By Brad Needham

When it comes to fashion and trends, Europe tends to be ahead of North America. But what about newspapers? You can spot European fashion at a glance. You can also typically spot European newspapers at a glance. They are different. Fewer broadsheets, more rules, crisp and clean designs, the typography more often used in different ways. Those who follow my Instagram will have seen pages from a lot of these publications as I feature them all the time.

I have already posted about Canada’s best and America’s best. This post will feature some of my favourite newspaper pages submitted to the Society for News Design‘s 44th creative competition from outside of Canada and the U.S. Most are from Europe, but not all. I have covered the best from Canada (home team bias) and the U.S. Now the rest. But the world is a big place outside of Canada and the U.S. That will make narrowing down the the choices of pages in this post a challenge.

RELATED: Results from SND44

Before I jump into the top papers (which I am classifying as Die Zeit and Weekendavisen, both finalists for the competition’s World Best Designed Newspaper, as well as the remaining papers in the top 10 in awards, de Volkskrant, Politico and South China Morning Post), I am carrying on a tradition I started last year to make it official. While my role was muddied this year, I am still calling this a Facilitator’s Special Recognition.

Facilitator’s Special Recognition

There are thousands of entries. I try to go though as many as I can, but I can’t get through them all. As I was going through this year’s entries, I thought one of my favourite publications was absent. But then I saw it. Reporte Indigo from Mexico is one of those publications that leaves me chuckling every day at how much effort is put in, and how great every edition is. Shaking my head in a awe-struck kind of way, asking how do they do it? There isn’t a dud. Some are stronger than others, but they’re all great. I wish they would submit more entries. While I can’t speak for how the judges would react, I love this publication. This spread does so much for me. The sketch and then sketched flag (I did this once, with both drawings much more rudimentary, though intentionally so!), the beautiful illustration, the amount of information. I fell in love with Reporte Indigo at SND42. A page from this publication left me biting my tongue listening to the judges speak. They gave the page an Award of Excellence, but I wanted more. I have included that page below. But first my special recognition.

Here is the first page that made want to scream to the judges, give it a medal! It’s worth it! This was from SND42. It’s the page that made me love this publication. I hope to see more next year!


This Dutch paper is so elegant. That is a theme among a lot of European papers. They are beautiful and clean. This page uses such a nice illustration, but it works so well around the flag and text on the page. It’s more than just an illustration.

This is a smart cover. The text from the flag feels like it’s being sucked into the blackhole. I love it when newspapers are willing to play with their name plate.

I also love when newspapers use text in design (you will see more of the is with Die Zeit. In fact, you will see one that’s quite similar in concept!)

And here are a couple more. Just so well done, with so much attention to even small details. One is an inside page that has a classic European compact/tabloid look.

Die Zeit

This German paper, last year’s World’s Best Designed winner and in contention again this year, could be talked about with some German stereotypes. It is exceedingly well organized and very consistent throughout. There are few papers in the world as consistently consistent! And it is one of the best at using text in design. But on top of being consistent, it has some pages that surprise. Some that are very bold.

Here is the page that had a similar design and concept to the Weekendavisen one above. Who did it better? We’ll call it a tie.

The designer uses the photo so well in this design. One thing that always blows me away with this paper is how much text, a volume of text that might appear dense anywhere else, it can put on a page and still have it pop. It’s almost like a sleight of hand. Grey block of text? What do mean? Look at the design …

And just a small selection of text in design, or rather text as design. I’m not sure anyone does it better.


The covers of this paper are some of the most compelling around. They are illustration-driven in almost all cases, which means for them to stand out as design they must be backed by strong art direction. As the team gets it so right so often, I can only assume this is the case. Politico isn’t afraid to tackle very difficult subjects either. This first one was one of my favourite pages from the competition.

Another around the war in Ukraine. Last year marked a bit of a trend toward using darker photos. Photo editors and those making decisions often agonize over decisions like this, but in order to show the true devastation in Ukraine, dead bodies and other gruesome scenes became common on newspaper front pages. But this photo below is still so shocking, and using it like this is bold. And it has a smart headline, almost a call to action. How did we let this happen? Again?

These two spreads were near the top of my faves list as well. So simple, so smart, such little art. But it works so well. The text carries so much of the burden in the design.

And this. So much about the text but the image helps elevate. Early in my career I did a page that reminds me of this, but on a much lesser scale, where I used a shadow effect, for mine it was a dollar sign acting as a shadow for the finance minister. I will always favour pages that remind me of mine! This one is next level.

This illustration is very powerful. Taking something beautiful and making it tragic. I could show so many more for Politico, but I’ll leave it here for now.

de Volkskrant

I won’t lie. I think this is one of the best designed newspapers in the world, maybe the best, but I’m not a judge. From the cover and beyond. It’s so fresh, often surprising, but still always on brand, even when it surprises. The small details. You can see many pages from de Volkskrant on my Instagram and in previous posts here.

And while there are so many more incredible pages, I have chosen a few from the same edition to highlight how its commitment to excellence and consistency goes beyond the cover.

South China Morning Post

And the South China Morning Post, which tied for 10th overall in awards. This publication has some absolutely stunning information graphics. The visual presentation is so strong, and it adds a ton of little bits of information to support the graphics/illustrations. This first page won a silver medal, so a step above an Award of Excellence. It’s followed by three others, that are also incredible in their own ways. While the designers could rely on the same style, they have quite a range. They somehow manage to be versatile, taking very different approaches, while maintaining excellence throughout. Each one of these is vastly different from the one before and after, but all of them are jaw-dropping.

Europe and beyond

The illustration on this first page by La Nueva Espana looks so real you almost ask yourself, how did that happen. This is another of my faves from the competition.

And then this illustration. Mind blowing.

And I can’t leave Politiken out. I am a big fan of this publication. I think it does so many things well. It is perhaps the best at using a consistent colour palette. It uses red and black throughout so often to hold it all together. And this first page is just such a powerful topic, headlined: My rape.

Below are the last few pages I will highlight, though there were so many more worthy of the spotlight. Below are pages from The Sunday Times (U.K.), Polska (Poland), the Daily Telegraph (U.K.), Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), The Age (Australia) and Arab News (Saudi Arabia).


I could go on and on. There were thousands of entries from a number of publications, all submitting the best of their best.

Related: SND43’s world’s best and other briliant pages

By Brad Needham

Newspaper design can be like a drug. A good page, your own or others, can leave you feeling elated. And leaves you wanting more. But what I have experienced lately, is like a good high (from someone who doesn’t know what an actual good high is!), the more greatness I see, the greater it needs to be to blow me away. When I first had the honour of being involved in the Society for News Design‘s 42nd creative competition in 2021, my breath was taken away a hundred times or more. Given a judge’s role, I would have been like, awards for everyone! A medal for you, and you, and you! I was nearly weepy by the end of it. After feeling the print world crumbling around me, I found myself in an oasis, damn near a utopia, of newspaper design.

There is still a page from that year’s competition that I can’t shake. This page from the Los Angeles Times gave me the feels.

By 2022, I had a new perspective. I heard the judges talk about what makes a page great, what elevates something from good to great. I was more critical that year, but still my breath was taken away quite often. And now, 2023, I feel even more discerning. The competition was back in real life, held at The New York Times building. For the first time, I found myself looking at some medals and asking, would I have given that a gold? But I am happy to say, there are still breathtaking pages. Despite being immersed in the best of the best newspaper pages in the world for three years, plus all the pages I look at on a daily basis, I find inspiration in some of the magical work still taking place. It’s partially because the work is next level, but it’s also because the field is shrinking. It is a dying art. The exceptional work shines even brighter.

There are newspapers who still care deeply. The Big 4 in the U.S. produce some of the most stunning work in the world. And it is seen in their results, either Awards of Excellence or Silver and Gold medals. The New York Times: 188 (!!); Washington Post: 122; Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.): 121; and a few places down, holding onto 6th overall, the Los Angeles Times: 44. Both The New York Times and the Washington Post have been named finalists for the World’s Best Designed Newspaper, along with Die Zeit and Weekendavisen (you will see more from these in the post about papers from around the world). The winner or winners will be announced Friday.

RELATED: SND43: Best of U.S. papers

I will give more play to the Big 4 publications in this post. But I can’t feature hundreds of pages. So I will pare down the winners and present some of my faves. And despite my exposure and, for better or for worse, higher standards, my opinion is still very humble. At these contests I am surrounded by design greatness.

RELATED: See SND44 results here

One key takeaway from this year’s competition was the value of art direction. As someone who mostly worked in smaller publications, I was, in effect, the art director, at least for the sections I handled. In the past couple of years I have started to wonder about pages that are driven almost exclusively by their illustrations. Are they great pages or great illustrations or both? Well, I’m told, this is where you can see the value of great art direction. A publication can’t get it so right so often and have it be so on brand without great art direction. So much of the credit for these pages goes to the art directors.

The New York Times

What can I say about the paper sometimes still known as the Old Gray Lady? Despite those functional daily news pages, The New York Times produces some of the most magical pages in the world.

First, one million. I remember seeing this page when it was published and being blown away. I still am.

And one can’t talk about NYT without mentioning its kids section. It is outstanding. Always. I sure hope it’s working, and that it is attracting younger readers, showing them the power of print media. The kids of New York are perhaps the best served child newspaper readers in the world!

While COVID isn’t behind us yet, there was less focus this year. Abortion, however, was in the spotlight, thanks to a groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many papers produced powerful pages around this topic, and the Times produced some of the best.

Shootings and gun violence have also divided the U.S., and put it into the spotlight around the world. Most of the world doesn’t get it. It’s good to see some Americans, many, are also questioning. This page, all text, the same thing repeated, is so powerful.

I could go on and on. But I will leave you with just a couple more. And they will be political, because what is America right now if not a world political hotspot? Years after the election, it’s still Trump, it’s still Biden. Brace for many more pages with these two as the focus.

Washington Post

The Washington Post always delights. The Outlook and opinion pages are so regularly outstanding that even those have to be whittled down. The first, also marking the tragic COVID milestone of one million American deaths, followed by a slideshow of more strong opinion pages.

And a collection from the Outlook section.

I loved this page when I saw it last year. A simple but very smart illustration.

And of course they have fun, too. Here are some pages about things that aren’t breaking news, like books and food!

And weekends! I love this one. Not only is the illustration top level, the headline is fantastic. Kudos to the writer.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.)

The Star Tribune might not have the same recognition as The New York Times and Washington Post outside of design circles or outside the U.S., but it is very much known as a heavyweight in the design world. But also, unlike some other big papers, it focuses on the news at home, a real local paper. That and incredible designs? It reminds me of a next-level Guelph Mercury, the paper where I cut my teeth in design. To be clear, the Star Tribune is several levels up, but its mission is close to my heart.

I will once again start with the one million milestone. How can they make little squares look so compelling? So devastating.

At the competition, I said there are two regular events that will always produce design awards. One is the power rankings for burgers in Los Angeles (see LA Times below) and the Minnesota state fair.

But as per usual, the Star Tribune offers much more than fair pages. This was one of my favourite pages from the competition (I had no clear favourite, as I have in the past two years). And like last year, I can’t say why.

The Olympic pages by the Star Tribune were perhaps the best in the world.

And one more to leave you with. A page that is so Star Tribune.

Los Angeles Times

I’m a sucker for the Los Angeles Times. Maybe it’s because of the kiss page above. Maybe that hooked me. Despite having fewer wins than the three above, I find so many of their pages so striking and enjoyable. It is one of the papers clearly benefiting from some of the most brilliant art directors the world. So many of the pages are driven by outstanding illustrations. And one thing they do better than most is food. Which brings me to … burgers.

And this page. I think it’s just beautiful. When it comes to pure beauty, few publications move me like the Los Angeles Times.

And another driven by a beautiful, touching illustration, but one that seems clearly designed for the soft yet prominent headline treatment.

This stunner was a silver medal winner. It just gets cooler the more you look at it.

And here are a few more. Some that are just so bright and happy, and of course a couple more food pages.

Other publications

And of course there are many other great publications doing solid design work. While the pool is shrinking, these publications still rise to the top. There are so many more incredible pages from other publications, but I can’t show them all. There were thousands of entries. Here are the last few I will show, starting with this sharp page from the Kansas City Business Journal (part of the American City Business Journals, which tied for 10th overall in terms of awards).

Anyone who follows my blog or Instagram knows I love The Villages Daily Sun. There are few newspapers that have a more distinctive style, and one that so clearly connects with its readers.

Next are a couple of strong pages on the topic of guns, one of the bigger topics, and, sadly, likely a bigger topic in next year’s awards. These are from the Asbury Park Press and the Boston Globe.

And last, but definitely not least, a few more brilliant pages, starting with fun illustration from the Philadelphia Inquirer, two from the San Diego Union Tribune, the Knox News Sentinel, Bergen Record, San Antonio Express-News and USA Today.

I would like to say print is alive and well, but it is struggling. Newspapers are closing all the time, resources are becoming more limited, revenue sources are drying up. But that is what makes this competition even more extraordinary. In the face of all of this, there are so many still striving for greatness, still working to give their readers more than just stories on paper. They are giving them an experience. The print experience.

RELATED: SND44: Best of Canada

By Brad Needham

This time of year is like Christmas for those who love print newspaper design. Newspapers who still take design seriously have submitted the work they consider their best to the Society of News Design. And for those of us who are lucky enough to be a part of the judging process in one way or another, as part of the planning committee, a facilitator or judge, it’s magical. We get to look through the best designs by the world’s best designers.

But to make this year even more special, after moving to a remote a competition because of COVID-19, it was back in person, and in New York. To make it even more exciting, it was in the New York Times building. I admit I got shivers as I saw the sign from a distance.

This year I had a bit of a hybrid role, part planning committee until life got in the way, part facilitator, part floater. For the second year in a row I got to be part of the team that chooses the World’s Best Newspaper (I wasn’t a judge, so not making the decision, just helping out).

This post is about the best in Canadian media. Sadly not as many papers submit. When I won, each of the three was for the Guelph Mercury, which had a circulation in the neighbourhood of 10,000. There is nothing close to that size anymore. This year in Canada, with Postmedia being out of the mix, only three media outlets submitted entries: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Le Devoir, which just so happens to make up two-thirds of the ownership group of Pagemasters/The Canadian Press, my employer (Globe and Torstar).

So while there were fewer entries overall, and fewer outlets, than in years past, the quality of work these publications submits is still right up there with the best in the world. In this post, I will look at the Canadian entries. I will follow up with posts on the best American papers as well as the best from around the world, and also on the winners of the World’s Best Designed, which will be announced later this week. It will be worth the wait.

In Canada, The Globe and Mail was far and away the top winner, followed by the Toronto Star and Le Devoir. The Globe finished in the top 10 overall, which I attribute largely to incredibly smart art direction.

As a bit of a legend, awards are broken down into a few categories. First, an award of excellence must get the support of three of five judges, and those judges must think this work is beyond good. It must be excellent. Work that rises above what you might expect to see normally. Then there are silver and gold medals. As the level of award goes up, so do the expectations. By the time judges reach a gold medal discussion, the entry must be essentially flawless, down to kerning, every bit of white space and so on. It should be hard to find a flaw. This year, there were no gold medals for Canadian publications.

The Globe and Mail

This year the Globe won all awards of excellence other than in photography, which is somewhat out of scope for the blog, so I will look at the AOEs. The Globe finished in the top 10 overall, with 32 awards, three of which were silver medals for photography.

As soon as I saw this page in production, I knew it would be contender. Interestingly, pages like this were raised by judges. Is this a great page or a great illustration, or both? To be a great page it needs to use the illustration as part of a total package. To be clear, this page is absolutely driven by this stunning illustration. And this is where the art direction comment comes in. The Globe consistently uses incredible illustrations to drive pages. At some point that moves beyond just incredible illustrations and into smart art direction. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, they work with the story, and elevate the page to another level. And that is precisely what happens here and in many of the pages the Globe won for.

As often is the case with Kagan McLeod illustrations, the illustration drives this page. And I always know, regardless of the paper it appears in, at a glance that it is a McLeod special. He has a distinctive style. He has been helping Canadian newspapers elevate their front pages for years, from the Globe to the Star to the National Post. And I’m sure they are grateful.

This page was part of a staff portfolio award package. I often don’t like when newspapers use different fonts for headlines, but this page works. Nice symmetry, cute illustrations, and the typography is playful and works.

Not much to say about this other than it is visually magnificent. It’s a beautiful page, smartly conceptualized and executed. This and the next three pages are from the great Brennan Higginbotham, who won an award of excellence for his portfolio or work. I won three awards, one of which was for a portfolio of work. That is the award I am most proud of as it’s for a body of work. And as Higgenbotham shows here he is far from a one-page wonder. Some beautiful work.

Using the maple leaf in a creative way in an illustration is not novel, but I am always impressed by how many amazing ways newspapers use it. To the world, Canada likely seems like a peaceful place, full of people saying excuse me and sorry. Especially sorry. But things are changing. As populism politics take hold in other countries, very much emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency, Canada is following suit. The country is more divided than ever. And this illustration politely shows (so Canadian) that things are heating up. A great and smart illustration, nice use of white space and a witty main headline.

Just a lovely illustration, used well on a front page. NBD.

When I looked at the paper this Saturday morning I knew I’d be seeing this page in the competition. It’s one of my faves from year from the Globe. Is the song in your head yet? It makes for a very bold and colourful front page. As for the Globe entries for this post … that’s all folks.

Toronto Star

The Star submits significantly fewer entries than the Globe, and less than it used to. It’s great to see that it is still being recognized when it swings for the fences. It won four awards in total. Here are a few.

This is an example of a page with a great illustration that helps drive the story, but also a great design. The illustration needs smart typography to work, and it works.

Anyone who follows me here or Instagram would have seen this page already. It was one of the sharpest pages around the Queen’s death. Great photo choice, very simple headline in terms of content and design.

As a counter to the very simple Queen page, this is a busy page. There is a lot going on. Yet the focus of the story is clear. It does some things I might not normally like, but manages to pull it all together to make a very compelling design.

Le Devoir

Le Devoir submitted very few entries, but did a heck of job curating those entries. It won two awards in total. Here is one of the winners and one I liked that didn’t win.

Something about this illustration speaks to me. It didn’t win an award, so this is a facilitator’s special recognition, I guess. I dig it. It really draws me in, and even without knowing French well enough to read this, I feel like I really want to know what it’s about.

This page looks very much like many of the European newspaper design powerhouses. The rules, the simplicity and the attention to very small details, like the illustration around the drop cap. Love it.

I know there is other great design happening around the country. The Winnipeg Free Press, Postmedia and elsewhere have some strong designs, even in this new and more challenging newspaper world. Sadly for judges and Canadian media loves, they don’t submit.

A huge kudos to those who do, and those behind the designs, from an art direction standpoint. You all put your work out there into the world to be judged by some of the world’s best. You open it up for critiquing. And sometimes you win. All of these papers had more entries and winners than I have shown. This is merely a selection of the incredible work they produced in 2022. As the Globe page above said, what a year.

So bravo to the Canadian designers who won awards and submitted their work.

Related posts:

SND43: Best of Canada

SND42: An experience of a lifetime