2014 Medal comments


Sites were nominated by members and nonmembers through the Best of Digital Design entry site, self-nominated via the same site, submitted through suggestions and outreach by SND’s regional directors and from the Best of Digital judging team.


We find ourselves at a crossroads. Content is changing along with our audiences and their expectations. News is now more personal than ever. Content may be king, but attention is the coin of the realm. This year we chose to embrace the superlative of World’s Best and award only one winner. We judged the finalists and dozens of others on content, audience, overall experience, performance, presentation, community and portability.
From desktop to mobile to app, this year’s winner works. Everywhere. On anything. It provides a richer news experience than any one ‘site.’ It is redefining ‘community,’ by evolving our relationships with the news and each other. We must not only embrace this shift, but learn from it and evolve our organizations accordingly. It is the platform that you love, or hate, or love to hate. But increasingly cannot live without. This would not be possible without world class design.
This year’s winner is Facebook.


Features [Single-subject project]

i. NPR, Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing

Features [Single-subject project]

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“It brings you into what you think is a story about these projects that are demolished, and then it’s flipped suddenly into the photographers experience. I’m all choked up about it right now. It’s an amazing story.”

ii. ProPublica & The Lens, Losing Ground

Features [Coverage]

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“That map does things we haven’t seen before. It’s kind of relentless. It’s encyclopedic. Other elements besides the map “gave the package the right depth. You see the layers of immersive information. (They’re building) tools that let the public experience and see and feel what’s going on. It’s an amazing project.”

iii. The Washington Post, The n-word: Exploring a singular word

Use of multimedia

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“I especially like that you could make your own video. It wants us to start a discussion around this. An easy way to participate leads it to be more of a two-way instead of a passive experience. They’re creating these cards specifically for you to share on social platforms, or you can just download it. So if you want to put this on Instagram or Snapchat, they are really trying to set up a native conversation. They are really trying to serve the audience..”

iv. The New York Times, My Travels With Brazil’s World Cup Curse

Use of multimedia

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“This was the best thing I’ve looked at the whole weekend, the most fun. It was so clever. The mobile experience is just as good as the desktop experience. I can’t think of anything when I went through it that you could change or improve. Its really great that they kind of made this feeling into a character. It’s full of really smart ideas.”

v. Harvard Law Review, Harvard Law Review redesign


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“It just is a great experience across all devices. If other sites treated the reading experience the way that they do, reading experiences would be that much better. It’s some of the best use of typography that I’ve seen online. The annotation stuff is really interesting. Annotations aren’t a new thing, but I think they’re doing it better than anyone else I’ve seen.”

vi. NPR, Danny DeBelius Individual Portfolio

Portfolios [Individual]

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“I love the technical experimentation here. What made this transcendent was the totally different way of thinking and not just being the iterations on stuff we’ve seen.”


Breaking/Daily News [Planned coverage]

i. The New York Times, Senate Election Results

“This on a phone is so good. You can interact with this map flawlessly. I have never used a news graphic in JavaScript that’s felt as good on a phone as this one. How good it is for your fingertip. I was shocked.”

Breaking/Daily News [Non-planned coverage]

ii. The Washington Post, CIA interrogation reports

“This really stood out for exposing the contradictions in a very clear way. There was similar coverage of this in other publications where you just looked at documents. This went above and beyond to pull out the relevant facts in a usable way.”

Features [Single-subject project]

iii. NPR, Songs We Love 2014

“You can make your own mix tape, you can mix them up and shuffle them, you can choose by types of genres of music. It made me feel joyous.”

iv. Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants

“Not only did they create community around the project, but they tapped into that thing that makes you want to share. They understand how to make something useful by making it data.”

v. The Boston Globe, Chasing Bayla — The quest to save the right whale

“This stood out from all of the other stuff we looked at. It’s an evolution of the visual story. It’s not only ambitious, but it’s successful.”

Features [Coverage]

vi. Los Angeles Times, The Homicide Report

“They keep making it better. It’s one of the few iterative projects that I’m aware of that goes across years. They keep improving their design. They update it based on new technology that comes along. It’s a tool, and they’re still getting stories out of it.”

vii. National Geographic, Outer Space’s Big Questions

“The whole package was spacious, calm, even with the animations. It’s explaining complicated concepts in a beautiful way. They did a really great job on the graphics, but they also did the right graphics.”

Information graphics [Breaking news]

viii. The New York Times, Houses in the Path of the Washington Mudslide

“You see it, you understand the story. You leave with everything. It’s a killer. The thing about graphics is they rarely make me care. This graphic – I actually felt it in my stomach.”

Information graphics [Planned coverage]

ix. Los Angeles Times, The Homicide Report

“There’s so much derivative, and this is just its own. What it was designed to do, it’s doing. It’s handsome and useful and a joy to navigate.”

x. ProPublica, Treatment Tracker

“It’s incredible how much they’ve packed in, made it legible, made it easy to find. It’s amazing to be able to drill down to a doctor with two clicks.”

Use of multimedia

xi. National Geographic, Mindsuckers Novellas

“It’s so visually different. It’s not gimmicky. Instead of it all just being vertical, there are nice angles, like taking you behind a tree. This one didn’t feel like scroll hijacking. It creates this interesting relationship between you and the subjects. The movement of your own hand advances the story.”

xii. O Globo, Caymmi 100 anos — Samba da minha terra

“You see a ton of galleries of user generated content, always presented in the same way. This way of putting it together was very clever. I got in expecting to be really frustrated… but actually the more you hit the play button, it’s such an ‘ah-ha’ moment..”

xiii. The Washington Post, Bad News Beards

“What a cool way for a chart. They must have spent a lot of time on this, just for the love of beards and baseball. It all worked really nicely in the browser. Clearly the people who worked on this loved working on it.”

Special events

xiv. The New York Times, Brazilians Erupt After Their First World Cup Goal

“The graphic novel is a really wonderful emotional journey, and fun.I love this idea, it creates so much tension.”

xv. The New York Times, Is That a Luge in Times Square?

“They differentiate themselves. They took the same stuff and they did something creative and engaging and technically cool, technically savvy.”

xvi. NPR, Election Party!

“They saw what was coming, they didn’t do the same thing everything else did – the red and blue maps–they thought about their role as an information provider on that day. They invented an appointment for you to keep with them. They leveraged what they are best at.”

xvii. Berliner Morgenpost, Die Narbe der Stadt (The scar of the city)

“A lot of what I miss in a lot of what we see is the human touch. This has it and puts it in the realm of something I care about. Having done before and afters and knowing how unbelievably difficult these are to do well, you really get the conceit of this.”

xviii. The Washington Post, What happened to Flight 370?

“In the graphic department you have to push yourself constantly to escape the tyranny of the non-visual. This is a very illustrative piece here.”

Portfolios [Individual]

xix. The, New York Times, Amanda Cox Individual Portfolio

“The attention to detail, it’s the going above and beyond and adding polish that makes it stand out among the competition. I think it’s the use of narrative language. It’s framing the numbers in a way that makes it seem very accessible and fun.”

Portfolios [Organization]

xx. NPR, NPR Visuals Portfolio

“There’s innovation in each one – there’s something I feel I could take away from each one of these that I haven’t seen anywhere else. To me, it deserves a Silver because of how fearless they are in their experimentation.”


Jonathon Berlin, Chicago Tribune
Brian Boyer, NPR
Larry Buchanan, The New York Times
Fernando Diaz, The Center for Investigative Reporting
Ted Irvine, Vox Media
Mindy McAdams, University of Florida
Louise Ma, WNYC
Andrew Mason, The Guardian
Frank Mina, San Francisco Chronicle
Jennifer Palilonis, Ball State University
Sara Quinn, Instructor, Ball State
Martina Schories, Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Sarah Slobin, Wall Street Journal
Dave Stanton, Mobiquity
Sisi Wei, ProPublica

Jeremy Gilbert, The Washington Post
Ryan Sparrow, Ball State University

Judging was held in February 2015 at Ball State University Indianapolis Center, Indianapolis, Ind.