Friday, January 14, 2011

Outstanding standing out

I have been thinking over the Summer break about the upcoming book design awards.

Over the years I have noticed the absence of many designers, and therefore many designs. Designs that immediately struck me as ‘outstanding’, as ‘award-winners’. Designs I wish I’d created myself. Missing at the awards are their designers, masters in their field, who continue to line our books shops with brilliant design after brilliant design, enriching our visual and cultural lives.

As a panel member, I have also noted that there are many less-than-‘outstanding’ designs entered; designs that come with an apology. Rows and rows of them piled high.

In recent years the APA has adjusted their processes and protocols. As of last year in particular, the design weight on the panel was increased substantially. Categories were adjusted to match the changing industry environment and the need for ‘outstanding’ reiterated profusely on the entry form. And there is still much more to do.

Whilst it’s not perfect and the merit of giving awards is highly debatable, the book design awards night is the only event in the calendar year that celebrates Australian book design. But maybe it’s not all about awards. It is a chance to meet, sometimes for the first time, the editors, publishers and production people you’ve been working with all year, a chance to collectively have a natter, to take stock, congratulate and appreciate.

On that note, for the last few years several of us have been kicking on after the awards. Last year, we stumbled around the streets of Surry Hills till we found a suitable establishment (if you can call The Clock suitable). Any recommendations from Sydney locals for a venue afterward and/or breakfast the next morning will be warmly received.

There is much to discuss.


  1. Hi Sandy—I am finally coming back to Melbourne this year—late April to be exact. Pretty excited about getting back and catching up with everyone. This year as well I am lucky enough to be on the book design jury for the D&AD which should be interesting—so I will bring all knowledge gleaned with me. x Miri R

  2. Reminds me of that old joke about the farmer who sees his neighbour standing in a paddock. What are you doing Paddy, he asks. He replies, I was told they are giving out awards to those who are out standing in their field.

    Sorry about that... Anyway, I do concur with your thoughts on the awards absolutely. They might be imperfect, and I too bemoan the final selection, but they are ours, and it is good to drop along to catch up with publishers and other designers. I remember when they used to hold the awards in Melbourne every other year. Whatever happened to that convenient arrangement?

  3. No award yet for best eBook cover or book app design? 2012?

  4. Indeed liam, there is still no award for best e book. As I said there is much to discuss, much yet to do.

    And thanks phil for you input here. Made me smile. But I had thought too that it is perhaps time for a Melbourne event, or a Brisbane event. In the very least I think we should meet up one night soon to put our collective heads together.

  5. A good sentiment Sandy- I attended the 2005 awards as a chaperone to a Griffin Press employee before I had designed any books myself (I was also a one man cheer squad for my good friend Chong). It did strike me that the focus seemed to be on big budget 'beautiful books (you know- the floral silhouette / wallpaper syndrome with Spot UV and foils and crinkly paper edges) as opposed to purely outstanding design. Its heartening to here there is more design personnel manning the panel- and perhaps a broader perspective on the notion of 'outstanding'. I will endeavor to get there this year.

  6. @sandy

    I can't believe there is no award for ebook design? At least ebook cover design?

    What about book apps? A digital category?

    Here's a question for you (and others):

    Do you consider eBook cover design should be different to a printed design?

    Consider that an eBook cover is viewed on a computer or tablet/phone (prior to purchase) quite small, perhaps on a page with other books. Should the design be different to the printed version?

    Interested in your thoughts?

    p.s. I reckon you're overdue calling me for a chat on the phone :-)

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