A tribute, by Lars Pryds (@pryds).
Art Director, former editor of SNDS Magazine, Sakskøbing, Denmark.
SND Scandinavia President Flemming Hvidtfeldt, 66, died from cancer, Dec. 17, 2020 (see obit here). We first met in the late 90s, but in 2005 he approached me and a colleague for help to rethink the design for the “Best of Scandinavian News Design” competition and, as it turned out, the SNDS Magazine.
The result was 11 years working together with Flemming on the competition and the magazine, whose print edition was discontinued by the end of 2016. Flemming served as competition chairman from 2002 until his death in 2020 – an amazing span of years in which he tirelessly argued the importance of news design and visual journalism.
Reinventing the competition
Being a long-time journalist and an editor himself, Flemming knew about the struggles small and large newspapers go through to get readers’ attention. So when voices claimed that “only large companies have a chance to win awards” in the competition, Flemming redefined the categories to reflect the size of the publication – and even introduced “Best Designed Newspaper” and “Best Designed Digital” awards also for small publications.
He always tried to reach out to new audiences – at one time inviting the Baltic countries to participate, another time by including European front pages, special topics, or publications outside the realm of news organizations. And not least – by adapting to the digital world, developing new categories for digital entries and continuously fine-tuning them to reflect the constantly changing media landscape.
Chairman turns President
Since 2013, when Flemming also took over as President of SND Scandinavia, his responsibility and engagement have covered the whole Scandinavian organization and – as Region 13’s representative on the SND board – international connections.
He welcomed the opportunity to speak to members and SND officers across the world. However, he was not entirely happy when SND announced the 2014 international workshop to be held in Frankfurt, Germany (only 90 minutes’ flight time away from Denmark) within the same week as the Scandinavian conference in Copenhagen.
“But if you choose Frankfurt there will be no hard feelings,” he said in SNDS Magazine #1, 2014 “And maybe you’ll go to both. We (SND and SNDS, ed.) will work together. We face the same difficulties and we are both determined to solve them. In Collaboration”.
This was always his objective – to showcase, promote, and pave the way for innovative and extraordinary news design, involving all partners possible whether local or global in the struggle for SND and SNDS ideas and values.
Expanding the organization
Following the invitation of the Baltic countries into the competition, in 2015 Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were included as full-blown members of the SND Scandinavia board and organization. This “will broaden SNDS and the possibilities we have to build an even stronger design-society in our part of the world”, as Flemming put it in a column in SNDS Magazine #4, 2015.
The expansion across the Baltic Sea was one of Flemming’s most important achievements as SNDS President. It was very important to him personally when in 2016 he could welcome an Estonian member on the SNDS board as a representative of the Baltic countries.
Flemming, you will be missed by people in the news business and by SND/SNDS members in Denmark and throughout the rest of the world. But the organization will survive – if the members will. One of Flemming’s last columns in SNDS Magazine (#1, 2016) ends with these words:
“We are not stronger nor bigger than the number of members, so we need every one of you to promote SNDS. You will all benefit from that. The bigger SNDS gets – the more we can do for you. Almost for free.”
Previously on SND.org: 1954 – 2020: Flemming Hvidtfeldt: We mourn the passing of the SND Scandinavia president and SND board member, a former editor-in-chief, renowned journalist, traveler and compassionate leader