Arab Newspapers Win Awards in International Design Contest

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The Dubai-based Gulf News and Emirates Business 24/7 newspapers were recently granted prizes in an international contest for newspaper design. A close collaboration between the editorial and the design team is fundamental for the high visual standard, designers from both papers said in an interview with Arab Press Network.

By Alexandra Sandels

Veteran-competitor Gulf News won eight awards for excellence in newspaper design, including ‘News and Features Design’, while newbie Emirates Business 24/7 was recognized for ‘Graphics in Non-Breaking News Stories’ in the 29th Annual Creative Design Contest, organized by the media design group Society for News Design (SND).

The winners were crowned by votes from nearly 400 daily and weekly newspapers around the world. The publication that bagged the majority of the awards in all 19 categories was the Los Angeles Times who earned 109 awards. A total of 193 newspapers from 33 countries were granted prizes for their design, of which the mere part went to publications in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Newspapers from Sweden, Turkey, Brazil, and Singapore could also be found among the winners.

“It is a great honor for us to receive this award and for Emirates Business 24/7 to be recognized in this way. We are looking forward to bringing our readers more informative and interesting graphics in the months and years to come,” Luis Chumpitaz, Infographic Director at the Arab Media Group and Designer at Emirates Business 24/7 told APN.

Douglas Okasaki, Designer at Gulf News, said in an interview with APN that newspaper design remains an important aspect at his publication. “Design is extremely important in our newsroom. Our editorial team has this in mind and they always try to work together with the design team. That is the best combination,” said Okasaki in an interview with APN.

Chumpitaz emphasized that graphics and photography are ‘structural parts of today’s newspapers’ and should count as ‘equally communicative as the text itself’.

“Our editorial team is very optimistic about the role of design at the paper. They consider the design a first line element in regards to contact with the readers and therefore put in efforts on that front,” continued Chumpitaz.

Moreover, at business publications such as Emirates Business 24/7, which sometimes feature technical information that might be tough for some readers to grasp, visual aids such as infographics are necessary, reiterates Chumpitaz.

When asked how Gulf News built up its award-winning visual approach, Okasaki stipulated that the first ‘big development’ was to invite a professional design company who created a design profile of the paper. The most important aspect, however, is that the manager of the publication possesses an interest in news design and realizes the importance of it, highlighted Okasaki.

Though a fairly new venture, Emirates Business 24/7 has always paid attention to its visual look, argues Chumpitaz, adding that the publication went through a redesign and re-launched its visual identity last year.

The designers both agree that visuals and design play critical roles in the image of a publication. “Design is important because it is the way you present the news for your readers. You do it in a professional way and it shows that you respect your reader,” said Okasaki.

In addition, Okasaki and Chumpitaz are convinced that good newspaper design increases readership. Today’s readers have a strong visual orientation that needs to be taken seriously, they mean. “Of course the content brings the most important value to a newspaper but the results obviously become more effective when the information is presented in a good way. In essence, design is a good tool for journalists to attract the attention of the readers to their articles,” stated Okasaki.

Chumpitaz echoed Okasaki’s claim maintaining that ‘images communicate in an immediate way and helps create a continuous narrative throughout the paper’.

While Arab papers constituted some of the winners in SND’s contest, no Arabic- language publication was granted an award. Both Gulf News and Emirates Business 24/7 are published in English. In answer to that, Okasaki, who also serves as SND’s Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa, asserted that the group needs to spread more awareness of the competition among Arabic language publications. “They simply might not have enough information about the contest’, he added.

On that note, both Chumpitaz and Okasaki still believe the future for newspaper design in the Arab world is a very bright one, though yet unexplored. “The way the Arabic language is written is very graphic and beautiful, but not looked into sufficiently in regards to design,” said Okasaki while Chumpitaz stressed that the issue is simply a ‘matter of diffusion,’ emphasizing better interaction with design counterparts around the world.

“Interest in the aesthetic value of the Arabic language is increasing around the world. We can arrive at great results if we manage to find teams that can assimilate international design know-how with Arabic culture and its particular sense of graphics,” concluded Chumpitaz.

This year’s winning designs can be retrieved in SND’s yearly report on newspaper design, ‘The Best of Newspaper Design’.

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