Meth menace, Singapore street names among ST's 6 winners at global design contest

Interactive projects from The Straits Times have bagged the publication six awards at the 2019 Best of Digital Design competition.
Interactive projects from The Straits Times have bagged the publication six awards at the 2019 Best of Digital Design competition.PHOTOS: THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - From the dangerous drug trade in South-east Asia to Singapore's multicultural street names, interactive projects have brought The Straits Times' users on many an immersive journey.

Such digital storytelling is also among the most technically demanding for designers.

Their efforts were recognised when ST won six awards at the 2019 Best of Digital Design competition, which saw entries from more than 100 organisations from 26 countries.

ST bagged two more awards than it did in 2018 in results announced on Friday (Feb 7) by the organiser, the Society for News Design (SND).

Winning works from ST joined more than 1,300 entries, which included those from the New York Times, CNN International and the South China Morning Post.

Among ST's awards were two silver medals for story page design, won by interactive graphics journalist Rebecca Pazos, 32, and user interface designer Alyssa Karla Mungcal, 28.

Ms Pazos said seeing her name among others she had long admired was "humbling and inspiring".

"I know how difficult it is to be awarded any medal at SND, and to be given a silver by my peers is a big validation for the work we've been doing," she said, adding that her favourite pieces were the ones that tried to "find the humanity and emotions" in stories.

One example was ST's feature on the rise of methamphetamine in South-east Asia, which provided insight into the illicit drug world. To produce the multimedia project, the interactive graphics team worked with a group who travelled to the Thai-Myanmar border to follow the meth trail - ST journalists Tan Tam Mei and Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, and multimedia journalist Azim Azman.

Dynamic visuals helped explain the rise of the drug's abuse in the last decade, traced trafficking paths through the region, and even featured video profiles of past users.

Ms Mungcal said her favourite project was the one exploring Singapore's street names, which looked at their colonial and multicultural roots. "While it took some time to do, I was happy with the visuals and the overall outcome."

The data-driven project looked at Singapore's colourful history through the names of its streets. Launched last year to mark Singapore's bicentennial, the project had the team painstakingly compiling information on more than 3,500 streets.

Another project which - quite literally - gave a deep dive into an issue was "Singapore's underground: How deep can we go?".

The graphic brought readers further and further below the earth's surface as they scrolled on, exploring human activity deep underground, including Singapore's MRT train system and underground caverns that store liquid hydrocarbon.

ST editor Warren Fernandez said that content these days needs to be told in new and creative ways, including engaging interactive graphics that draw in and keep readers enthralled.  

“Our digital team has done much good work on this front, based on the seasoned news gathering of the wider ST newsroom. It is most gratifying that these collaborative efforts across the newsroom have been recognised by our peers in the international media community,” said Mr Fernandez, who is also Editor-in-Chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English/Malay/Tamil Media Group.

The competition by SND is in its 41st edition, and involves 14 judges across the United States from organisations like Reuters, Bloomberg and National Geographic.

Winners will be celebrated at SND's annual workshop in Washington, DC, in April.

Six award-winners by ST:

1. Trash or treasure: Can you tell what can and cannot be recycled?

Bronze Medal for Story Page Design - Environmental, Health & Science

Two women - one an "eco-warrior" and the other an environmental newbie - were asked to sort out what could be recycled from a week's worth of trash.

A combination of stop-animation, graphics and data was used to get readers interested in picking up tips on which household items could be recycled.


2. Singapore's underground: How deep can we go?

Award of Excellence for Information Graphics - National

The interactive brings users "underground" through the innovative use of "a lift".

As the user scrolls, the lift descends further into the ground, unearthing more facts about the 4km stretch which humans have dug to create train networks, sewers and more.


3. On a little street in Singapore… A road map of history, culture and society

Award of Excellence for Information Graphics - Arts, Entertainment, Food, Travel & Lifestyle

The project looks at how the country's colonial and multicultural past is quietly preserved in the names of its streets. The team painstakingly compiled data on more than 3,500 streets, which were categorised and geolocated.


4. South-east Asia's meth menace

Award of Excellence for Line of Coverage - Long-form series

Apart from facts and figures, the interactive puts a human face to the meth problem by featuring former drug addict Tim York, 38. His story is captured in a compelling video storytelling format that progresses seamlessly as the user scrolls.

The project also has an interactive feature that allows readers to upload their own photo and see for themselves the detrimental effects of meth on one's appearance and health.


5. Rebecca Pazos

Silver Medal for Portfolio - Story Page Design (Individual)

Ms Pazos joined ST in 2015 as an interactive graphics journalist.

A newsroom advocate for data storytelling, she has used a combination of video, scrolling text and interactive prompts to make stories engaging.

The package on South-east Asia's meth menace demonstrated her skills in humanising data by opening the piece with a former addict's evocative story.

Some of her works:

South-east Asia's meth menace: One man's struggle

This is what smuggling meth across the Myanmar-Thai border is really like

How ST uncovered a love scammer's 3-month ruse

On a little street in Singapore… A road map of history, culture and society

26 patriotic songs but which one hit the mark?

A year of Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan: Promises fulfilled?

6. Alyssa Karla Mungcal

Silver Medal for Portfolio - Story Page Design (Individual)

Ms Mungcal joined ST in 2017 and is a user experience designer in its graphics team, where she helps bring stories to life with engaging interactive design.

With years of experience in both Web and graphics design, she also won a silver award for her project "War on waste: The dirty (brown) secret about e-commerce" at the 2019 Asian Digital Media Awards.

She chose a user-friendly scrolling format to visually present the amount and volume of packaging waste.

Some of her works:

Singapore's underground: How deep can we go?

On a little street in Singapore… A road map of history, culture and society

How ready are you to live with AI?

26 patriotic songs but which one hit the mark?

War on waste: The dirty (brown) secret about e-commerce