3 Questions: The SND 34 judges

As a posse rides in hot pursuit of Newman and Redford, a line in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” repeats over and over and over: “Who are these guys?”

You might be wondering the same about our SND34 Best of News Design judges, too. So in an effort to shed some light, we posed three questions to them — about design, about the competition, and about life in general. You’ll enjoy (and learn from) their responses.

Saulo Santana


Saulo Santana is the art director for Bild am Sonntag, Axel Springer AG in Germany. Previously, he was the art director for Correio Braziliense in Brazil. Saulo is a judge on the visuals team and spoke to us through a translator.

What was your favorite thing you saw on the tables this year?
“The Eureka magazine entry showed how to rethink – how to reinvent – journalism.”

Do you have any advice for graphic designers entering the contest?
“In infographics, I have seen more design than journalism. When it comes to a newspaper, an infographic has to follow the same rules as a written story. Show respect for your readers and think about the story – think about journalism – first. We’re making newspapers not pieces for designers.”

What do you like to do for fun?
“I love to fly back to Rio.”

Tim Parks


Tim Parks is the deputy news and presentation editor at Omaha World-Herald. He is a judge on the news team.

Was it tough to be a judge?
“It’s very exhausting and you feel a lot of pressure seeing everyone’s work and knowing your judgement can be the deciding factor as to whether they get in the book or not. You try to put that out of your mind but you know it’s a big deal.”

What was the news team looking for this year?
“Our group really skewed toward the pages that went with strong headlines, strong photos and simple design.”

What’s your favorite Sci-Fi movie?
“Of all time?”
“Wow. It’s too easy to say Star Wars. I’m going to go with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

Greg Manifold


Greg Manifold is deputy design director for news at The Washington Post. He is a judge on the long form team.

What was it like being a judge?
“It’s been more personally more powerful than even the convention. It was a great opportunity to see things in other papers to aspire toward.”

Do you have any advice for designers entering the contest next year?
“You have to be really critical and honest with yourself and not shy away from constructive criticism from your peers before you even get to this point.”

What do you like to geek-out on?
“Golf. Anything golf-related. I take a golf trip every spring that I look forward to.”

Gustavo Lo Valvo


Gustavo Lo Valvo is design director for Clarin. His is a judge on the features team.

What is your takeaway from being a judge?
“It’s very hard but it’s incredibly interesting. It’s one of the most interesting design experiences I’ve had. I take with me a better understanding of what our industry standard is right now. I was thinking about what an awards means. When you aren’t here it’s hard to understand how difficult it is to get an award.”

Do you have any advice for people entering next year?
“Work harder. Keep it simple.”

What are your passions outside of work?
“I’m a runner. I’m trying to run more marathons. I’ve run two in Buenos Aires.”

Vince Chiaramonte


Vince Chiaramonte is design director of the Buffalo News. He is a judge on the long form team.

It’s your second time as a judge. What’s your takeaway now that you’ve done this twice?
“It’s easier this time around. Knowing what to expect and knowing how to pace yourself and not feel overwhelmed.”

Do you have any advice for people entering the contest next year?
“Be brutally honest with yourself. This isn’t your newsroom’s greatest hits or your state competition, this is the best in the world.”

What do you like to geek-out on?
“You’re going to laugh but I’m a politics junkie. I’m a big Chris Matthews fan. Since I’ve had kids I’ve kinda gotten away from sports — but it’s kinda like sports anyways.”

Nick Mrozowski


Nick Mrozowski is the creative director for Adweek Magazine. Nick is a judge on the features team.

What’s your takeaway from the experience of being a judge?
“I have got to do better work. Having to vote ‘no’ for things that you would be proud to have done really puts it in perspective.”

Do you have any advice for people entering next year?
“Put together a portfolio of your work and edit it down to 5 or 6 pages. And if you have a page that doesn’t make that cut? Don’t even think about entering it. If it’s not your best work it’s not going to stand up to the best work here.”

What do you like to geek-out on?
“Oh, I watch TV. If I hadn’t have been here I’d be done with House of Cards on Netflix. I’m on episode 11 and a half. I’m very excited to finish it.”

Rebekah Monson


Rebekah Monson of Arts & Sciences magazine at the University of Miami and a freelance journalist. Rebekah is a judge on the news team.

What’s your takeaway from being a judge?
“There is a huge quantity of really outstanding work that we’re seeing. When you work in this business sometimes you feel like we’re losing staff and we’re losing space but people are really doing some innovative and cool things to make the most of what they have. I’ve also been surprised at how thorough the process is because a lot of times when you’re not here you get the book and you think, ‘How did this win and this other thing didn’t?’ But the way that everything is set up it’s so organized and systematic. It’s not a perfect system but every judge is deeply concerned with being fair and thorough.”

What advice do you have for people entering the competition?
“People who have been very successful pick their top pages and enter them in multiple categories. They also are very harsh editors. The entries that do the best have been heavily curated. It’s 100% editing from the bottom up.”

What are you a nerd about?
“I’m a band nerd by training. I’ve been surprised how many other judges are band nerds also. There are a lot of judges who play instruments here. In some ways that makes sense because in some ways there is a link between music and creativity and what we do here.”

He Chang


He Chang is deputy editor at the Shanghai Oriental Morning Post. He has studied at Shanxi University and the University of Bolton. He is a judge on the news team and spoke to us through a translator.

What has been the most surprising thing about serving as a judge?
“Even though there are judges from many different backgrounds it’s surprising that they have very similar opinions as to what is good work and what is not.”

What differences do you notice between Chinese and American newspapers?
“The differences between Chinese and American newspapers are becoming smaller and smaller. Good design is a result of team collaboration and imagination and Chinese newspapers are learning from the best in the industry.”

What do you like to do for fun?
“I don’t know how to say this but do you know Cubes? That you can turn into the same color?”
A Rubik’s Cube?
“Yes. I love to play Cubes. It helps me to relax.”

Vanessa Wyse


Vanessa Wyse is the Creative Director of The Grid in Toronto. During its first year, The Grid was honored as one of SND’s World’s Best Designed Newspapers. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Vanessa is a judge on the visuals team.

What’s the best part about being a judge?
“I enjoyed seeing the different ways to visually tell a story as well as seeing what an editor, a photo editor and an art director would look for in a newspaper as opposed to a magazine.”

Are there any trends you’ve seen?
“I’d like to see infographics continue to develop. I think that graphic artists are in this interesting place right now where the industry is balancing this data visualization trend with traditional infographics.”

What inspires you?
“New fun ideas. I was really happy when Magnes won that silver because I just love simple, clean ideas.”

Adrian Norris


Adrian Norris is a senior leader at The Globe and Mail. He has previously worked at The Times, The Sunday Times and The South China Morning Post. Adrian is a judge on the news team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?
“It’s really hard work and it takes you the first round just to get an understanding of the competition. The volume of work is quite stunning.”

It’s Day 3. After seeing so many entries, what’s your takeaway?
“I’d like to have seen a lot more innovation on the layout front. I think the majority is still very traditional. In terms of the design many entries could have been done 20 years ago. With the industry the way it is we need that innovation.”

Are you enjoying Syracuse?
“We’ve had some great snow. Actually, it’s been quite beautiful out. I also went over to the University and the new media building is absolutely stunning – a gorgeous building. I’d like to work there myself.”

Paul Wallen


Paul Wallen is senior designer at the Tampa Bay Times. He is a generalist judge.

What has surprised you about being a judge?

“Having been a facilitator I’m surprised how hard it is not to help.”

What do you mean? Why can’t you help?

“You don’t want to accidentally see who an entry is from if you’re a judge because you don’t want to be influenced by any outside information. So it’s hard to just hang back until all the entries are on the table and ready to be judged.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?

“I was really impressed by The Washington Post’s political coverage just in the way they make information accessible. A lot of people in newsrooms are political junkies – I am not. But I still wanted to take those entries home and read them. Really, I wanted to take their political coverage and show it to every editor out there. It’s informative coverage that’s easy to read and accessible.”

Ryan Hildebrant


Ryan Hildebrandt is the Creative Director for Gannett’s Louisville Design Studio. Previously, he was the Design Editor for the Indianapolis Star. Ryan is a judge on the long form team.

This is your first time in Syracuse. What has surprised you?

“For me, the overall level of quality of the entries. I expected a lot more pages on the tables to be … not that great. But everything has been really tough to chose between.”

What trends have you seen so far?

“I really love the hand-drawn approach to telling a serious story. But at this point in the competition it’s starting to wear on me. It’s something that I think is starting to get overdone.”

What’s one thing people should know about you?

“I used to wear flip-flops a lot, like Larry Buchanan. Probably before he ever wore them.”

Cristóbal Edwards


Cristóbal Edwards taught visual journalism at Universidad Católica de Chile for 12 years. He’s been an SND member since 1997 and serves as director of international relations. Cristóbal is a generalist judge.

What has surprised you about being a judge?

“This competition is extremely well organized. For the incredible number of entries that we are evaluating it runs very smoothly. Yes, it’s long hours. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But it’s like a very well oiled machine. But nevertheless it’s not an automatic process. When we need to stop and ponder and discuss, we do. I think in that sense it’s a nice pace in that we are able to pay attention to the pieces and yet be able to go though more than 9,000 entries.”

What trends are you seeing in this year’s entries?

“I’d like to convey the message to designers and artists who work so hard in shrunk newsrooms with long hours and low pay and then they do these gigantic pieces that we believe are beautiful but the reader cannot swallow them. It’s too much. It’s like they are overworking. So the message is: You don’t need to overwork. Stories are complex in their own nature. So the service to the reader is to make it digestible. That is what should be celebrated.”

How do you think the competition should evolve?

“I’d like to see more international participants in the competition. There are many already but from not that many countries and not that many newspapers. I’d like to see more diversity at the competition. I’d love to see more tabloids. They have their own slightly different way to look at things and design them. There’s no right and wrong. It’s different and diverse and we need to embrace that.”

Mary Garrison


Mary Garrison is the arts and entertainment designer for the Staten Island Advance. She previously worked at the Indianapolis Star and was art director of its weekly entertainment magazine. Mary is a judge on the features team.

What’s been the most fun part about being a judge?

“We’re looking at portfolios now. So you’ve seen each individual page but now you see them all as a body of work and think ‘Wow, that person is really spectacular at what they do.’ So it’s thrilling to see such an amazing amount of good work.”

Have you seen any trends in the contest?

“In features we had a lot of big spreads that were based on popular entertainment topics. There were a lot of papers using a double-truck space for movie trivia. The Hobbit. James Bond – lots of James Bond. So that was a trend. Also: Circular graphics. There were all these swoops and very strange timelines. So that was unusual as a trend. Some of them made sense but most of the time I couldn’t find a real rhyme or reason for the round storytelling.”

What are your Oscar picks for this year?

“Argo really might win best picture. I think it will. Ben Affleck didn’t get a nod for director but he’s won everything else. However, the best movie of the year is probably Zero Dark Thirty but the bad thing is I haven’t seen it yet. I’m seeing it next weekend. My nerdy thing I do is I always look at box office reports. It’s an instantaneous thing that I do every morning. That’s my nerdy thing.”

Josh Crutchmer


Josh Crutchmer is news design director at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He was the SND33 print competition coordinator and is a judge on the news team.

How do you feel the competition is going so far?
“It’s going well. It’s exhausting but the nerves from yesterday are gone.”

Have you seen any trends in what you’ve seen?
“One specific thing that I’ve seen over and over is Pac-Man – and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. I’ve seen 6 different Pac-Man illustrations … Pac-Man gobbling up a gas tank … and then another one with Pac-Man eating a headline … So I don’t know if Pac-Man had an anniversary last year or something, but lots of Pac-Men. Or Pacs-Man. Or whatever. Pac-People.”

What’s something surprising about you that people don’t know?
“My very first journalism job was not in newspapers it was doing play-by-play for high-school sports on AM radio in rural Oklahoma. It was KOKL Radio in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Nobody really did listen so I got into newspapers.”

Ari Kinnari


Ari Kinnari is Design Editor at Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland. He has worked with several Finnish newspapers and magazines as art director or design consultant. He has been involved in many redesign projects, the latest a Helsingin Sanomat tabloid change in January of this year. Ari is a judge on the long form team.

Has anything surprised you about the competition?

“There are a lot of similar solutions no matter where the pages are coming from – Europe or the Far East or the United States.”

Has there been anything difficult about judging?

“Olympics dominated my categories. I’ve seen enough Olympics sections for the rest of my life. Everything is basically quite good but there aren’t too many top quality works.”

What do you like to do for fun?

“I like to play soccer and I like to follow the Premier League in England. I like Liverpool – I don’t know why but it’s just is my favorite.”

Jen Levario Cieslak


Jen Levario Cieslak founded JLCieslak Creative in 2011. She previously spent more than a decade designing special projects and breaking news for the Arizona Republic and Arizona Daily Star. Jen is a judge on the long form team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?

“Everything. I knew it would be long hours but I think the time has flown by. I was expecting it to be really grueling but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?

“Some of the top papers are performing consistently high but I’d love to see them take things just one more inch further.”

What’s one surprising thing about you?

“There’s nothing surprising about me. I share everything on Facebook.”

Alex K. Fong


Alex K. Fong is deputy design director of the San Jose Mercury News and the Bay Area News Group. He is a member of the print redesign team for Digital First Media and is a judge on the visuals team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?
“I’m surprised how little conflict there is over what is good and what isn’t. I would imagine that it would be more subjective but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we all have a common set of standards.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?
“I’ve been looking for an entry that completely bowls me over because it’s new and something I haven’t seen before, but I’m still looking.”

What’s your favorite casino game?

“Pai Gow. Always the Pai Gow. It’s the friendly poker game – you’re never in conflict.”

Michael Whitley


Michael Whitley is assistant managing editor for the Los Angeles Times. He is a judge on the visuals team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?
“How mentally taxing it is being a judge. Giving each entry your full consideration. It’s one thing to watch people do that, it’s another to do it yourself.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?
“There were a couple of news photos that were really emotional and spoke to the power of photography to tell a story. It’s one thing to read that something had happened, but when you saw what had happened … they felt very violent and very intimate and made your heart ache.

What’s one surprising thing about you?
“I’ve been coming to the competition since 1998 but this is the first time I’ve ever been a judge.”

Rob Schneider


Rob Schneider is in charge of design, graphics and illustration for The Dallas Morning News. Rob has led successful redesigns of the DMN, The Providence Journal and various other print and digital products. Rob is president of SND and is a judge on the visuals team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?

“How mentally exhausting it is. You make quick decisions and immediately realize how hard it is to win in this competition.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?

“Entries are either 12 column photos or they are way underplayed. There seems to be a lot of extremes.”

What’s one surprising thing about you?

I was a member of Menudo in 1997.

Larry Buchanan


Larry Buchanan is a freelance illustrator, designer and journalist. His work has appeared in publications such as The Onion and McSweeney’s. He has also done work for ESPN, Facebook and the federal government. Larry was named SND’s student designer of the year in 2010 and is a judge on the features team.

What has surprised you about being a judge?

“Initially I thought it was going to be tough to determine the levels. What’s an Award of Excellence? Silver? Gold? But once you go through the room things just start to pop out at you.”

What has surprised you about the work you’ve seen so far?

“In years past there are trends you can identify but this year’s work seems not to have a cohesive feel just yet.”

What’s one surprising thing about you?

“I once lived in a log cabin.”

Chris Mihal


Chris Mihal is the Creative Director of the Asbury Park Design Studio. He has been a senior designer at the Arizona Republic and the Creative Director of Creative Loafing Atlanta. Chris is a graduate of Ball State University and is a judge on the features team.

What has surprised you most about being a judge?

“It’s surprising how in sync 5 people can actually be. There are a lot of 5-0’s and 1-4’s. Ususally the ones that win are 4-1’s. You think about our profession as being so subjective, but as judges we just know what good work is.”

What has surprised you most about the work you’ve seen so far?

“The lack of surprise. I haven’t really seen much that I haven’t seen before. Obviously there’s going to be a few pieces that are going to be in medal contention but a lot of the thing feel like things we seen in years past.

What is one surprising thing about you?

“Everybody hates me. But I’m a nice guy, I promise.”

About Kenney Marlatt

is a designer/editor at the Chicago Tribune.

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