Design judges reflect on the papers vying to be World’s Best™

Judging the World's Best-Designed Newspaper takes several elimination rounds over a long weekend in Syracuse, N.Y.
Judging the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper takes several elimination rounds over a long weekend in Syracuse, N.Y.

Judges tasked with choosing the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper got a rare and unique perspective on the constantly-evolving state of newspaper presentation.

More than 200 newsrooms from around the world sent a variety of 2014 editions to SND’s 36th Best of News Design competition. Entries were unsealed last week in the judging room in Syracuse. (The winners will be unveiled at the SND Workshop in Washington, D.C., this April.)

We asked the five judges to reflect on what they have seen.

Fevzi Yazici

Fez Yazici, design director, Zaman, Istanbul, Turkey:  “Clearly design is improving. I have seen so much I haven’t seen before. … The German and northern European papers have the same structure, which is good, but at the same time they are similar. But I like that approach to the news: simple, strong, clear. And then I saw some magazine-like papers too, which is I think the future: the difference between newspapers and magazines will disappear.”


Anne Marie Owens

Anne Marie Owens, editor in chief, National Post, Toronto: “I don’t know what my expectations were, but what’s been interesting for me is to see the regional trends, and how you see the European look and how you feel about that, and Latin American look and how you see that. We live in our own universe and see single pages, but when you see the whole paper form everywhere you see the whole paper, and we don’t get to see that very often. That’s one of the biggest privileges in this. … Part of what pushes papers to the top visually is the boldness and the use of photography and graphics. To be at once bold and also really discreet and subtle, when that works … I love that interplay.”

Tracy Collins

Tracy Collins, director of Gannett’s Phoenix Design Studio: “I think for me it’s just impressive to see such high-quality work coming from every region of the world. I know it hasn’t always been that way, and in a way I think it makes it more difficult to judge this category than I thought it would be because you have to think about how the design is reflecting the community it’s serving. So you have weigh the beautiful structure of a European newspaper against the energy of a South American newspaper. I have been really impressed by the good graphics that are still going on, while that discipline is suffering at a lot of American papers. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful graphics, mostly from non-American newspapers. But it’s great to see that integrated into the design. And I always love to see European illustration, as well.”

Steve Cavendish

Steve Cavendish, news editor and food critic, Nashville Scene: “I didn’t really see any emerging trends this year, just a lot of papers grappling with change. Some of the best papers, notably Politiken and The Guardian, are doing work as strong as they’ve ever done. But what was heartening was to see the number of papers that have adapted to changes in space, cuts in staff and new demands from advertising. Print is alive and well. Where print struggles is when it’s commoditized. If it was evident to us which papers looked like they were the products of an assembly line, then surely it’s evident to readers as well. The best papers made visuals a co-equal partner to their traditional reporting and combined into a great reading experience.”

Emmet Smith

Emmet Smith, lead senior designer at the Washington Post: “Design is art in the service of ideas. And the best design we saw after parsing more than 200 newspapers from across the globe was in the service of the best ideas, the best journalism. There are probably as many ways to design a great newspaper as there are great newspapers. The ones whose designs worked best were the ones where every design choice was firmly rooted in the story the paper was trying to tell.”

About Lee Steele

is design editor of the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers and 2015 president of the Society for News Design.

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