2013 Medal comments

WORLD’S-BEST DESIGNED

Sites were nominated by members and nonmembers through the Best of Digital Design entry site, self-nominated via the same site, submitted through suggestions and outreach by SND’s regional directors and from the Best of Digital judging team.

i. WNYC for iPhone
ii. The New York Times
iii. Nautilus
iv. Al Jazeera America for iPhone

WNYC for iPhone

Click the image to go to the site.
Click the image to go to the site.

WYNC’s app for the iPhone is a gift to its users. In a time when native news apps seem to have lost momentum and relevancy, this one is purpose-driven and functional in a way the mobile web site couldn’t be. It is a product that knows its audience, knows the device, and knows intuitive patterns. Proof of this is expertly crafted Discover feature. It allows users to download a playlist based on topics of interest and the time a user wants to spend listening. The “discovered” is available when internet is not, allowing for listening during commutes or interrupted service. This kind of user-centered thinking is present in the entire design, executed with simplicity, clarity and elegance. It’s a much-needed breath of fresh air.

The New York Times

Click the image to go to the site.
Click the image to go to the site.

The Times’ footprint is huge and a reference for the world on many levels. It’s also impeccably designed. It handles a massive amount of content well. The content is treated with respect and the design holds up regardless of whether the reader is on the homepage or several levels deep. The commenting shows innovative thinking and put comments parallel with the articles. The site has templates that work across devices and deliver content quickly. However, the site does not feel templatized — immersive features shine, stellar graphics and multimedia packages have a place, and sections are designed with content and audience in mind.

Nautilus

Click the image to go to the site.
Click the image to go to the site.

Nautilus is a big, ambitious, beautiful site. The experience is considered and deliberate. Each “issue” has an intuitive and stunning cover feature that sets the tone for the rest of its package. Attention to detail throughout is superb and illustrates a deep understanding and recognition of its audience. This includes thoughtful approaches to sources, links to scientific journals, well-considered subject vertical name, and corrections. Long-form content is delivered with a weekly rhythm, but a feed of real-time science news alongside a staff blog makes it useful as a daily destination.

Al Jazeera America for iPhone

Click the image to go to the site.
Click the image to go to the site.

Gestures! Al Jazeera America is all about gestures without being gimmicky. The app takes full advantage of knowing that its home is a phone. Anything you want to do in the app can be done with a single swipe of your thumb. Swipe up and down to wander through stories, tap to read that story, swipe left to get contextual information, pull down to close. Its that simple. The controls are always present and simplicity rules there as well. Tap to listen to an audio version of a story, to share on social media or to get additional context. Behind the Story provides an overview of a reported topic and is always a gesture away. The clear focus of Al Jazeera America allows it to embrace simplicity and create an outstanding user experience.

GOLD MEDALS

i. NPR, Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt

Features [Single-subject project]

Click the image to view the winning entry.
Click the image to view the entry.

“Not only is it a well-designed online package, but the idea is personal, and it’s an experience that you’re having with an organization. It’s instructive. You actually gain knowledge about how this stuff in our world happens.”

ii. The Guardian, NSA Files: Decoded

Use of multimedia

Click the image to view the winning entry.
Click the image to view the entry.

“There were entries in this competition that still consider multimedia to be video. This in many ways took a complicated subject and presented them in a complete way. I didn’t think there were any wasted elements. It takes something that’s very personal and applies it to a news story that’s very impersonal.”

SILVER MEDALS

Breaking/Daily News [Planned coverage]

i. National Geographic,The Serengeti Lion

“You feel in a very intimate position with the subject material, and the way it’s designed enforces that intimacy. I felt like I was there in a way that if it was designed differently I wouldn’t have felt. … It’s really rare to find an experience with instant empathy.”

Breaking/Daily News [Non-planned coverage]

ii. The New York Times, Boston Marathon coverage

“It’s not just a collection of individual people’s stories, but it’s the context of where they were and their perspective; putting those two things together is impactful. To have the foresight and composure to figure out how to put it together and get it out so quickly, the reporting is astounding.”

iii. The Boston Globe, Marathon bombing: BostonGlobe.com homepage

“It shows the real power of what a homepage display can actually have … It was so powerful at the time. As judges we should put ourselves back in that place when the news just happened.”

Features [Single-subject project]

iv. National Geographic, Last Song, July 2013

“The whole design was very strong. The photography was fantastic, and got far beyond the nature photography that I was expecting. … I liked the maps and the detail of the maps.”

Features [Data project]

v. The New York Times, What’s the Right Call on Fourth Down? Ask This Robot

“It’s simple. It’s easy. The fact that it’s posting it on Twitter as the game is going on … sports fans love this sort of stuff. It was a really smart use of technology. I don’t have examples of this kind of work being executed before.”

Features [Coverage]

vi. The New York Times, The New York Times Mayoral Candidates

“You were like, ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?’ There’s some really strong techniques for presenting the videos, specifically the page where it had all of the candidates standing there and you click on them and they would come forward. It’s really kind of personal.”

Use of multimedia

vii. San Diego Union-Tribune, How California restricts assault rifles

“They take an insanely complex and controversial debate and boil it down to its component parts. It did a good job of spelling out just how murky the legal waters are for assault rifles. This is how video explainers should be done.”

viii. The Guardian, Firestorm: The story of the bushfire at Dunalley

“This is really one of the first with ambient sound, imagery, background. The graphics are holistic in the sense that they blend very easily together. It did an amazing job of conveying the feeling that you’re there, almost to the point that you’re smelling the smoke.”

ix. NPR, Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt

“The completeness of the coverage and the presentation is really good. From conception to the follow through in reporting and video, it’s really really complete. … Even just the approach, they didn’t start off with the T-shirt. They started off with, how do we explain globalization.”

Portfolios [Organization]

x. The Washington Post, The Washington Post long-form presentation portfolio

“It feels like the default for long form is to just dump stuff in a template. To me, this feels like how all news stories should be treated. What’s really nice is how they worked on each piece. They are complex, but they are also easy to navigate and easy to read.”

xi. The Washington Post, The Washington Post interactive stories portfolio

“It’s another example of great breath in terms of all the pieces that they’re using. Black Budget takes a look at a massive amount of data that could easily be glossed over. But it goes into detail and very elegantly breaks it down.”

xii. The New York Times, The New York Times Digital Portfolio

“There were games, there were data projects, and there was a twitter-bot. They pushed the boundaries of what is possible. It shows that we can do really serious journalism, and we can have fun.”

THE JUDGES

Stephen Beard, Indianapolis Star
Alex Bordens, Chicago Tribune
Danny DeBelius, National Public Radio
Len DeGroot, Los Angeles Times
Fernando Diaz, Hoy Chicago
Chiqui Esteban, The Boson Globe
Ted Irvine, Vox Media
Josh Keller, The New York Times
Meg Martin, Minnesota Public Radio
Sisi Wei, ProPublica
Yuri Victor, Vox Media
Kaitlin Yarnall, National Geographic

BEST OF DIGITAL DESIGN DIRECTORS
Jeremy Gilbert, National Geographic
Ryan Sparrow, Ball State University

Judging was held in February 2014 at Ball State University Indianapolis Center, Indianapolis, Ind.