SND42 judges select five finalists for World’s Best Designed Newspaper

After three days of discussion, judges in the Society for News Design’s Best of Print News Design competition have selected five finalists in the World’s Best Designed category.

Judges’ statement

In 2020, a global pandemic forced our collaborative process onto computer video cameras, in disparate locations, to report a torrent of news. And it inspired a dialogue among the five of us who judged this category.  In evaluating the 25 entries, we came to see the role of the printed newspaper as a message in a bottle, from one set of isolated people to another. The intimate, tactile and finite qualities of printed publications helped us to connect, to think and to understand the avalanche of online news.

The pandemic required judging pdfs over Zoom, but we tried to imagine holding the papers in our hands, and viewed them as a reader would: one after another, horizontally.  

We looked for publications that presented the news with a rigor and humanity that placed readers first. We valued design that organized the chaos of coverage with precise and polished orchestrations of typography, photography, graphics and illustration. We sought evidence of a distinctive editorial voice that was confident, consistent and creative. 

We were inspired to see a maturity in visual journalism that is durable and sustaining in a year of unimaginable challenges. There was no evidence in any of the entries of the industry’s particular difficulties in creating and manufacturing a distributed product day after day, week after week; the excellence and integrity were undiminished. Indeed, we noted that some newspapers seized the crisis as an opportunity to push their print editions in dazzling new directions. We hope that emboldens others. 

The five finalists all demonstrated a seriousness of purpose that used the tools of visual storytelling to both compel and delight. They excelled at reimagining print for the increasingly digital-first era and embraced the constraints of the page as a canvas for innovation.

The Finalists

Washington Post
The design of The Washington Post signals a clear sense of journalistic mission. The paper had important stories to tell and to record, and its presentation is laser-focused on bringing the big news developments of the year to readers. It uses the full power of big broadsheet pages and doubletrucks to make spectacular use of maps, data visualization and information graphics. At the same time, it takes care to infuse its coverage with humanity by giving its stand-out photography and editing room to breathe. 

The New York Times 
The New York Times’ Sunday editions entered in this competition present a vast terrain of journalism with a formidable display of visual storytelling. To deliver design and brand consistency across such a high volume of pages is remarkable. Standalone sections show experimentation and a deep attention to detail. Photo editing and composition are masterful. Art direction remains a key value. We appreciated the attention to balancing big displays and small design elements, and we loved the nudge toward tactile engagement — encouraging readers to draw on, cut up and fold their At Home section. 

de Volkskrant
The Dutch daily de Volkskrant surprises at nearly every turn of the page.  Its bold front pages and section covers are inventive and invite readers inside for an excellent visual chronicle of reportage with creative illustrations, photos and graphic details. The compact space is used to full effect, with a confident balance of space, typography, image and data to create highly dynamic layouts and two-page spreads throughout. The paper represented the challenges their readers faced amid the pandemic with honest and intimate photo spreads.

This Danish weekly is thoughtful, refined and ingenious, filled with humor and visual treats throughout. Started in 1749, redesigned for a relaunch in  2020, Weekendavisen illuminates with its smart blend of legacy and modernity. The newspaper is daring, ambitious and often playful in its approach to covering a full suite of topics. A mastery of the basic principles of news design and a discipline on story length undergirds the jazz riffs in Weekendavisen –—the exaggerated quote marks, the tiny icons and spot illustrations populating the pages to clever effect, the switchups in color and defining folios—all elegantly build both framework and identity. 

Die Zeit  
A curated and sophisticated experience, this German current affairs weekly uses smart visual storytelling to great effect on each page. Its use of illustration and photography is gorgeous and timeless, a hallmark of an excellent design that is clean and restrained. Die Zeit’s reporting, analysis and commentary take on the most trying of times. It helps readers navigate that journalism with a dependable consistency in presentation that is beautiful, calming and assured.

The judges

The judges for this year’s World’s Best Designed Newspaper were: 

  • Simon Khalil Global Creative Director at Arab News
  • Jesica Rizzo, Head of Photography at La Nación
  • Ann Gerhart, Senior Editor for visual enterprise at the Washington Post
  • Kelly Doe, Director for Brand Identity at the New York Times
  • Javier Zarracina, Graphics Director at USA Today

The 42nd competition ended with the jury of 27 judges awarding one judges’ special recognition, five gold medals, 59 silver medals and 873 awards of excellence. No Best in Show was awarded. The World’s Best Designed Newspaper winners were announced in late April here.

Winners in the other categories have been notified and a database of all of the SND42 results can be found here.