I really didn’t know what to expect from SND. Sure, I’ve noticed and enjoyed some graphics and design elements in newspapers, but I never expected to see so many, and such a wide variety, in one place. For someone who is just getting into design, this was an eye-opener that showed what is possible in this industry. Seeing judges slowly judge, discuss, and pick apart entrants that looked great to my untrained eye really showed how designers need to stay on their toes and stretch the limits to reach excellence. Though many categories had fantastic entrants over the weekend, I’ll write about two that really stood out to me in the news section – sports coverage and breaking news.
The sports entrants ranged in creativity and scale, and overall I was impressed by the amount of work put into most. The amount of thought and research that go into coverage of the World Series, NBA Finals, professional seasons and other major events was stunning. I was especially impressed with the NBA Finals coverage of the Los Angeles Times. The paper, which has an old-school feel to its compact, modern design, went all-out in its coverage of the Celtics-Lakers battle. Flow charts following the score during the game were printed after each contest, with bubbles of information pointing to important events during the action. I was also taken aback by the sheer amount of work put into playoff previews and recaps. Getting people informed and ready for a playoff series looked like the harder part, and commemorative papers after the team had won seemed easy in comparison. One creative method was used by The Dallas Morning News, for the Rangers’ “blueprint” to victory before the ALCS. The front section, pictures, and statistics were literally printed in blue sketches. The neat layout and cleverly placed statistics kept this from becoming too tacky, and instead the point was made.
The breaking news entrants, especially concerning storms and elections, were very impressive. It was inspiring, and intimidating, to see such great design created on deadline in a short amount of time. The Washington Post racked up numerous awards of excellence recognitions in the news category, specifically for their Midterm election coverage and snowstorm recaps. Both instances used impressive, but simple, graphics to depict the huge swing in the electorate and the record-breaking snowfall the city endured. The entrants showed an issue that designers face often – how to make big news stories that have occurred before unique. The large, clean spreads and easy to follow charts were sleek and modern, even though this wasn’t the first election or snowstorm D.C. has endured.
As for the judging itself, there were two things that stood out – the openness about conflict of interest, and the criticizing of the use of wire photographs/stories. I was impressed by the acknowledgment of any conflict, such as judging a rival paper, and the way judges would gracefully bow out to avoid any sticky situations. But I was turned off by the harshness some judges had for photos or articles obtained from wire services. Even if the design was great, it would get chastised if the paper’s staff wasn’t involved. With dwindling newsrooms, I felt like it was unfair to hold the designer accountable for something out of their control. Good design is good design, no matter what sources were used.