[Updated again] SND35: A Look at Medal-Winners Past

Today is the U.S. entry deadline* for SND35’s Best of News Design Print Competition. The international entry deadline is one week from today.

In continuing this series of short essays on the competition, we’re taking a break from a focus on entering and changes and instead glancing back at some winning pages from the past decade. I have started with the three below — a news page, a sports page and a special section page, representing photography, illustration and typography use — but reserve the right to update it as the week plays out. If that happens, it will be noted in the headline.

These pages (taken directly from the annuals) represent Silver Medal winners, the second-highest award given at the print competition. The rules state that Silver Medals should be granted for work that goes beyond excellence. The technical proficiency of the Silver Medal should stretch the limits of the medium. I reached out to a journalist involved in each for their thoughts on the work as viewed through the prism that is 2014. Let’s do this.


Portraits of War

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Silver in Miscellaneous.

Note: This is one of many illustrations from this project. Follow the links at the end of this portion of the post for more.

Judges’ Comments: “The judges were moved to recognize this body of work for these reasons: 1. The teamwork between reporter and illustrator. 2. The courage and commitment it took to pull off this project. 3. The idea originating with the illustrator. 4. the publication staying with the story. This is an exceptional body of work under hte conditions. The illustrations show the full emotion of war, from beginning to end. The writing and illustrations work well together and show the war in a totally different way — especially after we’ve seen the war told in so many photographs.”

Credits: Richard Johnson, Artist; Steve Dorsey, Design Director; Jeff Siedel, Writer; Thom Fladung, ME; Staff Designers

Steve Dorsey is currently Vice President Innovation and Planning for Cox Media Group’s (CMG) Austin American-Statesman

1. What is the quick backstory, and how did it come together?

Portraits started life as a proposal from then-Detroit free press staff infographic artist Richard Johnson. As diverse artist he was always pursuing multiple disciplines and styles. He’d been into some live sketching and proposed the idea of applying his skills to combat illustration portraits during the gulf war build up. We paired him up with Jeff Seidel — a features writer from the Free Press — and preparations began. I have to give then-managing editor Thom Fladung, then-editor Carole Leigh Hutton and Knight Ridder credit for backing the plan. It was unprecedented in modern main stream media at a time when most resources were being funneled into embedding photographers and reporters as the drumbeat of the Iraq invasion grew louder.

Rich’s work was an extension of the tradition of combat art that stretches back to the Civil War and still speaks with an emotion and a timelessness captured in one person’s drawing of another.

In preparation, Johnson managed to connect with Howard Brodie, a veteran combat illustrator who had been one of Yank magazine’s best-known artists during the World War II. He sketched everything from Guadalcanal to the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, Brodie became a courtroom artist and worked for the Associated Press, CBS News, Life, and Collier’s. He remained close to the military and returned as a combat artist to Korea, French Indochina, and Vietnam.

Johnson was also mentored by Joseph Galloway, author of “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” who was coaching Knight Ridder’s coverage from DC.

Richard and Jeff filed more than 90 portraits and stories before, and immediately, after the invasion. They tried to focus on real people and moments — military and civilian — away from the cameras of mainstream media. Their work ran in print and on a special website at the time, and later were compiled into the book “Portraits of War.”

Richard eventually left the Free Press and helped cover the war in Afghanistan for The National Post, traveling with Canadian and U.S. forces in 2007, 2011, and 2012 as both artist and reporter. Richard spent two years with the United Nations, heading up a Visual Media Unit tasked with making all kinds of advocacy based visual media up to and including documentary films. He’s now the senior graphics editor for The Washington Post.

2. How was it received in the newsroom and by readers?

This was a very popular feature in print and online during the build up before the invasion. It appeared in print a few times a week and we published additional portraits and sketches, as well as supplemental photos, on a web site we build from scratch and maintained throughout the war. Because the soldiers they were covering had internet access, many wanted to see how the project was playing out in real time. The site even helped convince some higher ranking subjects to grant the team access and give them time.

There was great support from the subjects and their families as well.

Perhaps the best reaction was shared with rich from Howard Brodie himself: “I not only congratulate you, but also the young writer who shared your experience … you both were sensitive and caring – the real touchstones of life.”

3. If a similar opportunity arose today, what if anything would be done differently, and what still holds up?

I think what I took away from this is the timeless value that analog artwork like this carries. And that one wild idea from an incredibly driven, hard-working team needs to be heard and fought for. You can always win with that. Once the idea was in motion, the biggest challenges were logistical (gear and communication) and tactical (using the work well and keeping space and interest stoked back home).

I am eternally proud and grateful to Rich, Jeff and their families for the efforts and risks they took to pull off this project. And then to see Rich return to Toronto and repeat it again and again was nothing short of inspirational.


Howard Brodie:

Richard Johnson:
The book from the original Detroit Free Press series: http://freepressbookstore.stores.yahoo.net/portraitsofwar.html

Twitter: @newsillustrator


Under Siege (Hurricane Katrina)


Silver in Miscellaneous.

Judges’ Comments: “This elegant wrapraround allows the powerful photo of New Orleans under water to unfold dramatically. The image selection is perfect. A traditional secondary photo might have been a closeup of a crying face, but instead it’s the subtle, misty image of two people holding hands in the beating rain. And the closeup of the waterlogged hands holding a trash bag speaks volumes about the people caught in the storm.”

Credits: Jonathon Berlin, Senior Editor/Design and Graphics; Akili-Casundria Ramsess, Photo Editor; Caroline Couig, Picture Editor; Mark Damon, Deputy Director of Photography; Matt Mansfield, Deputy ME; Geri Migielicz, Director of Photography; Jami C. Smith, Picture Editor; Staff

Jonathon Berlin is currently the Design and Graphics Editor of the Chicago Tribune and former SND president:

1. What is the quick backstory, and how did it come together?

This was a special section published in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As the shock of the disaster unfolded and we began to understand what was happening we wanted to portray the scope and impact to our readers. One thing we tried to do in our coverage at the Merc was recognize and take advantage of the news moment and absolutely go to the mat to bring it home to our audience. Here we worked with the photo staff and mixed together images, text and graphics that told the human, natural and structural story of a city under seige.

2. How was it received in the newsroom and by readers?

We got a lot of positive feedback from our special sections and it was a valuable tool for us, especially in bringing our most important stories to Sunday readers. It was a good way to signal the importance of a story and bring in context. We managed our space so that we could take risks when the moments came up. Trim here and there so we can go big at the right moments.

3. If a similar opportunity arose today, what if anything would be done differently, and what still holds up?

I know the Mercury News still values bringing its best stories forward to its Sunday readers, and I know that’s something we believe here at the Tribune. While space is sometimes more difficult to come by, I think this is something we still do. I certainly see strong photopage design and special sections in many publications.


Wave Goodbye (2007-08 NBA Preview Cover)


Silver in Sports Page Design

Judges’ comments: “High effect and high content. All the little details are amazing — this is information you should be digesting. Technically the illustration is executed perfectly, the idea is creative, and the type is understated. It’s a phenomenal page.”

Credits: Derek Simmons, Deputy Design Director; Michael Whitley; Assistant Managing Editor; Michael Hogue, Illustrator

Michael Whitley is currently AME at the Los Angeles Times. Derek Simmons is currently AME/Visuals at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They have both shared their reactions.

1. What is the quick backstory, and how did it come together?

Simmons: That was a strange year for basketball in Southern California. The Lakers were far removed from a three-peat, and some people thought Kobe and Phil could be on the way out. It was before they traded for Pau and made another run. UCLA and USC had a couple of one-and-done freshmen in Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo. The Clippers were a hot mess as usually with superstar Elton Brand out. I reached out to illustrator Michael Hogue, and we brainstormed this idea of a giant tattooed hand waving goodbye. It was a catch-em-while-you-can moment. Hogue was his usual awesome self, and it was my first time working with him. Such a pro. Michael Whitley, Kelli Sullivan and I worked numerous versions to get the supporting type just right. The idea was really for the illustration to do the heavy lifting.

Whitley: We took a lot of steps to make sure the pressmen were given the best opportunity, and they nailed it. It printed really beautifully and that was critical.  But it took some time and effort in concert with prepress and color lab to get it right.

2. How was it received in the newsroom and by readers?

Whitley: The reception in the newsroom was so positive. Staffers who never showed a particular interest in sports or handing out compliments came by to offer praise. The guys in shipping and receiving at the LAT hung it on the wall, and I can tell you only our best make it to that place of honor.

3. If a similar opportunity arose today, what if anything would be done differently, and what still holds up?

Simmons: There isn’t a lot if work I have done in my career that I wouldn’t want a second chance at designing. There is usually plenty if room for improvement. But I don’t think I would change anything about this one. Really happy with how it turned out and think it holds up very well today.


Star Trek

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Silver in Features/Entertainment Page Design

Judges’ comments: “This was a great way to handle the countdown and anticipation leading to the release of the new Star Trek movie. They had the same handout material as everyone else, but they took the story to a sophisticated and whimsical place. It puts a smile on your face.”

Credits: Genevieve Biloski, Features Design Editor; Ian McKellar, Associate Editor/Features; Douglas Kelly, Editor-in-Chief; Gayle Grin, ME of Design/Graphics

Genevieve Biloski was the Features Design Editor who oversaw the project.

1. What is the quick backstory, and how did it come together?

This one was my concept. We had an arts and life meeting in the morning and Ian told me the post movies cover was Star Trek. I asked how many stars it got and he said four. Right away, without hesitation, I thought of photographing someone’s hand counting to four and ending with “peace and prosper”. Ian volunteered as the hand model and someone in photo shot it for us.

2. If a similar opportunity arose today, what if anything would be done differently, and what still holds up?

If a similar situation arose today nothing would be done differently. It was a simple and effective concept.


Lost Voices of September 11


Silvers in Special Section Pages and Special News Topics

Judges’ comments: “This is one of the most emotional pages we saw involving the anniversary of 9/11. It’s an unexpected way to remember the day. Every detail is perfect; the type is intricately pieced together. It makes you want to read every word. This is an excellent example of what great visual journalism can do. It lets the voices of the people tell the story, which builds throughout the page. You can’t help but feel it all over again.”

Credits: Tiffany Grandstaff, Design Director; Alex K. Fong, Deputy Design Director; Jami Smith, Picture Editor; Ron Kitagawa, ME/Production; Margaret Bethel, Copy Chief; Tim O’Rourke, Copy Chief; John Swartley, Copy Editor

Tiffany Grandstaff is the Design Director for the Bay Area News Group.

1. What is the quick backstory, and how did it come together?

As soon as I read the transcript from the voicemails, I knew those words had to be the dominant visual. They were too compelling, too heart wrenching to not play big. I tried a variety of design solutions but in the end it felt like designing each voicemail individually gave the words the prominence they deserved.

2. How was it received in the newsroom and by readers?

The story was well received across the board. The day it published people reached out to tell me that they were just stunned by the narrative of the voicemails. Some told me they were brought to tears reading it. Those reactions confirmed my feeling that the design did its job. The text of the voicemails was very long on its own; the design served as a vehicle to help people navigate through that. Without the design, I think many people would have missed a truly amazing story.

3. If a similar opportunity arose today, what if anything would be done differently, and what still holds up?

The page was a success because we played up our strongest content and our editors were willing to take a risk to present it. The end result was a true team effort — editors, photo editors, copy editors, designers all contributed to the words and visuals on the page. If a similar opportunity arose today, I would use this as a reminder that we should just go for it. I would try to allow more time for tweaks at the end of the process, but that’s always easier said than done.


* If you are in the U.S. and would still like to enter, please contact SND35 coordinator Colin Smith at colinsmi (at) mac.com.

This is the third of four parts on the Best of News Design Print Competition that will run before the International Entry Deadline.

Part 1: This is Why It Matters

Part 2: The Competition’s Infographics Equation

Part 3: Where Are They Now? A Decade’s Worth of Medalists

Part 4: Entering Without Designing to Enter

About Josh Crutchmer

is design and graphics editor at The Plain Dealer.

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