2012 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.

i. SB Nation, sbnation.com
ii. The Guardian, The Guardian and Observer Daily Edition
iii. Lenta.ru, lenta.ru

SB Nation


SB Nation pushes the boundaries of a news website. It is beautiful and visually compelling without gimmicks. Its design is intentional and clean. It is uniquely “sporty-elegant.” Photography is given a cinematic treatment and allowed to shine. Such photo-heavy layouts are frequently attempted on other Web sites, but often crumble under the distraction of poor photo editing. Typography from Hoefler & Frere-Jones is beautifully deployed, underscoring how huge a leap Web type has made in recent years. The site also proves that template-driven design can be elevated to greatness. The site’s version history is published, which clearly illustrates the virtues of iterative design. It employs ‘storystreams’ that are the boldest attempt we’ve seen yet at imagining how stories thread together over time. Overall SB Nation feels like a generational leap for a sports site, and a worthy beacon of forward-thinking design for news sites in general.



Overall we were inspired by the amazing creativity of Russian news design on the web. Many sites and apps impressed us but Lenta.ru rose above the rest. The site is beautifully designed with the right amount of clean and relaxing white space throughout the entire navigation experience. The type treatment is perfect and precise in terms of hierarchy The subtle yet functional details seemingly integrate perfectly into the UI. Also, the superb photo editing and the restrained yet consistent color palette make this site a pleasure to view. It has the classic elegant look of big news site, yet still feels approachable, with its own fresh style touches. This is especially impressive given the amount of stories it produces and the size of its audience.

The Guardian and Observer


The Guardian and Observer’s iPad experience is sublime. Each issue is rich in art direction, ambitious yet disciplined in its layout and features a jaw-dropping use of photography — particularly on a Retina device. The degree of both control and delight packed into each day’s issue is impressive. Navigation is intuitive and the finite nature of a day’s issue makes for a cohesive and offline-friendly snapshot of news. There are smart links to related content, both within the app and back to the Guardian’s Web site. With the smart use of simple tools — grid, color, typography — the app strikes a perfect balance of identity, style, serenity and pacing.


i & ii. The New York Times, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

Features [Single-subject project] & Use of Multimedia

Click the image to view the winning entry.
Click the image to view the entry.

“This defines the state of the art. It set a new standard for storytelling. It sparks a lot of discussion about alternative forms of storytelling. Everyone was talking about it when it came out. It’s amazing the impact it had on on other newsrooms, even for non-visual journalists.”

iii. The Washington Post, Homicides in the District

Features [Data project]

Click the image to view the entry.

“This story showed a great depth of original reporting. The quadratic analysis that broke it down into equal squares is the perfect way to approach data that involves continuous space. The use of proper GIS technique separates it from other crime sites, making it the best tool of its kind.”

iv. The New York Times, Olympics Home Page

Special Events

Click the image to view the winning entry.
Click the image to view the entry.

“It was the dashboard for the entire Olympics. It defined state of the art in full coverage of all aspects of an event. From the perspective of multimedia storytelling, it provided the right kind of play for photo gallery, complimentary to the more traditional long-form text based storytelling.

v. USA Today, USA Today.com Reimagined


Click the image to view the entry.

“It is the most radical redesign among the ones we have seen, 100 percent re-architecture and re-skinning of the site. The site has an emphasis on fluidity. It is not just responsive, but also responsive with different modes of interaction. And they did this not just by responding to the limitations, but embracing it. It’s a site that feels like a news app.”


Breaking/Daily News [Data project]

i. The New York Times, Over the Decades, How States Have Shifted

“This had the highest innovation scale amongst all the entries.”

ii. The Wall Street Journal, Grading the Teachers

“From the data viewpoint, with the great amount of data that has been pored over, it was very easy to digest.”

Breaking/Daily News [Planned coverage]

iii. Indianapolis Star, 49 miles, 49 minutes

“The design adds a level of humanity without over-sensationalizing it. The photos and videos add pacing, making it very well organized. It is a personal story and yet it’s an everybody story.”

Breaking/Daily News [Non-planned coverage]

iv. The Washington Post, Remembering the victims

“It’s simple and direct with a sympathetic touch that was appreciated as a human and as a journalist.”

Features [Single-subject project]

v. The New York Times, Build a Pop Song
vi. The New York Times, Signing Science
vii. The New York Times, Lolo Jones, Cleared for Takeoff
viii. The New York Times, The iPhone Economy
ix. The New York Times, The Electoral Map – Presidential Race Ratings and Swing States
x. The New York Times, 512 Paths to the White House
xi. NPR, Discover a Black-And-White Era in Full Color

Features [Data project]

xii. ProPublica, Nursing Home Inspect

“There is nothing else out there about this service. This project considered the data in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

xiii. ProPublica, Pipeline Safety Tracker

“The user interface is very impressive as it realizes your search term is related to a particular state. The behavior of the search result is very smart.”

xiv. The New York Times, United States of Subsidies

“The story is surprisingly deep considering the overview; specific industries and the debt table below gets you into a whole other level.”

Features [Coverage]

xv. The Boston Globe, 68 blocks: Life, Death, Hope

“[In a] neighborhood that would be easy for the city to ignore, something like this is a powerful and important thing for a news organization to be doing. There’s a lesson in this story to be learned.”

Use of multimedia

xvi. USA Today, Ghost Factories: Smelting and Lead Contamination

“If you keep drilling down into the story, it’s impossible to find the limits to the depth of the reporting. The presentation is so smart; it begs you to engage with it.”

xvii. The New York Times, Video of First Debate Between Obama and Romney

“With the video and the transcript view together, you can fly into every word and every sentence, providing a completely different experience. It was not just a recap of what was said, it provides a dashboard view. You can navigate the video through text, the transcript, the highlights and it also provides fact-checking.”

Special events

xviii. The New York Times, Olympic Graphics Portfolio

“This is what a portfolio should be. There is a nice overall feel to it; good progression, with a good set Olympics template.”

Portfolios [Organization]

xix. The New York Times, New York Times Graphics Portfolio

“They took it to another level in terms of explanation and context in formats we have never seen before. This is a very strong portfolio. It’s a great barometer for the NYT graphics department.”


ProPublica, for creating StateFace


StateFace is a simple but ground-breaking design tool — a typeface of U.S. state shapes. The creativity and utility of leveraging a typeface to provide lightweight map shapes filled an obvious need and became quickly ubiquitous. We felt compelled to recognize StateFace after seeing its usage in so many election packages. Libraries and APIs don’t exist as distinct categories in this competition but perhaps should. We want to applaud and champion efforts to build tools that facilitate more effective, beautiful and faster design.


Stephen Beard, The Indianapolis Star
Alex Bordens, Chicago Tribune
Kyle Ellis, CNN Digital
Tyson Evans, The New York Times
David Kordalski, The Plain Dealer
Joey Marburger, The Washington Post
Meg Martin, American Public Media
Megan McNames, Ball State University
Antonio Pasagali, Prodigioso Volcán (Madrid)
Lauren Rabaino, The Seattle Times
Andrei Scheinkman, The Huffington Post
Ryan Sparrow, Ball State University
David Stanton, Smart Media Creative
Julia Thompson, Des Moines Register
Ying Wu, University of Missouri
Kaitlin Yarnall, National Geographic Magazine

Jeremy Gilbert, Northwestern University
Ryan Sparrow, Ball State University

Judging was held in February 2013 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.