SND & Me

I was meandering around between judging sessions Saturday, glancing at the about-to-be-judged A1 pages in the news section. I noticed several papers with handfuls or entries each– my paper for class, The Virginian-Pilot, one of them– that hadn’t won a single design award or medal all day.

I approached a facilitator, Tim Parks of the Omaha World-Herald, and asked why (in my estimation) such a fantastically designed paper as the Pilot had won nothing from the judges all day. I thought it was one of the best designed papers in the country, I told him. What gives?

“Who told you that, the internet?” Parks said wryly.

He went on to explain that the competition is just as much about judges’ personal preferences than anything else. And this was a very news-heavy crowd. But aside from that, what the judges saw when they looked at the Pilot’s pages, he said, may look aesthically pleasing, but does it tell the story just as effectively as a page from the LA Times? What do those crisp infographics and monstrous half-page images add to the story? Look at every visual and ask yourself, ‘why do they do that?’ In some judges’ opinions, he said, using color and image isn’t always the best route to tell a story.

Though he did conceit to saying he overall liked the Pilot’s design, it gave me some perspective. What’s the most eye-catching might not be the best way to tell the story or draw a reader in. Sometimes, it’s about legibility, use of space, effective visuals and a clean format.

Taking that into consideration, here are some designs that popped out at me from the weekend’s judging.

I realized not as many people were enamored with this paper as I was. The non-modular design and huge half-page pictures turned some people off.

Our first Gold Medal entry in the news section. Judges said they loved how the page was crafted for different audiences and how the writing captured the essence of the piece. It turned a routine consumer shopping story into something creative, unique, interactive and a near-flawless way to tell the story.

Some of the international papers took more artistic approaches to conventional stories– ones that traditional American papers didn’t usually take.

Some of the international papers also had very colorful pages and innovated ways to tell the story on the page.

Another interesting facet of the competition was seeing the sports pages. With breaking news and hard news, pages had a more serious tone and artistic direction was toned down in favor of the story’s importance. In sports, designers had a little more creative leeway. Many papers’ sports pages were more colorful and pushed design rules.

Zero five, out.


One Comment

  1. Perpective is always a good thing, no doubt. That said, I would give Mr. Parks’ comments only as much weight as anyone else’s and not more. My guess is that for every journalist who doesn’t appreciate the VP’s design, you will find one who does. Adonis Durado, for example (the visuals director at The Times of Oman, which took home about 49 awards and was only behind the LA Times and the National Post) cited The Virginian-Pilot as one of only two papers whose design and approach he admires. Go figure.

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