INNOVATION’S “i” IS THE SOLO WORLD’S BEST-DESIGNED NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR

Files under General | Feb 15th

More good news for INNOVATION from the Society of News Design.

Lee Steele reports:

In its 32nd annual The Best of Newspaper Design™ Creative Competition, the Society for News Design has named Portugal’s inewspaper, a daily that launched in 2009, the World’s Best-Designed™ Newspaper.

Newspaper: i (short for informação)

Launched: 2009

Based in: Portugal

Size: Compact format, saddle-stitched, 250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim

JUDGES’ OVERALL STATEMENT

As judges, we may have been more surprised than anyone to see that only one paper ended up on the World’s Best list in 2010. In fact, we carefully “parsed” our decision — reached by secret ballot, hence the surprise — to see why one publication edged out the other world-class newspapers on the table in the final round.

In this era of great upheaval in media, the decision came down to innovation.

Many publications we saw are clearly operating at the top of their game, and have been tenacious and intelligent enough to emerge stronger from the economic battering of the last few years. But Portugal’s daily newspaper, i, stood out for its ability to take the best of the visual language of newspapers, magazines and other publications and create something new that is more than the sum of its parts.

It’s compact. It’s fresh. It’s consistent, yet full of surprises.

Its magazine-like size allows the reader to hold the newspaper close; the format invites the reader to engage more deeply. The publication is packed with information, yet extremely well organized, using elements of layering and editing to draw readers into every page.

i walks the line between newspaper and magazine with perfect balance. Its format supports the kind of flexibility that lets it focus on hard news one day and features the next. The editions we saw featured a lead story about a great author one day, then strong reporting of the Haiti earthquake the next. We encountered stories told with a sense of urgency and newsiness, and others told with subtlety and humor.

The paper delivers traditional newspaper content with new, engaging presentation.

This causes us to wonder: Is this where newspapers are going? Is it where newspaperscould go, or should go?  Can new techniques make print even more vibrant and relevant?

WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT i:

The covers appealed to our curiosity, using techniques like thoughtful cropping of images to add intrigue. Color and variety drew us to the publication, providing provocation and an intellectual challenge. The cover featuring the Jose Saramago illustration “is amazing,” said one judge. “I just want to eat it. Every page offers up things that you want to devour.”

It’s smaller than most tabloids (250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim) and it is saddle-stitched, so it holds together like a magazine. Readers can easily fold pages back, navigate without difficulty and — perhaps — concentrate without the distractions encountered with larger, unbound formats.

Designers are clearly thinking about the way two facing pages work together, whether the stories are related or not. This creates a flow that encourages reading without interruption.

i is composed like a beautiful piece of music. It has the discipline to play only the high notes that matter most. For example, it uses its full bleed capability sparingly. It creates strong impact, even with small things. The surprise of occasional whimsy makes the content inviting.

The publication has a steady grid structure, type and color palette that create a strong platform for difference and surprise. The grid and space look effortless. But there is more complexity than it first appears.

Typography is classic, not trendy. From very large to very small, the principles of scale and contrast apply throughout their type palette. Sans serif feels serious; the serif is more playful. It’s a wonderful contrast.

Headlines are relatively small, but pop within the context of the page.

We found color on every page, yet it is used purposefully, with smart pacing. It’s as though the designers are using a highlighter to clue the reader in to what’s important. One judge called this “print search optimization.”

The palette is rich. Cyan, magenta and yellow create a base for navigation while richer colors provide depth and contrast.

Details in the informational graphics are lovely. They are efficient, distilling ideas down to their purist form. Icons are very simple, easily discernable.

A minimalist approach allows larger treatments to stand out. One example: a two-page graphic that starts the cover story for the “Zoom” section.

i has even rethought the ubiquitous weather page, with a smart approach to organization and color. The compact approach communicates lots of information quickly.

Much of the photo play in i is like a mini reportage. Informational photos are used well, often organized in a series. Most of these images aren’t huge, but they are used proportionally within the design. We were amazed at how compelling we found spreads that didn’t actually include a dominant image. The structure of the page tied it all together.

Mug shots are set up within a round frame. This balances the very rectangular format. It’s a nice trick. It softens the hard edges.

CONCLUSION

What we recognized in this year’s winner was its fresh, unique approach. “i” can inspire visual journalists and publishers anywhere in the world to rethink their models and revise or create new ones that best serve their audiences. They may look nothing like i.It won’t — and shouldn’t — represent everyone’s treatment.

We encourage all designers to apply similar creativity and tenacity to finding their own voice and expressing it with conviction and excellence, no matter the size of the staff or access to other resources.

The judges:
Haika Hinze, Die Zeit
Heidi de Laubenfels, The Seattle Times
Svetlana Maximchenko, Akzia (Moscow)
Carl Neustaedter, Ottawa Citizen
Sara Quinn, Poynter Institute.

What the SND report  doesn’t say is that “i” was from scratch an unique project of INNOVATION lead by Javier Errea and working since the first day with a brilliant team of founding editors (mainly Martin Avillez Figueiredo, Andre Macedo and Nick Mrozowski) that doesn’t work anymore for a paper that with less resources than ever still keeps the same creativity fire.

To all of them (past and current editors and designers) must go all the credit.

For the full story see the chapter about “i” in our 2010 INNOVATIONS INS NEWSPAPERS.

Over 200 pages of “i” can be seen in Flickr


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