Feature Article Design Takes A Step Forward with Engineering News-Record

It’s present when driving the kids to soccer practice. Walking to get a coffee. Looking out from our office window. Construction work is ubiquitous, and as such, we usually take one curious glance at the loud, busy scene before moving on with our day.

Enter Scott Hilling, senior art director of Engineering News-Record, to give us a fresh perspective with A Step Forward: The Year in Construction, as well as a reason to look just a bit closer.

Hilling’s photo essay layout, which won him a National Gold for Feature Article Design in ASBPE’s 2023 Azbee Awards, is a compelling dive into the foundational and dangerous work of those in the construction industry.

ENR's A Step Forward, The Year in Construction

“Mapping out the layout takes days of work,” Hilling says. “I relate it to laying out an art exhibit in a gallery, and it has become a really enjoyable process. I sit with the selected photos, going through them over and over on my computer, waiting for them to tell me a story. I’m looking for connections — how one image relates to the next, what are the subjects doing, colors, composition, etc.”

Throughout the photo essay, readers are transported into spaces around the world that would be unreachable to most — precisely what makes these images so intriguing. From the inside of a wind turbine on a wind farm in New York, to Nur-Sultan Grand Mosque in Kazakhstan, which can hold more than 230,000 worshippers, we’re given the ultimate sneak peek.

What makes this particular feature design so strong, though, is the balance of vastness with focus on the personal. We meet soot-covered Katelyn Johnson, a crew member tasked with clearing trees and debris after devastating Oregon wildfires, as well as a group of workers withstanding pouring rain as they repair our nation’s highways. It’s just a snapshot, but these photos and their accompanying stories make you feel the elements, the location and the environment.

ENR's A Step Forward, The Year in Construction

“My favorite image is the first one in the layout,” Hilling says. “That image just really spoke to me. It was so symbolic to what a lot of us were doing at the time, stepping back out into the world we all knew before COVID hit. We were trusting it would all be OK. The confidence and trust in the subject’s face, the way the photographer framed it and the drama conveyed through black and white — it just gives me goosebumps when I look at it.”

While there is such a breadth of industries under the B2B umbrella, the strongest way to connect the audience to the content, regardless of what is being covered, is through the human element. With that, Scott Hilling’s gold-winning layout does a wonderful job showing us around one of the many important industries in the world.

Justin Armburger

Justin Armburger is a Cleveland-based art director with more than a dozen years experience designing newspapers, magazines and websites. He also spent six years as an adjunct professor teaching magazine design at Kent State University, until taking a hiatus last year to pursue another passion—floral design and installation.

Armburger currently serves on the ASBPE National Board of Directors.

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