JOURNAL: First-time facilitator at SND32

As a first-time facilitator for SND judging, I didn’t quite know what to expect. After meeting some of the judges and facilitators who have made the trek to Syracuse, N.Y., numerous times, I was told to expect one thing: long days.

Joe Greco
On Friday night, judges and facilitators — designers from publications all over the world — met at the Sheraton hotel on the Syracuse University campus for a debriefing of weekend responsibilities. The judges were pulled into a room for official mug shots and to be assigned to teams that will judge the different categories of the competition.

The facilitators are here to assist the judges to make the process run smoothly. And with 10,515 total entries, a smooth process is necessary to get through the weekend. For quick judging, the pages are spread across tables that fill a ballroom at Drumlins Country Club.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, all the judges and facilitators boarded buses to make our way to Drumlins. I’ve seen pictures of the judging process in recent years. But to see the row after row of tables that are set end to end, it was in a way overwhelming. Pages were neatly arranged atop the tables that were lined with brown paper. A blue and red cup was set upside down in front of each entry. Melted through the bottom of the cups are slots through which the five judges would later cast their vote with different colored chips.

I volunteered to assist with the features category. After the pages were neatly arranged atop the tables lined with brown paper, judging team captain Gayle Grin of Canada’s National Post, gave a group of judges their marching orders.

Judges first went through all of the entries and placed yellow cups on pages to call out conflicts. If a judge works for, has worked for, or competes against a paper on the judging table, he or she cannot vote on the entry. In these cases, a conflict judge will cast a fifth, potentially tie-breaking vote.

As a facilitator, the real work came when the judging for the category was complete. At this time, Grin gathered the judges to follow ahead of her, while facilitators followed behind. After everyone was in place, she revealed the votes at a quick pace. The judges were there to witness Grin call out the totals. The facilitators were there to remove the entries that won an award, as well as collect the entries that did not.

It was my responsibility to follow along and collect the non-winning entries. I have to say, it was difficult to keep up. Wrestling with single- and multi-page entries while following behind caused me to break a sweat!

About these non-winning entries were incredibly well-designed. I would have been proud to have designed any one of them. The entries that did win were simply amazing. The judges have to be quick and vote yes or no at an instant. With so many fantastic pages in one place, the judges here have a very tough job.

JOE GRECO is corporate design director for GateHouse Media. He writes a regular design blog for GateHouse at and contributes design-related stories about GateHosue papers at

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