2016 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.

The Outline, New York City

The Outline uses a provocative design, which shows the courage of trying something new that actually works. It is not just gimmickry but rather is a deliberate functional discovery platform well suited for the needs of today’s millennials. It is not trying to adapt to the next generation of consumers but rather inventing a product for them. This is an “authentic” pure digital experience.

GOLD MEDALS

i & ii. The New York Times, Simone Biles: The Fine Line

Features: Single-subject project, and Special events: 2016 Summer Olympic Games

SimoneBiles

“Simone Biles is excellent, as is discovered in this piece. What she does and how she does lends itself to this form. It’s incredible from so many angles, then in reverse and the flow and the physics, it’s smart. It shows Simone’s power. Better than a static video because you can stop it at important places in the athlete’s movement and play and replay it over and over. Video is then so well curated and appropriately inserted. No wasted quotes or audio. They set you up and then at the end let you know she’s been doing this since she was a kid.”

iii. The Wall Street Journal, Blue Feed, Red Feed

Features [Single-subject project]

BlueRed

“It’s an important story told in a perfect way. People talk about political bubbles conceptually, but they actually went out and made it into something that shows it exists. The piece provides utility and continues to do its job after the election. The powerful simplicity of the idea is mindblowing. No tricks, no gimmicks, no videos, no maps. It’s something that’s in front of us that’s juxtaposed. Every time we look at it, we think, ‘That’s it. That’s the future.’”

iv. The Washington Post, Concrete Divisions

Features [Coverage]

FencedOutWall

“Tour de force. It’s thoughtful, immersive and deliberate with the navigation and all of the little touches. You’re building a wall as you go along. The Post pushes the medium forward in terms of trying to crack the nut on digital video storytelling with this piece. The maps are gorgeous and the control of just three colors is amazing. Not only does it stretch the medium of digital storytelling, but it also stretches the technical area. They seam together the video clips perfectly and provide a great user experience. You fall in and start going.”

v. The New York Times, ‘A Bullet Could Hit Me and My Kids Anytime’

Graphics: Motion graphics

BulletFeat

“This piece goes beyond the motion graphics category; it’s a marriage of multiple elements that tell the story in a standard-setting, exemplary way. It connects data to a specific person or specific perspective of a people. You see what is going to happen to them and then you see a broader view, which is no easy feat. It’s better than just thinking of this topic as points on a map. The Times thought of something that not everyone would think of doing and does it well. This is perfection of the use of data visualization in motion graphics.”

SILVER MEDALS

Breaking/Daily News [Data project]

i. The New York Times, A Trail of Terror in Nice, Block by Block

“A creative way to handle a breaking news event that’s not like the typical stack. It’s outstanding, close to being seamless. It worked really well on mobile. They used the right mechanisms to tell this story, it’s the right amount of information. Editing is a real-key to a high level story. Delivering one map and fact makes it delivered in palatable bite-size chunks. Almost-perfect turnaround for the story they’re trying to tell.”

Breaking/Daily News [Planned Coverage]

ii. Berliner Morgenpost, Berlin City Marathon 2016

“The simplicity of the graphic’s execution is its hallmark. It would have been easy to go over the top with annotation and explanation. The graphic was dialed in and fun and wasn’t oversubscribed. They took marathon results and created a novel visualization that offered a lot of different ways to experience and perceive the race.”

Features [Single-subject project]

iii. The New York Times Magazine, The New York Issue

“The way that they parsed out a single-topic issue was interesting. The mobile presentation is really thoughtful. The collection of current and historical information is good and everything has a consistent look, something not easy to do when pulling together so many types of media.”

iv. Seattle Times, Under Our Skin: Talk About Race

“You have the video — but you have a way to curate through the tags the kind of video. Instead of curating words, you’re curating video. It feels like a conversation, not just a singular piece. It brings a new kind of experience to the storytelling. The navigation is done brilliantly, which makes the reader want to stay with the piece longer. The comments, both where they are in the sequence and the fact that it’s brave to include, is necessary and well-done. Trying to design video experiences is a tall order — this is done well.”

v. The New York Times, ‘They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals’

“For one, it’s great that they pull in Google Maps. I was kind of surprised by that choice — because they do so much mapping — but nobody can provide what that area looks like in the daytime quite the way Google can. The fact that you see the title and the option to see the caption lets the photos speak. The piece has very controlled use of the storytelling elements — photo, video and map.”

vi. The Washington Post, Poems in Motion

“The art direction really stands out. The navigation and UI make for a really clean experience. The visuals give a voice to the poems and story. It’s also novel — it’s something that we haven’t seen anywhere and stands apart. It’s not like every other digital experience. It’s clear that choices were made in the tone and feeling of the overall piece. Plus, the art matched the poems.”

vii. The Washington Post, A Marine’s Convictions

“It’s a challenge to chapterize, and the left nav and unusual audio indicator made for a unique experience. It’s not necessarily pushing the boundaries of editorial design but it certainly is an adventure in product design, specifically in the read indicator and the ‘Save My Spot’ button. The animation of elements appearing added emphasis. There’s innovation in the wayfinding and in how the reader is going to experience this story.”

viii. National Geographic, A Bear’s-Eye View of Yellowstone

“What sets this piece apart from being just a graphics entry is its entry point to the story. It’s really consistent in style and links together many media types in a way that doesn’t feel disjointed. There’s a process and it’s compelling. I wanted to move through it. There’s clear art direction. It breaks out of the mold of what most people are doing. The mobile experience, too, was very good.”

ix. Boston Globe, Arresting Words

“This piece had more ‘meat’ to it. It’s a more complex story, for sure, but they weren’t afraid to let the words be the story. We aren’t cramming videos and photos or a background map. The words became the imagery. There were a lot of interesting design choices, and the use of white space let the typography stand out. It’s smart, navigable and the boldness serves several purposes.”

Features [Coverage]

x. Bloomberg, The Global Tech Issue

“It is unlike anything else we looked at. People could really hate this. They understood that and went for it anyway. It wasn’t halfway done or a halfway gimmick. They went all in and created a personalized experience and dashboard in a playful way. The piece is having a dialogue with a reader and it’s feeding you the experience. It’s so bold and out there, it’s totally rad. It works to be different in a sea where everything looks the same.”

Information Graphics [Breaking news]

xi. The New York Times, Inside the Orlando Night Club

“The presentation is really solid and the reporting was done extremely well. This piece sets the standard of what we should expect from breaking news visual stories. The format that they chose was perfect for adding new information and visual bites. It’s very tightly edited — the multimedia elements are where they need to be. As a standards-setting piece, it’s beyond excellent. The decision to do a 3D model and annotation is nothing new, but the execution of this piece was done elegantly. The reader doesn’t have to ‘work’ to understand the breaking news. In breaking news, this is an exceptional job..”

Information Graphics [Planned]

xii. The New York Times, The Two Americas of 2016

“It’s a creative way of doing the thing everyone was talking about. It was a form unseen before in order to make information more clear. There isn’t another way to do it that’s simple, compelling, and hilarious.”

xiii. La Nacion (Costa Rica), Memoria Robada (Stolen Memory)

“Exquisitely done and an interesting topic. The fact that they chose to drive most of the storytelling of an investigation through graphics is very well-executed. There’s something to be said for having the audacity to present this kind of story this way. The graphics are very well edited and show only what they need to. This piece is more chiseled than other pieces and the simplicity makes it stand out.”

xiv. National Geographic, Rewind the Red Planet

“It’s a very simple presentation, then it goes into an absolutely gorgeous panorama. Moving to a panorama isn’t an easy thing and they did it fluidly. The narrative they’ve built is super simple, clear and consistent. It’s hard to do time and space together and not feel like you have whiplash. Usually you have to choose, and they’ve done both. Beautiful and educational.”

xv. The Wall Street Journal, How Does Hamilton Blur Musical Lines?

“Visualizing sound is tricky but they did it “enormously well.” It’s current, fun, both think-y and quirky. Often audio is ‘listen to audio as you look at something’, but this was audio as data.”

Information Graphics [Motion graphics]

xvi. Vice News, Mariah Carey

“VICE put in a lot of fun data in terms of the structure of this music, which you don’t see in a lot of motion graphics. Their script is incredibly well written and their breakdown of the song is just perfect. It was effective and playful. This is an excellent example of what motion graphics can do and be.”

Special events [U.S. elections]

xvii. The Washington Post, Washington Post Election Coverage

“This is tight editing of a portfolio for an election. These pieces have a deep engagement factor. They push the envelope and invite you to think and engage. Audience engagement is the reason we have jobs today. They consistently do that well. Part of what sets their work apart is in how they handle scaling. Some sites can overscale or bloat on desktop, but The Post’s visualizations and design take advantage of big screen. They show a lot of creativity and analytical thinking in these pieces.”

xviii. The Guardian, Guardian Election Coverage

“The Guardian’s work this year does the basics really well, but adds a level of playfulness that make it delightful considering election coverage can be monotonous and crazy. Each of these is a total crackup. The layout is well done, which indicates big-picture thinking because you can absorb everything fast. The ambitiousness is clear.”

Special events [2016 Summer Olympic Games]

xix. The New York Times, Decisive Moments

“There’s artistry and movement, beautifully executed. Like an infographic in photos, moments captured carefully and in motion. It’s accessible and consumable and breaks down precise split second moments down for more careful consideration.”

xx. The New York Times, Usain Bolt

“We’ve seen a lot of panoramics and this is a good example of how to do it well, and the reporting is outstanding. To take something that happens in 9 seconds and turn it into this is fascinating and it freezes time. It works because the race is short, not 200m. It’s perfect, precise.”

xxi. The Washington Post, Post Olympics WaPo

“Playful and consistent. It made me smile. It made me laugh. And that’s part of the experience. You can mouse over anything and it fills with color or movement, it’s a lot of fun. Great and unique comparisons to things like pizza boxes or Boeing. Scale and angle is interesting but it works, it feels relatively seamless. The simplicity of the illustrations is consistent and effective to explain the concepts. Medals is a new take on the usual chart, but very simple and good. It’s outside normal Olympics coverage, more whimsical and imaginative to deal with data (i.e., how many medals win). It surprises you with the approach. Brilliant.”

Special events [Refugee Crisis]

xxii. The Washington Post, Refugee Coverage

“It’s well done, it’s ambitious. The pieces are all long — more like a short documentary than a single experience. The journey that the refugees are taking, though, is long and arduous. This storytelling reflects that. We are used to long scroll experiences in the vertical format, but it’s unusual to see that with video and photo pieces. When you see this, you feel like you are inside. That’s truly the difference between print and digital. When you hear and see people talking, that’s what makes digital stories so powerful and why this uniform piece works so well.”

Portfolio [Organization]

xxiii. The New York Times, Staff Portfolio

“The body of work is incredibly impressive. The attention to detail and how consistently well edited everything is shows. Each piece on its own was solid and unique. There was a consistent visual editing hand even though they were from different people and different pieces. The Times’ portfolio shows the true breadth of well-executed products. No entry was redundant. They excel in every medium.”

xxiv. The Washington Post, Staff Portfolio

“The Post shows consistency throughout its portfolio both in the range visualization techniques and range of form, as seen by pieces like “Raising Barriers” and “Six maps that show that anatomy of the American infrastructure”. For a portfolio, that’s what you want to see. They thought of mobile and desktop as two separate platforms. They don’t overengineer these pieces.”

Product Design

xxv. The New York Times, Watching

“This is very functional, works amazing and is well designed. Compared to the other product services news organization did this year, they really give the user what they want. It does the job of answering what, where and how to watch.”

xxvi. The Washington Post, Washington Post PWA app

“PWA is trailblazing and works well. We don’t know of anything else that compares to it to this extent. The fact it has offline capacity is very user-friendly. It’s the first of its kind, isn’t buggy and doesn’t frustrate you. It takes a lot of technical work to get it to that level of perfection.”

Experimental Design

xxvii. The Guardian, 6×9: A VR Experience of Solitary Confinement

“It’s using the VR characteristic of putting you in the place, but the audio and experiences that happen help tell the story like none other we’ve seen. The piece was emotional, and the fact that limited interactivity is available with VR made it the perfect storytelling platform for being confined in a space. The story is journalistically sound and has more merit because of the virtual reality platform. Unlike a lot of VR, it has a very strong narrative.”

THE JUDGES

Kat Downs, The Washington Post
Hannah Fairfield, climate editor, The New York Times
Jessica Gilbert, digital creative director, McClatchy
Xaquín G.V., former editor of visuals, The Guardian
Alyson Hurt, graphics editor, NPR
Martin Kotynek, Zeit Online
Allison McCann, data reporter, Vice
Douglas Okasaki, senior designer, Gulf News; President, SND
Josh Penrod, presentation director for digital and print, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Bethany Powell, digital creative director, National Geographic
Marianna Santos, formerly of Fusion
Jessica Yu, formerly of The Wall Street Journal
Javier Zarracina, graphics editor, Vox

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

Judging was held in February 2017 at Medill Northwestern University in Washington, D.C.