Three judged SND World’s Best-Designed™


What did we see?
The overview of news design in 2009 is a fascinating mixture of bad news with good. The reality of distress in our business is obvious. There are many signs of reduced resources, including smaller news holes with crowded words, less local news, an abundance of feature stories on the front page, a continued shortage of good photojournalism and more use of stock illustration. An overall feeling of looking a little confused and perhaps a bit stuck, prevails.

Inside pages remain overly gray. Some front pages have gotten overly colorful, complicated and unfocused in an effort to shout at the potential reader.

But wait. The good news is that far from going away or giving up, we saw much earnest effort towards reinvention.

The World's Best judges review the winners as they prepare their group statements.

What are the good and poor solutions?
While there was a bit of grasping and gimmicks, others showed us informed experimentation. We find the most successful results are those that went back to newspaper basics, embracing those advantages, i.e., big pictures, sophisticated typography, the display of analytical and explanatory journalism or playfulness between headline, story and art. Rather than competing with the Web by mimicking it, the smarter route seems to partner with it while offering what the Internet can’t provide.

What are the differences around the world?
We found that newspapers outside of the United States, for the most part, appear healthier. Ads seem abundant. Wide formats and luxurious use of space remain. Design positives include a renewed and clever use of illustration, even in hard news situations, combined well with photography and energetic design. In many cases we see successful formats used with great finesse as well as superior printing quality and more attractive ads.

The importance of advertising
The importance of advertising is loud and clear. Newspapers need to acknowledge advertising as part of our product and do what we can to help it live up to the refined level of visual experience our readers expect. We now need to embrace a partnership with colleagues on the advertising side, along with the rest of the newsroom, making everyone part of our visual strategy.

Going forward
This is the age for the thoughtful designer. Your efforts must be as considered as they are creative. We hope these three papers can serve as sources of inspiration. We don’t mean, do exactly what they do, but learn from their general successes. They each know their readers and serve their needs. They each show signs of careful planning. They each have a strong DNA — an identity that goes beyond format. A partial inside page is as identifiable to the publication as its’ page one.

  • Plan. Sketch. Talk to your colleagues. Talk to your editors. Don’t work alone or on the assembly line. You are part of a team. Be willing to edit your design. Listen and make reasonable revisions.
  • Don’t chase trends. Go back to the basics. Your job is first to inform. If you can also be clever, all the better.
  • Awards are good, but the most important rewards come from serving our readers.
  • Be proactive. Work with advertising. Present ideas for mutual benefit.
  • As always, the best design screams of simplicity.

The 31st Edition World’s Best-Designed™ judges:

J. Bruce Baumann, Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press (retired)
Dennis Brack, The Washington Post
Miguel Gomez, Al Nisr Publishing Group (Dubai)
Lily Lu, consultant at the L5 Communications; co-founder and Executive Director for SND Chinese
Margaret O’Connor, The New York Times (retired)


der Freitag

Berlin, Germany

Circulation: 12,400

So bold, yet so simple. Page after page, this weekly delivers a steady diet of visual surprises in a manner that is disciplined and sophisticated, not shocking and chaotic. How does der Freitag strike this difficult balance? Strong fundamental design architecture –- solid typography, intuitive navigation –- combines with a refined approach to choosing and displaying visual content. The paper, dramatically redesigned in 2009, is not afraid to use eye-catching, original illustration, beginning on the front page. An iridescent frog peaks out of the top of one front cover, almost demanding that readers dive into the paper. In the center of a double-truck spread, a wonderful photograph of a solitary igloo on the frozen tundra illustrates a book review in a curiously compelling way. Color is used sparingly and strategically to guide readers. Week after week, there’s a consistent order to the paper, but it does not seem predictable. The typographic palette is similarly restrained but its tone is not flat, thanks to an effective mixture of varying weights of one font. There’s no distracting clutter or inferior images. der Freitag isn’t afraid to let readers just read. The paper in a word: delightful.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung


Circulation: 347,000

A remarkable mix of visual elements unfolds across the blanket-size pages of this German broadsheet. Instead of driving stories into unbending forms, the Sunday paper’s designers craft unique storytelling solutions based on the demands of specific content. On one page, a story is best told through panels of 24 iPhone screen-size pictures. A few pages later, a Renaissance painting, played huge, allows readers to experience the richly detailed artwork, and powerfully tells a story. Effective use of white space and the grid, coupled with judicious use of color in type, contributes to overall clarity. And rigorous attention to maintaining an assortment of text lengths makes the paper sustentative, yet eminently digestible. The result: a newspaper that is unwavering in its respects for readers’ time, intellect and curiosity.

The New York Times

New York City / USA

Circulation: 800,000

A large-circulation general-interest newspaper is a tough beast to visually tame. Every Sunday, the local edition of The New York Times has a dozen or more sections, covering the world from Bali to the Bronx, and topics ranging from nuclear bombs to nose jobs. A DNA of visual discipline binds sections with distinct accents together into a paper that speaks with one voice. A design architecture of timeless elegance provides a solid foundation upon which to build innovative visual storytelling that weaves through the paper. In the Metropolitan section, the extraordinary lives of ordinary people unfold in a feature that raises the bar for photo columns. When it comes to presenting long-form written journalism, Times designers realize their job is to enhance the pleasure of reading narrative text, not diminish it with distractions. From its iconic front page to cutting-edge fashion photos in its magazine, the Times serves a national audience with a sprinkle of New York flavor.


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