Monday, June 13, 2011
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.