India excels at International Newspaper Design Competition Awards

Discussing the intricacies of newspaper design with lead designers of Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and The Indian Express

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newspaper design
Disappearing Acts was designed by the HT team comprising Puneet Verma, Monica Gupta, Mohit Suneja, and Anesha George. The jury described the design as “Such a clever way to illustrate an absence (always the most difficult visual) – extinctions of animals discovered after they already are gone.” Photo Hindustan Times

The 6th International Newspaper Design Competition awards were recently announced by Asia’s newspaper design website newspaperdesign.in. From India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Herald and Malayala Manorama bagged the top honors in different categories.

Indian Printer & Publisher interacted with Anup Gupta of Hindustan Times, Kannan Sundar from The Hindu and Bivash Barua from The Indian Express to learn more about the competition, elements of a good newspaper design, its relevance in the digital age, challenges in newspaper designing and more. We are publishing this article in two parts. The first part will discuss the award-winning design and the importance of design in a newspaper. Part two will discuss the chart the road ahead for newspaper design, and the challenges in getting younger readers on board.

HT’s best of four

Hindustan Times won in four categories – Best of Show spread for Disappearing Acts; Awards of Excellence spread for Kingsmen: the Golden Circle and Sachin@50; and Awards of Excellence in the Infographic category for the Asian Games 2023 spread.

Disappearing Acts was designed by a team comprising Puneet Verma, Monica Gupta, Mohit Suneja, and Anesha George. The jury described the design as “Such a clever way to illustrate an absence (always the most difficult visual) – extinctions of animals discovered after they already are gone.”

Kingsmen, which focuses on Indian chess grandmaster Vishanathan Anand, was designed by a team comprising Puneet Verma, Monica Gupta, Malay Karmakar, and Susan Ninan. Great balance of illustration and photography combining to tell a complex story about a panel of subjects in an attractive, approachable way,” said the jury about the design. 

Compelling illustration style with strong art direction across a vast double truck helps the reader through a comprehensive tale told visually, with breakouts, and long-form narrative,” the jury shared about the design for Sachin@50 – a combined effort of Malay Karmakar, Monica Gupta, Puneet Verma, and Ashish Magotra.

According to Anup Gupta, managing editor, Hindustan Times, the Asian Games 2023 infographic “presented India’s medals tally over the years, contrasting it with other Asian countries, especially China.” The design was a combined effort of Prijit Sasidharan, Puneet Verma, Partho Sheel, Mohit Suneja, and Shantanu Srivastava.

The Hindu’s sports show

The Hindu won the Best of Show award; Gold in the Best of Sports Page category; and an Award of Excellence in the Best of Double Spread category for its illustration for ‘The science behind Neeraj’s skills.’ The story was written by Jonathan Selvaraj, with science explained by Vasudevan Mukunth, data research by Vignesh Radhakrishnan and illustration and design by Kannan Sundar.

The judges noted that the “standout sports page of the competition was layered with information organized on a simple grid around world-class illustrations” and every part of this page informs and engages readers. They went on to add that the pages were a “great balance of strong visuals, detailed explainers, and a well-edited narrative text that combined to deliver a medal-winning experience.”

newspaper design
The Hindu won the Best of Show award; Gold in the Best of Sports Page category; and an Award of Excellence in the Best of Double Spread category for its illustration for ‘The science behind Neeraj’s skills.’ The story was written by Jonathan Selvaraj, with science explained by Vasudevan Mukunth, data research by Vignesh Radhakrishnan and illustration and design by Kannan Sundar. Photo The Hindu

Suresh Nambath, editor, The Hindu, said, “The recognition is a result of the combined effort of our design and editorial teams. We ensured that the designing team took full advantage of the space available in the double spread to produce a captivating visual for the traditional medium.”

The Indian Express – parliament

The Indian Express won the Best of Show in the Infographic category for its infographic titled ‘The Parliament of India’, which explored both the historic and the new parliament buildings. The design for the infographic was by Bivash Barua with illustrations by Suvajit Dey and text by Chakshu Roy, Damini Nath and Divya A.

“This award is a testament to the successful collaboration between our writing, editing, and design teams. We aimed to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of both structures. To achieve this, we used a bold illustration of the old parliament building as the centerpiece. Its circular shape provided a perfect canvas to organize the infographic’s elements around it. Additionally, the layout incorporated the principles of the golden ratio for a visually balanced composition,” said Bivash Barua, national design editor, The Indian Express.

Malayala Manorama and Deccan Herald

Malayala Manorama and Deccan Herald also received recognition in the Best of Double Spread category. One design from Malayala Manorama narrated the journey of Abhilash Tomy, who circumnavigated the earth, and other travelers. The second one titled ‘Dance Moves’ was about the Naatu Naatu song from the film RRR and other Oscar nominations from India.

Deccan Herald’s double spread headlined ‘Sports washing negative image’, which bagged the Award of Excellence, was described as “a refreshing approach to the significance of the World Cup storylines with a fresh illustration style, with lots of great details and clever touches woven throughout.”

Design and storytelling

So what is the relevance of design in storytelling? How does it help hook a reader to a particular article, piece of information, or simply a complex topic?

Design plays a pivotal role in storytelling. It serves as a vital component, enriching narratives and captivating audiences on various levels, explained Kannan Sundar, national design editor, The Hindu. “Design empowers storytellers to weave compelling tales that resonate deeply with their readers, stirring emotions and leaving a lasting impact. One of the key functions of design is setting a story’s tone and atmosphere. Elements such as color palette, typography, and imagery work harmoniously to establish the mood and evoke the desired emotions in the audience,” Kannan Sundar said.

Design is for storytelling what music is for a song, says Anup Gupta. He said just as music enhances a song and infuses life in it, making it memorable, design gives a story a unique identity, which is akin to a fingerprint. Which is why design for storytelling is not just relevant but is a must, he said.

Great design transcends aesthetics, Barua said, adding it acts as a powerful, unspoken language that complements the written or spoken word. By strategically using visuals, color, and layout, design can evoke emotions, deepen reader connection, and guide them through the narrative, he said. Infographics and well-placed images can clarify complex ideas, while strong visuals leave a lasting impression, staying with readers long after they have finished the story.

“This is evident in publications where design plays a crucial role. A visually engaging layout can make reading more pleasurable and memorable. Consider the powerful statement made by The Indian Express‘ blank editorial during the Emergency, the Wall Street Journal’s recent blank front page dedicated to a journalist’s imprisonment or the Donald Trump lies page by the New York Times. These stark design choices speak volumes, leaving a lasting impact on viewers,” Barua said.

Visual interest is paramount in captivating readers’ attention and immersing them in the narrative, according to Sundar. Whether through captivating illustrations, striking photographs, or infographics, well-crafted visuals elevate the storytelling experience, making it more engaging and memorable, he says. Design also plays a crucial role in structuring information within a story. Organizing content effectively facilitates comprehension and enhances the overall readability of the narrative, especially when dealing with complex information, he says.

newspaper design
The Indian Express won the Best of Show in the Infographic category for its infographic titled ‘The Parliament of India’, which explored both the historic and the new parliament buildings. Photo The Indian Express

Emotionally resonant storytelling is another hallmark of effective design, Sundar said, adding that by employing visual elements that resonate with the audience’s feelings and experiences, design has the power to evoke profound emotional responses, forging deeper connections between the story and its readers.

“Furthermore, in the realm of branding and marketing storytelling, design serves as a cornerstone in shaping brand identity. Through the consistent use of brand colors, logos, and visual elements, design reinforces a brand’s values and messaging, fostering a strong narrative that resonates with readers and enhances brand recognition. In essence, design is not merely a superficial embellishment but an integral component of storytelling, imbuing narratives with depth, emotion, and resonance. As design editors, we are committed to harnessing the power of design to craft immersive and impactful stories that captivate and inspire our readers, Sundar added.

In essence, design is a tool that storytellers can leverage to create a more impactful and immersive experience, Barua echoed. “Just as good design drives successful products, a well-designed story is more engaging. Both rely on the power of visual communication to connect with the audience on a deeper level.”

A captivating newspaper design

Several elements contribute to a captivating newspaper design – layout, typography, color, photographs, and adaptability among other things.

  1. Layout

According to Sundar, layout is paramount for a good newspaper design. A “well-organized layout guides readers seamlessly through the content, with clear section divisions, consistent column widths, and a balanced distribution of text and images ensuring a logical flow.”

A well-designed layout is your GPS, Barua says. Following a style sheet and basic grid structure makes the paper look smart and consistent. Negative space should be embraced for a sense of order.

  1. Typography

Typography is another crucial consideration, Sundar explains. Choosing appropriate fonts for headlines, subheadings, body text, and captions is essential for legibility and maintaining uniformity throughout the publication, he says, adding white space is often overlooked but vital as it prevents visual clutter and allows content to breathe, thereby enhancing readability and facilitating easy navigation.

Establishing a clear hierarchy of information is imperative, Sundar says. Through the effective use of headlines, subheadings, and varying font sizes, readers can quickly identify important stories and navigate through the content with ease.

Clear, easy-to-read fonts in comfortable sizes with high contrast between text and background are essential,” said Barua, adding that consistent alignment, margins, and spacing make all the difference in a professional and polished look.

  1. Color

Color adds vibrancy and visual interest, but it must be used judiciously to avoid detracting from readability. Thoughtful use of color can also help differentiate sections or highlight key information, Sundar said.

  1. Photographs

Photos and graphics should be used strategically to explain complex stories, according to Barua.

  1. Adaptability

Adaptability is crucial in the digital age, said Sundar, adding that a good newspaper design must consider how the layout will translate to online formats, such as responsive web design for mobile devices or tablets, ensuring a seamless reading experience across various platforms.

In today’s day and age when the same newspaper is available in printed and digital forms, on different platforms, significantly influencing its consumption, identifying ‘elements that contribute to a good newspaper design’ is varied, Gupta says. “If ‘to design’ means finding a creative solution for a problem, then any creative solution that solves a problem, and facilitates the consumption of the content, should be considered a ‘good design’ contribution,” he says.

(Part 2 – The future of newspaper design & challenges ahead)

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