This weekend provided a large window into the world of news design (and some overall design, for that matter). In walking around that massive room absorbing thousands of entries, I quickly learned that any logical (or even crazy) idea can be a “go” if it’s thoroughly thought out and properly executed. I saw some things I imagined I could think of but never would have the confidence to pitch much less execute. I gathered that news design should be purposeful and smart first, to say the least. To have clear and consistent purpose was the reigning lesson I learned. Even though that’s something designers know from the beginning, sometimes we can lose track of that when something is looking great. I gained confidence in my design abilities after this weekend. After seeing what has been done, respected, and awarded in the industry, I realized I must stop doubting my creative process and my ideas. There’s a lot out there that works when you take the chance to try it and some of the ideas awarded this weekend were out-of-the-box and unpredictable, which I’ve been scared of doing myself. This weekend showed me that I have the ability to be a great designer if I trust my instincts and take risks with confidence.
News designers are thoughtful people in the sense that they don’t rush when analyzing work. Early on, the features section learned our judges were typically behind schedule, taking long amounts of time to go through one category. When it came time for medal discussions though, it was evident why. They were particularly thoughtful with their decision-making. In the discussions they went into great detail explaining why they really liked something but then it would remain an Award of Excellence after deep conversations about why something was strong. They looked for purposeful work that accurately reflected the text and it takes more than a long pause to decide whether something is truly working.
There was an entry about horsemeat and on the page was a regular looking hamburger with the body of a horse coming out of each half. It was voted an Award of Excellence in almost every category in which it was entered, so immediately I thought, “oh this is probably going to get a medal for its innovation and wow-factor—they all love it.” When it came up for a medal though, everyone agreed it was “gross” and “disturbing” and did not qualify for a metal despite the way it first hit them. That shocked me. Just because something stands out monumentally and grabs attention does not mean it’s a strong or effective design. That was my biggest surprise of the weekend.
I’d chosen my favorite entry of the weekend: the Yoko Ono story done by a foreign paper. The first three pages were beautiful. The designer used all black and white with the exception of red for Yoko’s lips. There was closure making the reader fill in the space of her body on his/her own and the text was cleanly laid out at a slant, creating a flowing vibe that stopped at the third page. The fourth, fifth, and six pages were not as thought out though and didn’t quite match the first three. It was voted an Award of Excellence and I figured it’d absolutely be granted a medal. The judges raved about the first three pages but agreed it was not deserving of a higher medal because of the disconnect the first half had with the second half. Before listening to this conversation, I didn’t care that the end didn’t match the beginning because of how amazing the beginning was. Hearing the deliberation was a great learning experience. It taught me the importance of following through with a design, top to bottom, so that it remains one unit and not two pieces.
1. Humor: this photo makes you giggle even before knowing what the story is about because we’ve all seen a little kid in a moment like this. In terms of the content, it’s perfect for this story about boomers.
2. Most Compelling Photo: This is a fantastic photograph. There’s motion and a peacefulness in this and the falling snow adds the perfect touch.
3. Bad Thinking: Though the text creates a clear visual, the thinking is weak because the story starts on the right side of the ribbon and is nearly upside down. When I was reading this I started at the top, then looked left, and then finally realized where to start.
4. Innovative Thinking: This spread was a significant risk taken by the designer. To put the animal in living form with the animal in the form of prepared food is a bit disturbing and is certainly thinking outside the box.
5. Judge Who Traveled 1,000+: Girard works for The Los Angeles Times (my field notes publication) and therefore came from Los Angeles, CA.
6. Favorite Meal: I couldn’t live without pizza. I had double the amount there. Yum.
7. Best Magazine Cover: This is a very difficult question because I took pictures of so many I adored. I chose this one because of the brilliance that goes into creating this illusion. It kind of freaks me out but mostly I think it’s incredible execution. This is Volkskrant Magazine.
8. Best A1: I love this A1. I really love the way the text is used to create the legs of the runner. It’s so attractive and well done; the design doesn’t hinder the reader’s ability to read yet it does something very design heavy.
9. Photo Illustration: This illustration is great because it’s so different. You see a complete visual and understand what it is both literally and conceptually.
10. Favorite Foreign Language Page: This Yoko Ono page by KULTUR is simple and elegant. This defines the kind of design I love. It’s smart, effective, and attractive all at once. I could look at this for days.
11. A Trend: I saw a lot of pages with the story’s text forming interesting shapes that were a part of the design.
12. Best Headline: “Let Them Eat Fat,” was one of my favorite headlines because the words themselves are humorous with the content of the story but I love how the word “fat” was illustrated out of fatty foods. It was a fun headline that was turned into a relevant and attractive design.
13. Classmates I spent the most time with: The features team (Nick, Katie, Insher and Miriam).
14. Iconic SND Scene: One page was added to the category well into the judging period so our leader created this pyramid to remind judges they had to return and vote on this page.
15. Me With Discarded Papers: I didn’t manage to get a photo of this, though I rifled through the pile a couple of times. I’m sorry!