50 Books, 50 Covers: 2021 Edition

AIGA has announced their winners of the 2021 50 Books, 50 Covers competition:

With 605 book and cover design entries from 29 countries, this year’s competition recognizes and showcases excellence in book design from around the world. […] Eligible entries for the 2021 competition were open to books published and used in the marketplace in 2021.

AIGA Press Release

In this year’s competition, innovative book designs for topics ranging from designing and motherhood, African surf culture, stories of resistance, visual histories of Detroit, Black food traditions, and more all give our jury life, hope, and visible windows into new possible worlds. The covers and books we looked at had a diverse range of visual language and took aesthetic risks.

Silas Munro, AIGA [Competition] Chair

As usual, there are items here that I haven’t seen before, along with several that surfaced on others’ “best of 2021” book design lists (see that Foreword post for my faves). Also as usual, there are some excellent choices.

Further, there’s something in this competition that you don’t see in the usual “best of” posts: interiors. Half of the competition is covers, sure, but the other half considers the whole book design — and sometimes, as I can definitely attest, an underwhelming cover can lead to a treasure within.

But enough talking. My favorites, in no particular order:

Cover by George McCalman.
Book design by George McCalman.

This is one from the 2021 “best of” finalists that I didn’t post about — but now that I’ve seen the interior…. So very worthy. (See more.)

Cover design by David Chickey and Mat Patalano.
Book design by David Chickey and Mat Patalano.

This series of three books not only have striking covers I’d not seen before but exceptionally competent interiors done on matte paper, a personal favorite. (Click through for more examples.) Excellent.

Design overseen by Haller Brun.
Design overseen by Haller Brun.

In this fascinating book, architectural photographer Iwan Baan and (Pritzker-winning) architect Francis Kéré “set out to capture how the sun’s natural light cycle shapes vernacular architecture.” While I may be slightly biased in terms of architecture and photography, this one’s a winner. (Read the AIGA’s take.)

Cover by Andrea A. Trabucco-Campos.
Book design by Andrea A. Trabucco-Campos.

“A little overly precious,” the AIGA says … while awarding it a prize. Completely fresh, I say, with interesting content presented in a way that does considerably more than interest. Well done. (See them apples.)

Cover by Gary Fogelson and Ryan Waller.
Book design by Gary Fogelson and Ryan Waller.

“The type on the cover and in the body is perfect, in all ways and choices. The use of the gutter for captions is a great understanding of the art and a perfect way to save space. The page numbers too.”

Brian Johnson, AIGA Judge

This is one of those books that you have to say, “I wish I’d done that.” Great stuff. (See its individual entry.)

The Time Formula. Cover by Honza Zamojski.
Book design by Honza Zamojski.

There always seems to be some projects that violate book design “rules” — this one doesn’t have a title on the cover, has page numbers in the gutters, and more. Yet this book, about a sculpture project, makes for interesting viewing indeed. (See more.)

Last, we have a couple that are only covers:

Cover by Janet Hansen.

This was considered for my favorites of 2021 (and made it onto others’ lists). I’m glad to have been given the chance to call it out. Excellent in its simplicity. (See the AIGA entry.)

Last, but certainly not least:

Cover by Lydia Ortiz.

Another advantage of this competition: seeing more than the front cover. And this cover, front, back, and spine, is so much more — especially in person: black plus four neon inks. Wow. (See the AIGA’s praise.)

Many, many more to choose from at AIGA: set aside a little time, wander through all of the projects chosen, and truly enjoy. (Via Locus.)

FYI: See last year’s 50 Books, 50 Covers, too.

Washington Post’s Best Book Covers 2021

WP Best Book Design 2021

The Washington Post has an article from book designer Kimberly Glyder with her favorite book covers of 2021. Her bio:

Kimberly Glyder’s studio specializes in book design, illustration and lettering. Her work has been featured in the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers show, the Type Director’s Club Annual Exhibition, Print magazine, American Illustration, the American University Presses Book Jacket and Journal Show, and the New York Book Show.

Check her “best of” at the WP, and stay tuned for more 2021 lists next month.

50 Books, 50 Covers

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):

Accidentally Wes Anderson

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 - Cover

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:

Manifesto - interior

It’s tiny, too: 4.125 by 6. The design, by Victor Mingovits, is anything but. Well done!

DR. ME

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

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.

Self Portrait with Russian Piano

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.

Sestry

“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.

I Lived on Mars

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:

Turn of the Screw

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

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

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.

Again, see the whole list at AIGA: 50 Books, 50 Covers. Props to Hyperallergic for the heads up.