Inspirational Evaluation: Why Participate in Judging Design for the Azbees

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to win an Azbee? What’s the secret sauce behind excellent business publication design?

Get a peek behind the curtain as an Azbee judge! This means more than giving back to your industry; there are benefits to you as a professional and to your publication as well. We connected with several past Azbee design judges to learn why they volunteer as judges and what they have learned.

Lora Lee Gelles, publisher of POND Trade magazine, has been an Azbee contestant since 2000 and a judge since 2008. Being an Azbee judge “keeps me on my toes for my own publication. It’s great to see so much cutting-edge design, and I learn from it.”

She adds that good design is a make-it-or-break-it deal for publications. “Good design sells magazines. As a publisher, I look for articles to run, but also push for great photos to go along with it.”

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Security Management received a National Silver award for this front cover illustration during the 2020 Azbees.

Tyler Stone, manager of creative services for ASIS International and Security Management magazine, was first introduced to ASBPE and the Azbees by Security Management Editor-in-Chief Teri Anderson. He has served as an Azbee super-judge for two main reasons: “Judging other people’s design work gives me great ideas for my own creative efforts. I’ve become a better art director because of what I’ve learned by judging the Azbees. Also, I really like supporting ASBPE’s mission of providing media professionals with training and connections so they can improve themselves professionally and help their organizations grow.”

So what makes for an Azbee-worthy design? According to Justin Armburger, art director for GIE Media’s Lawn & Landscape and Cannabis Dispensary magazines, “Technical efficiency is my baseline for a winning design. As soon as I open an entry, and I’m able to get past the novelty of the striking artwork or the layout the designer has provided, I look for the basics: How’s the hierarchy, contrast, alignment, repetitive elements that reinforce the design?

“After checking through these things, I take a more macro look at the design to see how well the imagery, layout, font, and color palette work with the editorial content,” he adds.

But what about online design? “Digitally, I’m looking for a clean layout with strong artwork and good web font choices,” Armburger says. “Of course, if audio, video, or infographics are added in a way that really enhance the story, it’s a plus, but I’m not sure a lot of B2B companies are there yet in terms of their websites. I’m mostly looking for that clean, easy-to-read digital story that is responsive to what it’s being viewed on.”

Armburger helped to develop the current design criteria for the Azbees, which help judges compare radically different and diverse designs. “It’s easy for two judges to disagree on the best designs within a category, but having the framework set by ASBPE significantly helps because you can focus on micro aspects and expand out to the big picture of overall design,” he says. “By using different criterion, it usually helps to solve any comparison issues.”

Stone offers advice for new Azbee design judges: “Judge early and often. Don’t wait to the last day to start the judging processes. It’s helpful to start early so you can take your time and absorb all the great design efforts. If you rush, you won’t gain as much professional (insight) from the experience.”

Want to participate? Apply to judge the next Azbee Awards here. The judging sign-up deadline is Dec. 15. 

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