The Mario Blog
02.24.2014—1am
SND35 Awards 4: Page, portfolio and redesign winners from American City Business Journals

TAKEAWAY: The Society of News Design (SND) has just announced 35th Edition contest winners. We take pride in the success of our client newspapers and have been devoting TheMarioBlog posts to chat with art directors from some of the winning newspapers. Today: What’s the secret for the success of these American City Business Journal titles, winning awards barely a few months after launching Project Pinstripe?

TAKEAWAY: The Society of News Design (SND) has just announced 35th Edition contest winners. We take pride in the success of our client newspapers and have been devoting TheMarioBlog posts to chat with art directors from some of the winning newspapers. Today: What’s the secret for the success of these American City Business Journal titles, winning awards barely a few months after launching Project Pinstripe?

Of all the Garcia Media client newspapers recognized at the recent SND35 competition, the American City Business Journal titles represent one of our last projects completed in 2013. We are extremely proud of the recognition the ACBJ titles have had from our peers in the design community. Well deserved accolades.

It seems only yesterday that our Garcia Media art director, Reed Reibstein, and I began working with the team at ACBJ to take the 40 business journals. Our goal was to redesign them with one common look and to rethink them for a digital-first philosophy.

The Business Journals are recognized for their incisive, thorough and authoritative business coverage of their communities. As I found out from focus groups, these journals are revered by business leaders in their communities. We stepped into this so called Project Pinstripe gingerly, with a desire to enhance the products, but without ignoring the qualities that made them so strong.

The first of the 40 titles to go through the changes was Silicon Valley Business Journal in San Jose. It was here that we first applied strategies that would make readers navigate through the content easier, starting on Page One. While this was a major visual rethinking of the newspaper, including new typography, page architecture and color palette, the real changes are in the ways storytelling is approached, especially in the use of graphics that will facilitate understanding of major stories.

From the start, the changes were well received. Today, 29 of the 40 ACBJ titles have relaunched. “Our goal is to have every market converted into the Pinstripe design before summer begins,” says Jon Wile, ACBJ Creative Director.

Jon also reminds me that prior to this year, ACBJ had won only two SND awards in the past five years combined.

Jon adds:

“These awards are fruits of the company’s new strategy, illustrating how ACBJ’s expanded emphasis on photography and design is paying dividends. I’m very proud of the work we’ve accomplished this past year and am excited to finish our redesign project in the first half of this year.”

The winners at SND 35

Here are the winners and categories from the ACBJ group:

BUSINESS COVERS/INSIDE PAGES

Albany Business Review, “What We Earn”, designed by Melissa Mangini

Washington Business Journal, “100 Publicly Traded Companies”, designed by Jamey Fry

Washington Business Journal, “50 Largest Nonprofits”, designed by Jamey Fry

PORTFOLIO

Washington Business Journal, six front pages (including “The Puppeter” and “Why Hollywood Hates Washington”), designed by Jamey Fry

REDESIGN

Albany Business Review for overall newspaper

Albany Business Review for The List

Silicon Valley Business Journal for overall newspaper

A chat with the designers: Albany Business Review

The new (top) and the old List, a major feature of all ACBJ newspapers




After the challenges, now the rewards

Emory Thomas is chief content officer for ACBJ titles. He and I worked closely together on this project from the first day. In fact, it all started when Emory called me one day to ask me to join them as a consultant. During the course of a year, we spent hours discussing strategy, and maneuvering around the challenges of bringing a unified content philosophy and look for 40 different titles in cities across the US.

I chatted with Emory this week, to congratulate him on this SND35 recognition.

Emory feels that the most difficult challenge of the project was planning.

“As we move toward a more visually rich presentation in print, it’s critical for our newsrooms to gather the ingredients across a longer time frame than they have historically. That’s a process change, a mindset change, and even a culture change. In today’s digital newsrooms, there are now multiple rhythms beating simultaneously — the staccato of the daily production, the steady beat of the weekly product creation, and also the longer term gestation of many of our ambitious centerpiece cover stories.”

And what was the most rewarding?

Seeing the talent in our company flourish in new ways. Designers, photographers, editors and reporters have fewer limits, and more possibilities, than they’ve ever had before. There’s a renaissance of creativity afoot at ACBJ, and it’s compelling, and rewarding, to watch.

Emory says that the challenges continue, and raising the bar for continued improvement and success is one of those.

Raising the bar. As much as we’ve accomplished to date, satisfaction is not an option. We have to raise the bar of content quality to a much higher level. And when we reach it, we have to raise it yet again. Staying relevant in the media world today demands nothing less.

A chat with the award winning art directors


As I have done through the past three days, I wanted to chat with the designers involved in these award winning titles, and find out how they conduct their daily business of visual storytelling, which has resulted in the SND35 recognition.

Here is my chat with Melissa Mangini, Lead Designer of the Albany Business Review:

Mario:

What was the hardest part of the design transformation your newsroom has gone though?

Melissa:

The hardest part of the design transformation has been assembling a staff with not only the willingness to totally rethink how we do what we do, but also the buy-in and commitment to follow through.

Mario:

What’s been most rewarding for you?

Melissa:

It has been the most rewarding to see our entire staff come together and embrace the transformation of our product. Communication has become even more essential, and when done early and often, that has really helped propel the overall design and execution to the next level. The redesign has highlighted our content in such a new and exciting way.

Mario:

What are the challenges that lie ahead?

Melissa:

The challenges are consistency, high quality execution week after week and maintaining the excitement that the redesign brought to our newsroom. We are constantly raising the bar for ourselves and striving to improve each week.

A chat with the designers: Ryan Lambert, Sillicon Valley Business Journal

Mario:

What was the hardest part of the design transformation your newsroom has gone though?

Ryan:

There’s a learning curve for designers and reporters. The temptation, on both sides, is to think visual impact first. But more than once we’ve designed solid packages before the reporting was finished. Our digital-first push has actually helped in that regard. The reporting has to be there before the presentation conversation begins.

Mario:

What’s been most rewarding for you?

Ryan:

We’re into our second year of Pinstripe. We learned a lot about the process the first time around, and many of us were very new to ACBJ. This time around, we’re anticipating better. For me, that’s a great comfort.

Mario:

What are the challenges that lie ahead?

Ryan:

The vast majority of our story planning is digitally focused. For someone who’s concerned almost exclusively on the print product, that can be unsettling. I think the task of keeping the print product fresh and relevant falls squarely on the designer’s shoulders.

Washington Business Journal winning pages
A chat with Jamey Fry, art director for the Washington Business Journal.
Mario:

What was the hardest part of the design transformation your newsroom has gone though?

Jamey:

The most challenging part of the redesign was probably helping the newsroom to consider more visually compelling methods of storytelling and repurposing online content in fresh ways. However, they were quick to catch on and have been quite successful since the launch.

Mario:

What’s been most rewarding for you?

Jamey:

I loved that at a time when many newspapers are doing anything they can to cut cost (often then suffering in quality), we have instead reinvested in our product to improve the overall quality now and have prepared it to sustain into the future.

Mario:

What are the challenges that lie ahead?

Jamey:

I think our biggest challenge is to avoid complacency. After a successful redesign launch, it’s important to continue to push ourselves and not fall into a templated mentality.


Of related interest about ACBJ launches:

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/pits_a_new_washington_business_journal_p

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/the_new_silicon_valley_business_journal_is_here

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/ppinstripe_project_albany_st._louis_launch_new_look_digital_first_approach_

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/the_design_of_the_silicon_valley_business_journal_from_prototype_to_reality

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/our_first_two_launches_of_2013_silicon_valley_business_journal_and_malaysia

Previous blog posts about the SND35 competition:

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/snd35_awards_1_what_makes_a_winner

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