Winning isn't everything. But it still feels good

I use to say, "Awards don't mean anything to me when it comes to my profession."

That's a lie, and I admit it.

It was easy to say that, because I didn't win many awards. It was a self-defense mechanism to make myself feel better for not winning. Also, I felt that if I did win an award, it didn't really help advance my career. I never got a bonus or a steak dinner from the company. If it was announced to the staff, it was quickly forgotten by the end of that day.

Poor Ben. My goodness, I was selfish in those days.

Nowadays, it's different. It's not about any of the above mentioned. It's about the recognition of your peers that you are doing things right and ultimately serving the customers of your product. It's about striving to be better than you were yesterday, and the award is the affirmation that you are doing your job correctly. It is really an honor to be recognized.

Being in the media business, I believe the reading audience really doesn't care if the publication wins an award or not. All they care about is that you serve them with the best product you can produce. The award is the moral boost in your company that leads to that strong and respectable publication.

In 2018, I made it a goal as a newspaper designer at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal to win a Society of News Design award. This is the Pulitzer Price of visual journalism. Nearly 5,000 newspaper entires from around the world were delivered to St. Petersburg, Fla., and judged by the most respected visual journalists in the world over four days in February.

American City Business Journal, which owns MSPBJ, asked its 40 markets to send in their best designed pages of the year to its headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. From there, a team of talented designers and creative director selected 75 entries to submit into the competition. This year, ACBJ won a company-record 22 awards (21 Award of Excellence and 1 Silver Medal). Also included was that MSPBJ's sister paper, the Memphis Business Journal, was named as a finalist for the World's Best Designed Newspapers.

In all that, we achieved that goal. MSPBJ won an Award of Excellence for the cover of our Sept. 28 edition with the headline, "It looks small. It isn't." See below.

The story is about how IntriCon Corp., was cashing in on it's small-tech products and is hoping to grow on it. In some ways, the story designed itself. When the reporter was pitching the story to the editorial team, she mentioned that they make components that could fit in the ear of Harry Truman on a dime. So the original idea was to have a photograph of the device inside the ear of the dime at actual size. But the more I thought about it, we could just use the component if it was clear enough.

I asked our photographer to take as high as a resolution photo as she could of the spec. Also, I asked the reporter to make sure we get the dimensions of the spec. After that, I decided to just give it the white space it needs to focus in on that spec. But what drove it home was the headline. This is a perfect example of how a team can work together to make a good cover a great cover.

And that is rewarding in itself. That was why awards matter to me now. It is something we share as a team and a company. Now I couldn't care if it advances my career. I am just proud to be on a team that strives for that sort of excellence day in and day out.

It feels good.

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