SND33: Overheard in Syracuse

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve collected comments, insights and trends from this year’s creative competition. The people quoted are kept anonymous, as are the publications they are talking about.


Using “The Book” as your guide

“It’s OK to have the book (SND’s Best of News Design book which shows last year) as your guide, but don’t just copy from it. I noticed that some of the winning entries were on the safer side because they base their work on the previous look. The purpose of the contest is to find innovation, but it seems that many people are looking at last year’s work and not really learning from it, just trying to mimic it.”

On what is winning

“A lot of what we awarded was just clean structural design that was consistent from page to page. … Lots of pages had graphics who were run too big and had a lot of gimmicks, which distracted from the story. There was a commitment to photography from playing it the right size to wasting the opportunity by having superfluous photos.”

Judging multiple page entries

“The first thing I would do was a quick walkthrough to see if there’s anything that killed the entry. Some people included every single page and that really hurt them. You’d see this great work and then you’d come to those dumping ground pages. We all have to run those but they don’t have to be part of your entry.”

The value of coming to Syracuse

“This is a real education that everyone should invest in, especially for those of us who have been in the business for awhile. When I go back and edit pages, I can think about the little details that separated a winning or losing entry for me.”

On the feature page design category

“The bar has been pushed higher than I’ve ever seen it before. We’re talking about elite problem solving. (The judges) want to see something they haven’t seen before … just to give it an A&E. As a group, they wanted to be moved by the page. They really seem to respond to illustration, but only for seriously high execution.”

“The quality of winning pages is great but the quality of the losing pages is better as well.”

Trends in feature page design

“I’m seeing more hand-drawn illustrations. A lot of type illustration. I’m not seeing the Photoshop abuses that I’ve seen in the past. I’m seeing a lot of super heroes. Way too many. The biggest mistake I’m seeing is misuse of color. They use it in the wrong spots. Your type shouldn’t clash with your visual. When the color fights for attention with the visual it’s just not going to work.”


Illustrations in news page design

“I’m seeing a lot fewer freelance illustrations, but what is out there is REALLY GOOD. I am seeing a lot of in-house Photoshoppy illustrations too so it’s making the really top quality ones stand out. … People are spending their money really wisely. It makes me wish I had an illustration budget!”

Infographic use on news pages

“The people who use infographics well REALLY stand out. They were using graphics at a very local level, based on their information and they are clearly investing the time and effort in that type of visual reporting. Then they let the graphics drive the design of the page.”

Bad graphics on business pages

“There’s a lot of bad graphics going on that they use to drive the design. They say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take this one-column bar chart and make it 12 columns.’ I saw a lot of big bar charts and maps that had no business being the size they were on the page.”

On what was winning sports coverage

“The winning entries did something new. Something we hadn’t seen before. A lot of the pages we saw were very predictable and were things we could have done 10 years ago.”

“I saw some epic photography but the page was hurt because of the lack of clarity in the architecture. … I saw some entries that you could tell the publication had not fully “sold out” on the coverage of that event.”

On the first thing they are looking for in multiple page entries

Winning entries should know how to tell a complete story without overloading you with unnecessary stuff. The thing I’m seeing in winning entries they will lead me to more questions that I’m finding answers for as I’m looking through the pages.

On editing your multiple page entries

“There were a lot of entries that had 1-2 pages that weren’t as good and had the entry been edited better, I would have voted for it.”

“But it’s not always the editing of the entry but the editing of the page itself. Is there content on this page that is cluttering up the story you are trying to tell? There was one great piece and it was really telling a story articulately. Then it “jumped the shark” when they started pulling in social media feeds with it and it really hurt the tone of the package. It was an awkward tack-on.”

A QR-first

“May have just had a first: judge asked me to check a QR code on a design.”

Bad headline trend in the business page category

“Seeing A LOT of ‘Apple’s Core’ headlines (for Steve Job’s obit pages) … seriously people.”

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