Photo credit: Julie Elliott
Evaluation of design submissions
The overall average quality of the seven design contest submissions received for this challenge did not showcase uniquely outstanding work, though a few designs did stand out from the others.
Four designs out of the final seven, were not, in my humble opinion, ready for prime time. They were either incomplete, too rough, unadjusted for final implementation on multiple screen sizes and resolutions, or plainly inadequate relative to my design requirements for improved legibility, organization, access.
Of the remaining three, each one had some positive aspects. Let me briefly outline them:
a) Emil Milanov
Emil Milanov's design proposals were more than acceptable to the non-sophisticated eye. A cleaned-up masthead, a fully renewed logo and a much streamlined layout, especially in the top part of the home page, give Emil's design a definite professional, clean and slick look. Same for legibility of content titles and key articles excerpts.
I also liked some of his fine design touches applied to the new Robin Good logo design and to its subtle extension into other components of the page.
It is in the details of the formatting and alignment of minor details, like the wrapping up of text on the right side column, the positioning and design of the "outside Sharewood" logo or the font choice for section titles on the side column (like: Visual Presentations MasterViews News) that indicated to me a lack of design refinement and attention to details which for my future needs is absolutely crucial.
More inconsistency and uncompleted work is shown in the spacing consistency of the elements placed in the central column as well as in not having closed the bottom page in a more traditional way. In that respect things seem not an improvement over the existing live design.
A good proposal, showing too evidently some of the designer own limitations, apparently due only to insufficient time and lack of more experience.
b) Fabian Congsor
I liked immediately Fabian's designs because of its strong character and personality as well as for its unique personal design style. His design proposal shows much more attention to details, doesn't look incomplete or rushed out and as Emil's it introduces some innovative design solutions that well match my communication personality.
I liked the logo very much, and the overall cleanliness and organization of the page. Good also the design of some of the information boxes appearing on the right column, the integration of AdSense ads, the links to the alternate languages and to the other Good sites.
The greatest limitations in Fabian's design were a lack of anticipation for large high resolution screens going beyond 1024x768 resolution. On such screens the layout spreads way too wide, making the content column way too wide to remain legible to the average reader.
Also. The use of a strong electric blue background for reference and complementary information at the end of each article post overwhelms the reader field of vision creating an excessive call for attention that is unnecessary.
Very promising, needs more experience.
c) Stefano Bianchi
from: France - Italy (studio based in France with Italian blood in it)
Though N2O design proposals, created under the design direction of Italian artist Stefano Bianchi, are the ones I prefer, they do not bring in any revolutionary new look, no particular design innovation and little in the way of a strong character and personality.
On the other hand the N2O designs are highly legible, professionally-looking, void of small or big design overlooks, and while anonymous in many ways, very attentive to details and to the overall design balance and consistency.
In the individual page design in particular I appreciate the design attention and discreteness given to some of the additional information components, like the categories list on the left column, the recommended books at the bottom of the central column and the information design approach used for the reference information appearing at the end of each article.
On the other hand, the masthead is very weak, the logo has gained nothing over its existing look and the main navigation and other link choices on top of the page do not yet convey the idea of an organic and well thought out design cluster.
Last but not least the two designs were submitted as JPG files instead of validated XHTML-CSS web pages (apparently this was due only to time constraints - but I have had to contact Stefano Bianchi and request proofs of other validated designs executed by his group and a formal request to submit this contest proposals as true valid Web pages to this contest).
The strength of N2O design submission lies in the overall cleanliness, consistency, and attention to details. These elements and their importance in my online communication work, warrant from my personal viewpoint a higher score of trust and appreciation than the other two challengers.
Given the above, and the fact that none of the above submissions matched in full the contest requirements I had originally set out, I have had to do quite a bit of thinking before arriving at the final decision of who should have been the winner of this contest.
For a while I was in doubt as to whether to share the prize among all three submissions reviewed above or if to maintain the winning selection to just one participant.
But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that "sharing" was a more appropriate, positive and harmonious solution to reward these valid contributors than electing only one and dismissing altogether the others.
I also have all the interest to support and sustain as many good, talented, and promising design resources out there as I possibly can. Otherwise, what kind of Robin Good would I be?
These are the reasons why I have finally decided to award the MasterNewMedia Design Challenge to one design but to recognize and reward also the two runners-up.
Official winner of the MNM design Challenge is Stefano Bianchi of N2O - Paris
He wins $ 1,000 cash of the total amount plus four months of work from me.
Runners-up Fabian Congsor and Emil Milanov each win $ 500 as most promising young designers in this contest. They also win both assignments for one month of paid work with me.
All three winners will have their design proposals fully showcased on a permanent basis on MasterNewMedia.org, and all three will be interviewed in the coming days for publishing a full featured article revealing how they learned what they know and how they expect to make it in the challenging universe of online design.
Post-mortem (what I have learned from this)
Finally I little reflection of what I myself could have done better to improve the overall results of this first MasterNewMedia Design Challenge.
a) I have asked for too much. Many people have given participating because the design demands were too broad and too demanding. Some people felt that I was trying to get a full redesign for my site for $ 1,500 (later raised to $ 2,000) and they didn't fell that was a fair compensation.
b) I have not promoted it enough. Since my main reading audience is generally not made up by young and talented designers (who were the people I was looking for) I should have extended my announcement to appropriate design web sites and forums to guarantee more exposure and greater potential participation from those very people I wanted the most to participate in this.
c) I have not given enough examples. I should have provided more examples of what I expected and what I liked. Too little again was provided in this direction.