Monday, June 13, 2011

Judging 50/50

At my first job out of RISD I used to take out the AIGA annuals on my lunch break and read each one cover to cover. The most intriguing part of the annual, hands down, was always the 50 books/50 covers section and most definitely was an inspiration to start my own book design career. I would see the same names over and over, and I developed a fair amount of hero worship for these book designers.

Fast forward many years. Last month I was at AIGA’s New York office judging the 50 books / 50 covers show. This was not only meaningful to me as a designer, but also because the show itself had been cancelled, then reopened. There has already been much said on the subject­­—good and bad—so I will forego that debate and highlight instead that there were a decent amount of entries this year. The number was slightly down from the prior year, but in comparison to the total amount entered into the 365 competion, it was a good showing and, in my humble opinion, definitely worth the time, money, and energy for AIGA to continue the legacy of this competition.

AIGA’s Gabriela Mirensky was our coordinator for the judging and the overall process went very smoothly with Chip Kidd as our chair (whose insistence on including 50 of each category I’m happy to report was fulfilled). Joseph Sullivan from the Book Design Review blog and designers Arthur Cherry and Barbara Glauber rounded out the jury and it was a pleasure spending two days with such talented people discussing book design. As Peter Mendelsund noted last year, the criteria for which pieces were selected had more to do with the need for consensus among all 5 judges rather than the any lack of quality among those pieces which were not selected. It was a rare treat to see the work of so many designers I admire all in one room, receiving the recognition each book designer deserves, but only a handful can receive each year.

Finally, I will say that in my mind, the 50/50 competition advances the work of all book designers and gives us a means of showcasing the talent in this field. Yes, we are constantly updating our blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. to get an immediate reaction to our work, but having a large selection at once across all subject matters and all design styles and documented is a good thing.

We are definitely up against many challenges in the coming years regarding the value of our profession. I’m happy there is a place where book designers are celebrated. I’m also hopeful that the annuals and now, the Design Archive, will provide other designers a place to find inspiration (though I’ll go ahead and note here that I miss the printed design annuals for which I don’t think there is a numerical way of evaluating how many times we open and close those pages as opposed to a website). Thanks to everyone who entered and hopefully the entries will increase next year.


Ian Shimkoviak said...

Thanks for this post Kimberly.

I think you hit it on the head when you said "documented". That's the wonderful luxury we have in this day and age to very easily record history as it goes on and not forget or loose sight of a lot of the good things everyone is doing to improve, maintain, and sustain it all. And not give into the monoculturalization of everything.

When you document something as it happens it preserves it as a clean blueprint for the next generation and that's why it's important. It's not about giving praise to any one group of people etc. It's about those people caring enough about that aspect of culture to preserve it and make it clear that "this was worth preserving".

I was very happy with the jury selection this year as well. It was a healthy mix of folks. In the future I see various people from marketing and sales departments as well (gauge my eyes out now) participating in such an event to give it all that much more of a sense of being grounded in the reality of what publishing is—what it means to create a meaningful book. It's a lot of people. A lot of people involved in creating something that has market value, social value and finally a very individual, personal effect on humans: The ability to open a book and dive into a different world—weather that be a self help book, a novel, a business guide etc. It's all something that opens our eyes to different ways of thinking and assimulating our world.

I can only imagine that there are so many thoughts that go through the judges minds when looking at all the work.

If design shapes the world we live in, then books are where many ideas start to take shape in terms of forming some real ideas of how we feel about life. And the relationship with the book and us, starts with the cover. That place where something is meant to spark, inspire and move us to want to know more. It's a tall order and a fun fucking job. Mostly because when it "works", when it's done right—hell, it even surprises the designers themselves.

angela said...

I think the venerable 50/50 competition is worth it as well. Everything in design— everything on the net!— seems to appear and flit by so easily and "cheaply," its good to have design thoughtfully considered and ceremonially recorded. How wonderful that you got to be on the important "revival" panel.

K. Glyder said...

Thanks Angela, it was quite a special time to judge. Hope other designers have the opportunity next year!

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