50 Books, 50 Covers
It’s time once again for AIGA’s 50 Books, 50 Covers:
This time-honored competition aims to identify the 50 best-designed books and book covers. With 696 entries from 36 countries, the juror-selections from this year’s 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2020 competition exemplify the best current work from a year marked by unparalleled change.
Picking favorites from this list is always fun, and often includes books and/or covers that I haven’t seen before — especially 2020, when seeing things in person was often … difficult. So without further ado (in no particular order):
The unique destinations of Accidentally Wes Anderson. This 50 Books item catches the eye with the cover and the photographs carry you inside and to places heretofore unknown. Great stuff. Design by Mia Johnson.
Manifesto is more than meets the eye, even though the cover does an excellent job leading you in. It’s easier to quote the existing description than write one, so: “The opening pages contain an original text employing the sort of bombastic rhetoric traditionally associated with the manifesto genre. The typeset text is then cut up and reassembled, repeating throughout the book, each iteration becoming source material for subsequent cut-ups. The project takes a critical approach to book arts to explore authorship, readership, and the materiality of language.” Yeah:
It’s tiny, too: 4.125 by 6. The design, by Victor Mingovits, is anything but. Well done!
Not Dead of Famous Enough, Yet compiles 10 years of work from a design firm into one place, with this surprisingly modest cover. DR. ME, as the duo of Ryan Doyle & Mark Edwards became known, not only do quality work, they know how to stitch together a quality book — to a point where they picked up a prestigious award. See more.
Talking Animals violates one of my usual cover-design rules: it’s not immediately apparent which title word is first. Nonetheless, it’s eye-catching enough to warrant an exception — and a 50 Covers award. Design by Na Kim.
Na Kim makes another appearance with Self Portrait with Russian Piano. Kudos for something that’s equally eye-catching yet about as completely different as humanely possible — talent, defined.
“Eye-catching and mysterious,” says the entry for Sestry. “Oppressive and mysterious,” says the description. Both work — it’s certainly mysterious enough to catch your attention, grab it off the shelf, and investigate further. Design by Jan Šabach.
Once Upon a Time, I Lived on Mars: Space Exploration, and Life on Earth is a loooooong title/subtitle combination. It’s something that, as a cover designer, you dread — but Johnathan Bush knocked it out of the park with this hand-lettered illustrated piece that’s 180 degrees from where you’d expect.
The Turn of the Screw is probably my favorite of the whole collection:
Almost simplistic … until you really look at it; the kind that makes you think, “I wish I’d done that.” Fantastic work by Kaitlin Kall.
Lastly, two covers previously mentioned here:
Verge, where unexpected choices lead to great new places here, especially with the yellow band overlaying the wolf. So, so good. Design by Rachel Willey. And:
Zo, which uses illustrations to huge effect — but this time with a huge typography effect to go along with it, and lo, it works. Great design choices by Janet Hansen.