General competition: Here’s the final tally

The final day of The Best of Newspaper Design™ general competition has come to a close. The judges did not award a Best of Show. Four gold medals were awarded: two to the National Post, and one each to The New York Times Magazine and Expresso (Lisbon). The unofficial* top 10 winners by number of awards are the Los Angeles Times, the National Post (Toronto), The New York Times and its magazines, The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, La Presse (Montreal), The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, the Boston Globe, Zaman (Istanbul), The National (Abu Dhabi), and three newspapers tied for No. 10: The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, the Chicago Tribune, and Clarin (Buenos Aires). The action moves next weekend to the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper award, which is judged by a separate group of panelists. Join us on Saturday when that coverage will begin.

* Unofficial means that the full results are still being tallied because the general competition has just closed and the World’s Best entries have not been judged.

The full database of winners will not be released until after the World’s Best judging concludes. We’ll let you know when the audited and verified results are available for searching.

About Matt Mansfield

is VP at CQ Roll Call, a Board Member and leads SND's Outreach efforts. He was SNDDC workshop chair in 2015.


Maybe it’s just me, but I find it somewhat disturbing that results, unofficial or otherwise, are being released throughout the process. Even more troublesome is that we know who the top winners are before World’s Best Designed has been judged. I don’t supposed anyone in that judging group might be influenced by knowing who the top 10 winners were before they judge the category?

Psst. Cap on entries. Pass the word …

Still, it will be interesting to see all the winning work. It should be an award unto itself that any good work is still possible amid The Turmoil.

Can’t ever cap the entries without changing the mission of the contest.

The “Best of News Design” is the best of newspaper design with no strings attached. And if a paper would have 100 winners but we cap its entries at 50, we are denying the contest, and by proxy the industry via the book, the actual “best” … you’d have to change the contest to the “Somewhat Decent of News Design With Several Winners Capped Out.”

It’s not like if we capped Excelsior’s entries that some other paper would win more to make up the difference.


I’d argue that there’s a value in transparency and letting people know sooner.

Plus, as you know from judging, it’s impossible to tell a group of 5 independently-minded people how to vote. Judging groups see sometimes the exact same things differently, so I can’t imagine a list affecting what they do.

The Turmoil—a direct result of nonsense like obsessing about SND contests. The newspapers get worse; readers go someplace else; rinse and repeat.

Have fun wrecking an industry!

Note to self: Pull the circulation numbers for the U.S. papers listed here. I doubt many of them have been attracting more subscribers during their design obsession.

For those who don’t know: Fred likes to make false Wikipedia entries. I even have one of his IP addresses, courtesy of Wikipedia. Apparently he is a big Scooby-Doo fan.

Also, as one can see from his entry here, he’s not a big fan of punctuation. This, among other glaring weaknesses, apparently led to his demise at the city he lists after his name.

Dude (Steve),
Im interested in knowing exactly what the value is in letting people know sooner. (And the word ‘tranparency’ is losing value and meaning like ‘sophisticated design’ did a few years ago)

I miss the wait. I miss the anticipation. I miss seeing all the results collectively so that everyone who wins learns at the same time. I’ve looked at some of the annouced winners and while all are solid work, there are some I not sure should be singled out.

And judges are influenced. We are not as independently-minded as we like ourselves to believe.

Dear Matt,

I am very sorry to say again the same, but all this liking is crazy, goes against the credibility of the contest, manipulates the judging, creates confusion, and the SND board has to fix it.

If judges, assistants and officials around the contest cannot keep confidential the process and the results, then they don’t deserve to be there.

Any winner is happy to know as soon as possible the awards (and INNOVATION is more than happy to get one of the Gold’s for the redesign of REVISTA UNICA), but you need to stop this.

No more mobil phones calls from Syracuse.

No more SMS.

No more videos.

No more blogs.

Just confidential and serious judging, and quick an accurate release of the official results with no errors.

That’s all.

Is this to much to ask?

I have to agree with Juan Antonio: all the pix and tweets make it feel very clique-y which is a disservice to a group of hard-working judges from a diverse range of papers. One other thing that struck me looking at the list of top winners: I can’t recall seeing a word in Update about most of those papers during the year and would love to see more of their work and hear more news from them.

Our challenge is to try to give people a view of the process, which so many people are interested in knowing about, while also respecting the hard work going on. I’d agree that maybe the tweets are too much. It was an experiment this year and we won’t do it next year. Not sure that the photographs are a problem, though. The slideshows of the work are very interesting, at least to me. And, Dan, we will do more on the papers that we saw in SND publications. One thing that this process does is to help surface new work.

There is no reason you can’t give people a view of the process, but it can wait until after it is done. I posted up a recap of my experience a few years ago but was well after the fact.

It would be nice to have a look into the process when ALL the winners are announced rather than this hodgepodge throw it all out there approach.  There is no context of the process, no thoughtful reflection, no editing. Just because you can get this info out quickly doesn’t mean you have to.

That’s great, Matt! One of the best things about the contest is how it opens our eyes to inspiring work from papers that we wouldn’t see otherwise. Update has done some insightful interviews with designers in the news over the past year, I’d love to see conversations with a broader range of designers in the coming year.

Fair points all around. To Skwish’s thought on immediacy: SND was reacting to a survey of members that said “live” coverage of this event was a high priority. We’re always trying to adjust and see what works. So next year, we won’t do any random winners and no more tweets. Any thoughts on whether it’s helpful to have a daily recap of the top winners to that point? And did any of the slideshows or videos around, say, the China papers or the Abu Dhabi paper feel worthwhile? And was it helpful to meet the students who were assisting?

I think for the conference the live approach works well, everyone can see who is there and what is being presented and how drunk everyone is and all that, but I wonder if that is what is best for the judging. I agree with Juan Antonio’s points. I know that flickr and tweets are out of everyone’s control now and ‘reports’ will be sent out, but I question if that is in the best interest of the process of judging.

And man, you know me… Skwish, not Swish.

I did fix it. I was typing too fast, Mr. Skwish!

About the other stuff: We really are learning as we go, especially as every event out there gets more and more transparent, but we are also protective of the idea of judges being able to evaluate work in an environment that allows for frank conversation.

Thanks, Dan … I have been trying to do interviews on Update with people about their work and the design process, both print and online. I saw many fascinating things in Syracuse that should make great stories about newspaper design. If there’s a particular paper or piece that you (or anyone else) would like to know more about for a future Update story, please email me: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


If anything transparency is gaining value. As people increasingly share information about themselves online, we’ve come to expect the same kind of openness from organizations, such as SND. The former tyrannically controlled transparency has added a level of see through, adding emotions, intentions and interaction to the mix.

I think it’s great to see the slideshows of pages and the various videos from Syracuse. These didn’t interfere with what was happening with the judging at all and should stay for next year. You could still use Twitter, but just to tell people there is new content posted on Update – pictures, pages, videos etc. But I think it’s best to leave any results until the end. Instead of naming papers you could just announce how many awards were won by country, how many golds were won and so on. Leave the finer details until later. I had no problem with reading about the students but I was more interested in seeing pages from different countries and video interviews.
I understand Juan’s point but I feel if people get a taste of what’s going on there’s no problem. Cover the event, just don’t announce who’s won what until it’s all done and dusted.

While we’re being “transparent,” let’s look at some numbers (sorry, I don’t feel like blowing them up to 200-point and making them colorful, as a page designer would do):

“The Los Angeles Times, published by Tribune, reported a daily circulation decline of 5.1% and a 6.1% drop on Sunday”

“Boston Globe (down 8.3%)”

“St. Petersburg Times (down 2.1%)”

“The New York Times, the third-largest newspaper, which is facing stiffer competition from the Journal, saw daily circulation slide 3.85% to 1,077,256, while Sunday circulation tumbled 9.3% to 1,476,400.”

In short, these approaches don’t seem popular with readers. To the Mensa members who always offer the counter-argument of “Prove design doesn’t attract readers”: THIS IS YOUR PROOF.

Now the inevitable spin can begin, with all sorts of reasons from crickets to sunspots offered as to why the design-first, editing-last-and-only-if-we-have-time approach HAS to be working, even though all the numbers argue against it.

Please don’t claim to be “transparent,” though, until you plan to accept and address all the relevant facts.


Your counter-argument suffers from similar problems, as you and the other droolers here are going to claim “Design is GREAT!” until newspapers roll into their graves.

If you have a direct response to those numbers, though, feel free to entertain us with it.

It’s hard to argue that words don’t come first at most of the top winners. The NY Times and LA Times both do a great job with both the written and visual journalism.


And yet the first post here was someone panting about the V-P’s exclusion. Nice try, though.

Also, the Chicago Tribune has fallen several pegs at least with its new approach. Half-page photos of someone’s head do little to attract readers or to say what a story is about.

Cleveland also has gotten completely away from anything resembling a serious newspaper.

Finally, a while back I worked with someone who had been at Buffalo. That person was less than impressed.

Off-the-cuff observations, yes—but people here don’t seem to want to accept the numbers. Just curious—if numbers are irrelevant, and personal observations are irrelevant, just what will designers accept, other than “Design is GREAT!”


Design is one of many important aspects of any product; however, to put the blame solely on design ignores larger issues, such as the internet, the economy, job cuts, mobile phones, etc—any or all of which could be lending to circulation declines.

Same old, tired response.

Designers claim they attract readers. The numbers say they don’t. (I can repost that link for you, Yuri, if you’ve forgotten what it said.)

Your excuses are much like the AI bikini girl who said she was tired from wearing stiletto heels that day. Time to take off the bikini, Yuri. Just admit the approach doesn’t work and move on to something that does.


The numbers say one thing: Circulation is declining.

Numbers don’t talk. Numbers don’t say why. Numbers don’t say what’s working and what’s not. Without context, without looking at causes, they are just numbers.

This means design could be keeping and increasing readers and other factors are losing readers or design is behind all circulation declines. Without studying causes, we can’t make logical arguments for or against design as the culprit.

I know you don’t like designers, so you want to make your point, but as a journalist you understand the numbers don’t give weight to reason right?

I was stating that the word transparency is losing value, not the actual use of it. People bandy it about as though just saying it makes things clear.

Steve made a statement about it there being value in transparency, yet didn’t give any examples.

Anyhow, the value of the openness of info spread by individual is questionable at best. How can we verify this info? So much online is incorrect. So rather than clarify things the overflow of information is often muddying up things.

I’d say the numbers destroy any hope designers have of claiming they, and they alone, attract readers. One of the SND attendees claims the stories “live or die” based on presentation. If that claim is true, and fewer people are reading the stories, then does it not follow that the presentation is not attracting the readers, as the designers claim it does?

You want a world where any time an edition sells well, then it HAS to the design. Recent examples: The inauguration. The election. But if it doesn’t sell well, then it HAS to be from some other cause.

Also, I’d say the numbers show that what newspapers have been doing recently is not working. That does encompass things other than design, but many of those—bad hiring, the dumbing-down of newsrooms, less accuracy, less credibility—can be traced directly to the focus on design.

If newsrooms had been more transparent to this point about what was working and what was not, we’d have more information to go on. Instead, they chose to hide in the shadows and the weeds, relying on propaganda. Very weak. Very gutless. Very hard to respect. Very indicative of why the Internet is leaving newspapers in the dust.

But you tell me what shows “design is keeping and increasing readers.” Saying “Prove that it doesn’t” is not an acceptable response.

Provide one measure of cause-and-effect that shows the resources devoted to better PFADs are paying off—not just for a single day or a single six-month period, but for the long term.

I await your response. Try to make it fit into the above parameters. A response of “Prove that it doesn’t” or one that ignores this request and simply throws out another request will be viewed as an admission of defeat.

Also, just to summarize for those coming in late:

LA Times: SND award. Daily circulation decline of 5.1% and a 6.1% drop on Sunday.

Boston Globe: SND award. Down 8.3%.

“St. Petersburg Times (down 2.1%)”

“The New York Times, the third-largest newspaper, which is facing stiffer competition from the Journal, saw daily circulation slide 3.85% to 1,077,256, while Sunday circulation tumbled 9.3% to 1,476,400.”

Am I the only one who believes circulation is an imperfect measure for readership?

Thinking of the work at and how we might learn to engage people with journalism that “focuses on actionable research, field-testing of readership-building ideas and measurement of their success…”

From that site:

“And Millennials are turned off by a “too much” experience – too many things competing for attention in a disorganized way, wordiness, too much detail, stories and pages that go on too long.”

Not everything can be reduced to a 5-second sound bite, though. Or to two phrases.

Example: Someone at the sports board recently was in a lather about the $15,000 non-refundable housing credit that’s part of the latest stimulus plan. He/she/it was confused because he/she/it was looking at the $7,500 refundable credit that’s already in place. I’d say lack of explanation, rather than too much explanation, was the culprit.

I hesitate to offer this next part while my challenge to provide one cause-and-effect is still in play, but I know I would be openly skeptical of any additional attempt to redefine terms. People with arguments offer concepts. People without arguments redefine terms.

Circulation is likely imperfect, but I don’t give much cred to groups with agendas and that have a history of redefining terms, especially when they are desperately trying to find an indicator of their success.

I can’t prove it. Moreover, I disagree with the sentiment that design is a sole cause of success. Many factors influence success.

The examples you used, the inauguration and the election, were influenced by factors including, the content, the historical context, the editing, the photography, the stories, the people, the design, the marketing, the publicity, etc. Removing any of these would lessen the overall package.

Design is one aspect of many that improve newspapers. Design is a function. Design communicates what text and photos alone often cannot. For example, increasing a headline above all other headlines says, “Look here. This is important.” I don’t think you can discount this communicative design value.

I don’t speak for SND and I’m not a newspaper designer, but I believe it’s important to celebrate successes in newspapers especially in light of circulation declines. So many people are hurting. Attacking only increases the misery.

My point is that this is a group doing research. It’s not anecdotal. For instance, if you read the full report on Millenials, you will see that the “too much” comment relates directly to the presentation/writing/editing experience and not the level of depth or engagement people are willing to give to certain topics.

“I can’t prove it. Moreover, I disagree with the sentiment that design is a sole cause of success. Many factors influence success.”

A historic day. And it took only six-and-a-half years to get to this point.

“For example, increasing a headline above all other headlines says, “Look here. This is important.” I don’t think you can discount this communicative design value.”

I can, when design has “evolved” into making 250-point numerals, or when centerpiece headlines have become two-word, 200-point puns that say nothing. Or when the Chicago Tribune offers daily, half-page portraits of someone’s head.  Or when the 250-point headline is not for the most important story, as we saw recently when the Tribune led with the weather.

“Attacking only increases the misery.”

Funny how you and others have no problems attacking when it’s a bash on “word people,” though. Even the recent Poynter chat on photojournalism ethics quickly degenerated into demagoguery about how we needed “visual editors” to show us the way.

Finally, I have no problem saying I want certain approaches to fail. Wanting them to fail and causing their failure are two different concepts, though. When the educated people flee from the Chicago Tribune’s assortment of picture pages and flat-out stupidity, I will cheer. I will feel no guilt for doing so. The company has brought its demise onto itself.

P.S.: Good to see the judges’ personal favorites were allowed to squeeze into that No. 10 spot.

“For instance, if you read the full report on Millenials, you will see that the “too much” comment relates directly to the presentation/writing/editing experience and not the level of depth or engagement people are willing to give to certain topics.”

I guarantee no one reads the U.S. tax code for recreation. But is it important for them to know? Probably.

While I understand those that would rather wait for a complete (“official”) listing of winners. And certainly I can see why it might seem that releasing results mid-competition might seem somewhat new and different—I would still favor releasing results as soon as they are available. We’ve made an effort to speed the delivery of those results to members and entrants—improving more and more each year—but I would prefer to be in a situation like some other major competitions (like photo ones in particular) that post nearly real-time results.

As anyone who’s been at the SND competition can tell you, it’s far too large an undertaking, happens very quickly in a diverse set of rooms, with judges who are busy focusing on their group’s tasks and opinions, for any of these result questions to shade the judging process. I would ask a different question: Why should there be any delay at all?

Also, I think we have to continue covering the competition in any way we can—aside from the annual conference there is no other single annual gathering that brings so many uber-talented visual story tellers from all over the world together under one roof. In addition to their service as judges, it’s important for the Society, our craft and our learning to hear about their process, their reactions and impressions of the previous year’s efforts. These dispatches can take any form—narrative, video, audio, photo, slideshow, and yes, even Tweets. I, for one, want to know as much as I can about what each year’s judging panel is thinking and seeing.

(Final two cents: Oh yeah, circulation is only one factor. Frankly right now, ad sales matter a big dose more where I’m sitting.)

Folks, please don’t feed the troll.

As my mom would say, when you wrestle with a pig, both of you get dirty and the pig’s the only one who likes it.

You can probably deduce who the pig is here.

Seriously, just let him keep talking to himself at his own site.

(enter Knilands, stage right, threatening legal action for the 5th year in a row for being compared to a pig).


Most of what you said about me is false.  I haven’t been a newspaper designer for three years and five years ago I was a reporter. I’ve always believed design is important, but I’ve never believed design is the only important aspect of newspapers.

I’ve also never bashed on word people.

More importantly, there is some merit to critiquing design. Some people might agree a half-page portrait of a head isn’t the most valuable use of space and maybe there was a good reason for the usage. But when your point is followed by saying “When the educated people flee from the Chicago Tribune’s assortment of picture pages and flat-out stupidity, I will cheer,” your point dies before inclusion.

Using falsehoods, illogical arguments and hyperbole doesn’t move your arguments forward. At best, it damages your credibility.

Steve C.—always filled with those information-based retorts. Do you ever offer anything of value? Seriously, you couldn’t make an argument at Poynter, and you apparently can’t do it now.

Like I said, people with arguments make points. People without them redefine terms. Steve Cavendish is firmly entrenched in Category 2.

Comments are closed.