Why Bloomberg Businessweek won at D&AD
Last week I was a judge on the Magazine and Newspaper Design category for this year's D&AD awards. Our jury gave out one Yellow Pencil, to Bloomberg Businessweek's special issue marking the death of Steve Jobs. Here's why I thought it deserved the award.
When the death of Steve Jobs was announced, an issue of US news weekly Bloomberg Businessweek was, reportedly, hours from going to press. Recognising what a major story this was, and setting aside the daunting ramifications for all involved, the magazine pulled its planned issue and decided instead to devote an entire issue to Jobs. If you want a convincing argument for why printed magazines still have a role, the resulting issue provides it. Quite simply, this was a superb piece of publishing.
Since former Guardian G2 art director Richard Turley took over design duties, Bloomberg Businessweek has utterly reinvented itself. It has been picking up awards steadily over the past two years but this issue may be its finest to date.
The cover uses a straightforward shot of Jobs, but the crop and the silver metallic background gives it a twist. The back cover features a Mac Classic with the word 'goodbye' on its screen.
Inside, the issue begins with a series of DPS images, overlaid with quotes. Deceptively simple, but very powerful. The Steve Jobs issue of Bloomberg's rival publication Newsweek was also entered into D&AD providing a direct comparison. It too began with DPS images and quotes, but Bloomberg's treatment of both was far more impactful.
There then follows a series of pieces telling the Jobs life story, movie style, in three acts, from initial success through the wilderness years, to triumphant return.
These are followed by a look at the products that brought Jobs to the world's attention.
It was just an all-round, brilliant combination of text and image, perfectly judged. If I had a criticism it was that there was little that was critical of Jobs and his impact on the world, save for a piece on Apple's relentless stoking of consumerism, but perhaps this was not the time or place.
Granted, Jobs' ill-health was not exactly a secret so much of this material could conceivably have been prepared beforehand, but nonetheless, to produce such an issue on such a tight deadline was a huge achievement. And here's the clincher – the magazine contains not one advert.
If you haven't worked in publishing you may not appreciate quite what this means. Here was, quite possibly, what would be the biggest selling issue of the year. Ads would have already have been booked for that week, many of them important long-term clients. Someone plucked up the courage to suggest that this issue would be far better, far more fitting, if all those ads were pulled, foregoing a huge amount of revenue for a title that was already losing money. And the powers that be – perhaps a decision made by Bloomberg himself? – agreed. That, when printed publications are struggling for every penny, is a heck of a decision. The magazine should probably have won an award for that alone.
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It would make for an interesting read if other judges from this years (and moving forwards) also wrote about why they gave a piece of work a pencil. Not to justify why, or why not (no pun intended) a piece of work didn't get in.
Would I have voted for the above piece of work? Probably not, but the back story is really compelling and made me look at the piece in a different light.
Great insight. Thanks.
I imagine its success can also be due in no small way to relentless attribution of messianic status on this corporate leader / hero / icon / superman Steve Jobs. There is nothing like mawkish sentimentality (those quotes!) to get the awards flowing. "Oh wow... oh wow... oh wow..."
"If I had a criticism it was that there was little that was critical of Jobs and his impact on the world, save for a piece on Apple's relentless stoking of consumerism, but perhaps this was not the time or place."
This alone would have convinced me not to vote for it. Isn't journalism supposed to be critical?
@ Shinji Pons
D&AD is not a journalism award, which is why my reservations on that score did not detract from my appreciation of it as a piece of editorial design.
I agree with Michael C. Place. It would be really great to know the thinking behind the votes.
Great piece of work.
I saw Turley speak about the issue at a recent EDO event, the turnaround and working hours seemed intense.
The decision to withhold advertising in this issue (as it was more 'fitting') seems deeply ironic. Given the nature of Jobs career, it would have been more appropriate if the issue had been a festival of advertising and myth making. Oh wait, it is. Is not the whole issue an advertisement in its own right? 'Bloomberg Businessweek' - It is good to hear that even corporate monsters cry (when corporate monsters die).
Very interesting comments..
I'm with MCP that understanding the justification for a winners accolade would be a welcome addition to the otherwise secretive process of award-giving.
Is this issue available to view online? Having not seen it, either in print or digitally, its impossible to make a judgement – we'll just have to take your word for it Patrick :) thanks for sharing.
Great to see some editorial taking home a pencil.
I had a great time observing you and the rest of the jury assess the Magazine & Newspaper Design category last Wednesday. I think the Yellow Pencil was very much deserved and have told everyone who will listen to check out this particular issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.
Striking image with that silver cover. Compelling behind the scenes as well. Brave publishing with no adverts... but correct I feel. I use to use a Classic SE30... Oh my god... 128kb memory. and floppies.
An award journalism, yes. But, an award for design and art direction? Really?
Very nice issue. Surely deserves the award. RIP Steve.
Great piece of work. There is nothing like intense pressure to bring out the best creative ideas. One wonder how this issue would have turned out if they had longer to prepare it. No doubt the immediacy of it would have been lost, with the familiar 'what does everyone think' daily meetings!
Surprising no one has mentioned the symbolism of the front and back cover images. Steve was bigger than the invention of the computer, he basically evolve technology and the world through his thinking.
great picture editor! not turley
Shame i didnt get to see this myself. However, it was great to read your justification for this piece and helped understand the thought process of a D&AD judge. Thanks for sharing Patrick.
How about D&AD follow your lead for future awards?
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