Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
The common adage warns against judging a book by its cover, but when you’re judging book covers, it’s only appropriate. This week, AIGA (the American Institute of Graphic Arts, a professional association for design), announced the winners from its 2020 book cover competition. AIGA has held a Fifty Books of the Year competition since 1923, but the competition changed to 50 Books|50 Covers in 1995. The 2020 edition yielded 696 book and cover design entries from 36 countries.
This year’s competition was juried by Gail Anderson (chair), Jennifer Morla, Paul Sahre, and Kelly Walters, who weighed entries on factors including concept, innovation, and visual elements such as typography, illustration, and information design. The winner’s gallery features an array of approaches, from minimalist to typographic, to a particular emphasis on hand-drawn covers — attributed to the sanctions placed on photoshoots by COVID-19 restrictions.
Penguin Classics snagged a prize-winning spot for a five-book box set of lynchpin works by Audre Lorde, Kate Chopin, Nella Larson, Reinaldo Arenas, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which juror Jennifer Morla described as, “Typographic eye candy: a horizontally oriented, colorful carousel of a series for Penguin.”
Tokyo Ueno Station (Riverhead Books) by Yu Miri features a hand-drawn cover in jewel tones, of the sort that exemplifies the adaptive hand-drawn trend of 2020 with engaging simplicity. Black Futures (Chris Jackson, One World, Random House) is a groundbreaking text in several respects, but earned acclaim in this context for its stripped-down black matte cover punctuated by holographic lettering, as well as its interior design — all courtesy of design firm Morcos Key.
“The design of Black Futures beautifully captures images, text, and essays into a contemporary non-linear experience. The editorial layout invites a playful exploration from start to finish,” said juror Kelly Walters.
Of course, art books are at the forefront of a competition for artfully designed books. “Delirium” (Spaceheater Editions) by Philip Zimmerman features spread after spread of halftone illustrations that flirt with interpretive biology like an esoteric microcosmic riff on Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of Nature) (1904). And internet sensation-turned-coffee-table-book-du-jour Accidentally Wes Anderson (Voracious / Little, Brown and Co.) by Wally Koval compiles real life photographs that, in the words of juror Paul Sahre, “captures the Wes Anderson ‘thing’ perfectly.”
These are just a few standouts from an already outstanding field. Those with an eye for design should browse the winners’ gallery with care — while the cover might not say much for the content, the power of these covers to engage might be irresistible for aesthetic bibliophiles.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
Where are the directors taking the stage to acknowledge workers’ demands today?
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
Council often uses humor as a political tool to expose systems of power and inequality in a society in which even death carries a high price tag.
An exhibition at the San Francisco Opera House pairs the work of incarcerated artists with Beethoven’s story of unjust imprisonment.