Istana virtual tour among winning works by The Straits Times at global infographics awards

SINGAPORE – Take in the sights and sounds of the Istana from a bird’s eye view, before swooping in up close for intimate details of its main building and little-known spots – all without stepping into the national monument.

A multimedia project on one of Singapore’s most well-known landmarks has won The Straits Times a key award at a prestigious international contest for infographics.

ST clinched a silver medal for Inside The Istana and three bronze medals this year in its best showing at the Malofiej 28th International Infographics Awards, known as the Pulitzers of the industry.

Organised by the Society for News Design – Spain, this year’s edition saw 1,000 entries from 162 media outlets, such as The New York Times and National Geographic, across 34 countries. A total of 170 medals for both print and digital media were awarded last week at the Malofiej Infographics World Summit in the Spanish city of Pamplona.

The Istana project takes readers through a virtual tour of the official residence of Singapore’s President with immersive storytelling features, such as augmented reality and 360-degree video.

The project was launched last year in collaboration with the Istana to mark its 150th anniversary. Readers can “fly by” the grand facade of the main building or walk under the brightly lit chandeliers of the State Room, as they learn about its rich history and unique architectural features.

Key highlights of the project include never-before-seen aerial views of the sprawling Istana grounds, which boast more than 40ha of greenery, as well as unprecedented access to lesser-known spots, such as an air-raid shelter dating back to World War II.

The project was incorporated into the Istana’s first virtual National Day Open House on Aug 2, which was hosted on President Halimah Yacob’s Facebook and Instagram platforms due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Said ST digital editor Ong Hwee Hwee: “This insider tour of the Istana shows the value and potential of immersive storytelling, especially at a time when physical events have gone online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We were grateful to be given access to the Istana for this special collaboration.

“We are delighted that several of our interactive projects, which use innovative ways to present information, are among the very best recognised at this prestigious event.”

It took a team of designers, developers, journalists and photojournalists about three months and several trips to the Istana grounds to complete the project.

ST interactive graphics editor Rodolfo Pazos, who oversaw the art direction and visuals of the project, said that its success would not have been possible without the diverse skills of ST’s digital graphics, photo and video teams, and the collaboration with the Singapore Press Holdings’ tech team.

He said: “Malofiej is one of the most prestigious visual storytelling awards in the world. To receive four medals, and with one of them a silver, is an achievement that will motivate us to deliver even better works to readers.”

ST’s four medals were under the Digital Features category. The other three projects, which won bronze medals, were on the Hong Kong-Beijing high-speed rail, Singapore’s interesting street names, and e-commerce packaging waste.

Senior executive content producer Denise Chong, who worked on two of the winning works, said: “The Istana interactive graphic took months to complete as it involved many moving parts and team members. However, it was just as fun to work on as the light-hearted war-on-waste interactive graphic, which took a couple of weeks and far fewer team members to create.

“At the heart of both graphics is the goal of giving readers a fun experience.”

The project on packaging waste also won a silver award at the Asian Digital Media Awards 2019.

This year, The New York Times and the National Geographic snagged the top awards.

The New York Times won in the print category for What Path Takes You To Congress, while National Geographic won for its digital project Atlas of Moons.

Other winners at the awards include Reuters, South China Morning Post, The Washington Post and La Nacion.

Here is a closer look at the winning works by ST.

SILVER

Inside The Istana


PHOTO: ST DIGITAL

In the middle of Singapore’s famous Orchard Road shopping belt sits a 150-year white Neo-Palladian style building – the Istana.

This multimedia project, conceptualised by ST in collaboration with the Istana to make its 150th anniversary, allows readers to take a virtual tour of the iconic building and gain unprecedented access to spots that are usually not open to the public.

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BRONZE

HK-Beijing High-Speed Rail: A journey up north


PHOTO: ST DIGITAL

Hong Kong was plugged into the mainland’s national high-speed rail network with the opening of the West Kowloon terminus in September 2018.

ST goes on the nine-hour, 2,439km journey across eight stations from West Kowloon to Beijing, taking in the sights and stories of China, past and present.

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


PHOTO: ST DIGITAL

As Singapore celebrated its bicentennial, this project delved into how its past is quietly preserved in the names of its streets. Some of them were throwbacks to British colonial times, while others showed a stunning array of Malay words and other surprising references.

Said ST interactive graphics journalist Rebecca Pazos: “This is a project that will stand the test of time – it is a visually appetising slice of Singapore’s culture and history.”

While data was at the heart of this project, she added that “it was the mini-stories about the people or objects the streets were named after that brought the project to life”.

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Packaging-waste: 80%-empty parcels sent to online shopper


PHOTO: ST DIGITAL

No one can deny the joy of unwrapping a parcel. But this piece, launched just before Earth Day last year, opens readers’ eyes to the huge amount of packaging waste that the e-commerce industry generates by letting them unbox a parcel virtually.

This draws their attention to how much space is being wasted and gave a more light-hearted approach to a weighty subject, Ms Chong said.

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