

This is, I believe, a key element in all these World’s Best winners, and not a thing you can build overnight, let alone over only a few years. It will grow out of an almost lifelong attitude rooted deeply in the organization. Congratulations to all of you who recognize this attitude!

Let me be the first to congratulate the judges on mastering not only the languages and cultures of the winners – German, Swedish, Danish and English – but of all the entrants so that they were able to accurately assess the relevance of the stories to the design and visuals. Cheers!

Please notice and perhaps correct a mistake in your slideshow.
Images Nr 108, 109, 110: These pages are not from WELT AM SONNTAG.
They are from DIE ZEIT. Thanks, Jan Kny

@Jan Kny: Thanks for pointing that out. The slideshow is now fixed, and we apologize for the mixup.

I was very interested by this ..

“Another disturbing trend: the lack of illustration and especially information graphics in so many newspapers. These are the tools that newspapers can use to distinguish their content from the pack and add context and understanding to their report.”

I can’t agree more and have similar conversations all the time.

Something I have to ask tho is, are SND really supporting the use of illustrations?

As an illustrator I find it dismaying that SND gives 11 categories with sub-categories to design – with consideration to 3 tiers of circulation, 2 categories and sub-categories to information graphics and photography – again with consideration to 3 tiers of circulation. Yet for illustration there’s only one category, less sub-categories and NO consideration to circulation. This makes it far more difficult for an illustrator to win than it does for graphics, photography and especially design.

As an art director I find this frustrating because management only take into account the final numbers so in management’s eyes photography, graphics and especially design get an unfair advantage over illustration in looking like they’re doing better.

So while you’re saying newspapers aren’t realising the value and opportunity of including more illustrations (and graphics) the stacked deck results in the ‘final numbers’ that re-enforce their ignorance.

It’s also my experience that illustrations often dictate the design of a page by coming up with the concept, execution and placement of heading and text. If the designer gets it right, they win an award. The artist gets a mention but the award goes to the designer – because it wins in a design category not an illustration category.

I realise that illustration is probably the most subjective of all the newspaper arts, making it harder to judge but I don’t think the SND awards in their current form properly represent the role that illustration plays.

Our paper also enters entries to newspaper awards across Asia that don’t even have illustration as a section, this makes design, photography and graphics look stronger than illustration.

There’s a reason illustration is bottom of the food chain in newspapers. Actually it’s the most difficult of the disciplines to reach a print worthy level of. Ask any illustrator, it’s not a gift from god, it’s a hell of a lot of effort and practice. We’re always being sought after and wowing ppl .. well that’s great, but we’re also taken for granted and thought of as ‘gifted’ as if we’re lucky.

I’ve done design. It’s a walk in the park compared to illustration. I love designing actually, but how about we give illustration a fairer due?

I can’t agree more with what Stephen so clearly states in his comment. I am an illustrator of more than 30 years and have always thought the illustration categories in national and regional competitions to be unbalanced. I never really thought of raising the issue because I thought if you’re work is good enough, it doesn’t matter. But overall it does matter because we hardly ever see illustrations from smaller publications with smaller circulations win. They do win, my paper is way under 50,000 circulation, and I’ve won my fair share of SND awards. But the photography and design categories offer a lot more opportunities to win. Illustration is always the odd man out. In local and regional competitions you might have one category to enter, best fine art illustration, if you’re lucky you might have two, for color and black and white illustration. That same competition might have 16 categories for photography and multiple categories for page design. And it brings a message to your paper’s management when the awards are counted, that photography and design are more important. SND competition committee should have the same number of categories for each discipline, design, photography, illustration, informational graphics to be fair and unbiased. And while we at it more illustrators as judges in the SND competition, it is a pretty design-centric bunch of judges each year.
SND has real leadership role to play here, to say to all disciplines that we all are players in the profession of visual journalism.

Stephen, I was a judge in illustration this year and I agree we can improve the illustration category to make it easier to enter and easier to judge. We have already mapped out some initial ideas that include expanded subcategories (a likeness subcategory specific to portraits and caricatures for example) to better reflect the range and type of illustration work being done. It is subject to review and approval, but I feel certain you will find the category greatly improved for 2014. Thanks for your comment, and congratulations on your staff’s medal in graphics.

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