The Editors | Essays

50 Books/50 Covers 2013 Winners Announced

We are pleased at last to announce the winners of the 2013 Fifty Books / Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books. The fifty winning books can be viewed here; the fifty winning covers can be viewed here.

This is the oldest continuously operating graphic design competition in the United States. Dating back to 1922, when the American Institute of Graphic Arts was barely a half a dozen years old, the "Fifty Books of the Year" exhibition went right to the heart of what the then-fledgling profession held dear: the design and production of books. Over 90 years later, that passion is still evident.

2013's submissions ranged from the conventional to the radical. While the radical entries — small run experimental pieces that challenge not only our ideas of what a book is, but what reading is — were endlessly fascinating, the enduring hold of traditional publishing, against all odds, was inspiring in its own way. From well-produced, beautifully illustrated volumes on significant artists produced on behalf of major museums, to cookbooks that made the act of cooking (or for that matter eating) seem like an afterthought, designers and publishers are still translating abstract ideas and incorporeal experience into tangible objects of desire.

Covers, too, seemed more powerful than ever this year. Has the near collapse of traditional book retailing, with every inch of shelf space a battlefield, led to a more desperate time calling for desperate — but definitely ever more creative — measures? The competition for attention may have found a new arena, that finite picture field we carry in our pockets, but the requirement remains that a cover somehow summarize in a split second a work that may have taken its author months or even years to create. This years winners do this with devastating effectiveness.

Books refuse to go away quietly. In fact, they refuse to go away at all. The submissions to 2013's 50 Books / 50 Covers show demonstrate once again the hold that the printed word — printed in ink, on paper, and bound between covers — continues to hold on our imagination.

Posted in: Media

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