2019 World’s Best-Designed™

The Washington Post won “World’s Best-Designed™ Digital News Experience” in the SND “Best of Digital Design™” competition. “The newsroom’s approach to visual storytelling is not trapped inside the formats imposed upon our industry by huge platforms but stretches design boundaries and uses new technologies to tell compelling, important stories,” wrote the judges in the digital competition.

The “Best of Digital Design™” competition is a juried competition honoring visual and technical excellence in storytelling, graphics, social media and product design. The competition awarded 3 gold medals, 36 silver medals, 92 bronze medals, 392 awards of excellence to work from more than 75 publications. The winners came from 1,315 entries. Judges awarded Best in Show for Mobile Storytelling to “Self-driving cars: Who to save, who to sacrifice” from Radio-Canada.

New York Times and Washington Post named World’s Best by SND ]

Each year, the World’s Best-Designed™ judges identify and recognize work that has fundamentally shifted or improved how news and information is delivered across digital platforms. A complete list of winners from the 2019 Best of Digital Design can be found here.

The SND World’s Best digital competition, held earlier this year in Washington, D.C., was judged by Shazna Nessa (The Wall Street Journal), Darren Long (South China Morning Post), Scott Klein (ProPublica) and Renate Rognan (NRK). To ensure a fair competition, SND bars judges from participating in any way with their own organization’s entries.

The Society for News Design on Feb. 10, 2020, announced the following eight finalists for World’s Best-Designed™ Digital News Experience:

Judge’s remarks

This year’s World’s Best judges celebrated a list of finalists that expand the role of design in journalism, from experience design to stagecraft, and even into areas traditionally reserved for the “business side.” The Guardian’s membership system is a key piece of experience design that may have saved their newsroom. The New York Times’s cooking vertical deploys a product-development approach that rethinks the way we deliver evergreen information to readers. Pop-up Magazine and California Sunday puts great journalistic storytelling on stage. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has a design pared down to its essence without feeling spare or generic. Vox’s video explainers help an industry tell great stories in a new vernacular. The South China Morning Post proves that a great interactive graphics team can thrive even with a crisis at their doorstep. The Washington Post excels across its newsroom at delivering on its mission with compelling, urgent design, and New York Magazine reinterprets its strong, easily recognized print design systems online.  

The finalists this year serve as industry role models for visual journalism, and beyond that, they push the boundaries of design to new dimensions. If the purpose of design is to solve problems and the purpose of journalism is to empower the public, the finalists this year increase the remit of both practices. 

The 2019 World’s Best-Designed™ finalists

In no particular order, with comments from the judges

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The design for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism telegraphs their no-nonsense approach. They provide a lesson in making a virtue of limited resources by turning their website into the art of the possible. What it lacks in embellishments it more than makes up for with a spare aesthetic that pares everything back to its essence. A core part of their values is to help other newsrooms and they won the judges applause by having the confidence to share their data on Google Drive, which signals a refreshing lo-fi approach. Two of their core values are reflected in their design: They focus on only a few projects at a time, and they believe in partnerships with other newsrooms. The site is almost zen-like in its simplicity. 


New York Magazine

New York Magazine has successfully reinterpreted the quirks and distinctiveness of its print design for digital. The site is teeming with stories, but the pages breathe and never overwhelm. The typography is sophisticated and is paired with vivacious visuals. The verticals are distinctive with “Intelligencer”, “The Strategist”, “Grub Street” strong enough to stand alone, yet also blend into a seamless whole.


Pop-Up Magazine and California Sunday Magazine

The California Sunday Magazine website’s sparse design is punctuated with vibrant photography and subtle surprises in the illustrations. What makes this finalist stand out most is the companion live event, Pop-Up Magazine, in which bold design takes over the stage. Storytellers perform their pieces with artist-commissioned visuals as their backdrop and a live orchestra on set. It’s a different way of thinking about using design to deliver journalism, and one that clearly resonates with an eager audience and sold-out venues.


New York Times Cooking

The New York Times Cooking product successfully aggregates recipes and excellent food writing into a well-designed user experience that is both simple and chock-full of useful features. Judges found utility in its one-click grocery list and delight in its robust comments section. The product takes advantage of the digital landscape by reaching audiences through its great photography on Instagram and lively newsletters. It’s a fantastic model for how to design for evergreen content.


The Guardian’s Membership Experience Design

The Guardian’s membership system makes real the potential for good design to help solve the biggest problems. The company recorded an operational profit for the first time in many years. They got there by executing a bold strategy to ask readers for help, rather than simply closing off their content behind a paywall. Hundreds of thousands have responded. The design’s deceptive simplicity accomplished this using strong branding and well crafted, timely, persuasive requests that let readers know exactly where their money will be spent. It strongly fulfills the World’s Best category’s requirement that an entry make a statement and issue a challenge to the design community.


The Washington Post

The judges recognized excellence across The Washington Post but wanted to especially highlight a few teams and initiatives: The Lily, visual storytelling, and interactive data. The Lily’s design and visuals are vibrant and lively. The Post’s interactive data projects represent ambitious, long-term commitments to serving the public with critical data on critical, often difficult issues. The newsroom’s approach to visual storytelling is not trapped inside the formats imposed upon our industry by huge platforms but stretches design boundaries and uses new technologies to tell compelling, important stories. 



Vox’s video explainers

Vox’s video explainers are some of the best in the world and a role model for how other newsrooms can approach video. Their motion graphics and designs are playful and curious, with distinctive voices and styles to match each subject. Vox makes sure the work reaches the audience where they are, with followings on podcasts, social media, YouTube and Netflix.

Vox falsetto Vox

South China Morning Post’s Information Graphics

The graphics team at South China Morning Post has long excelled in the craft of visual journalism, with great strength in pictorial interpretations of stories and data. But in 2019 their work was pushed to a new height as they found themselves in the middle of a global news event: the increasingly tense protests in Hong Kong. The team deployed all of their many skills, from data graphics to explanatory illustrations, to help Hong Kongers — and the world — understand and follow events as they unfolded.