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Jackets required: Australian book designers unite

Variations on a theme: playful call for entries designed by ABDA members, on Pinterest. ABDA members

The Call for Entries is now open for the 62nd annual Australian Book Design Awards which are seeking the “bravest and brightest, the most original and beautiful” books published before December 31, 2013.

Previously run by the Australian Publishers Association (APA) this year the Awards are organised and hosted by the newly formed Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA), an organisation that I’m involved with.

Australian Book Designers Association logo, designed by Jenny Grigg. ABDA

In late 2013 the APA decided to discontinue the Book Design Awards. To keep the longest running Australian graphic design awards alive for the 62nd consecutive year, a group of designers formed the ABDA as an independent, non-profit entity in March 2014. The founding committee members are: designers WH Chong, Sandy Cull, Jenny Grigg, Daniel New, Evi Oetomo, Miriam Rosenbloom, Alex Ross and myself, with Financial Officer Andrew Egan and Administration Manager Deb Brash.

This year entries will be lodged online to streamline the submission process and accommodate a diverse judging panel from across the country. For the first time an international judge will join the panel, with legendary Jon Gray lending us his eye. The judges will select a digital shortlist, followed by final round judging “in the flesh” at participating bookshops in Sydney and Melbourne (to be announced, watch this space).

The judging panel is comprised of eight highly regarded professionals include five designers, a bookseller and 2 judges from the broader publishing community:

2014 judges, designed by W.H. Chong. W.H. Chong

The ABDA is excited to announce a new category this year, affectionately dubbed the “Indie 1000”. The category is designed for independent publishers and self-published books with a small print run, between 25 and 1000 units, and comprising at least 24 pages and an ISBN.

Scanning the impressive list of small publishers on the Small Press Network website, it’s clear there is a growing network of independent publishers in Australia. Many of these publishers could submit entries to the main categories, but this new category aims to recognise excellence and innovation in design for small editions using print-on-demand or non-conventional production means, including hand made books, despite budget constraints. It is the intention of the ABDA to be inclusive and forward-looking at a time when the publishing landscape is shifting so rapidly; this new category is a first step toward broadening the scope of the Awards.

Cover and spreads of the Best Design Book of the Year, 61st Annual Book Design Awards 2013. Designed by Evi O., published by Lantern, a division of Penguin Group (Australia). Evi O
Best Designed Cover of the Year, 61st annual Book Design Awards (2013). Designed by W.H. Chong for Text Publishing. Text Publishing

An additional change is that the prestigious categories Book of the Year, Best YA/Children’s Cover of the Year, and Best Cover of the Year will be voted for by ABDA members and attendees to the Awards Party (see below). This marks a distinct change in the judging process. Although the eligible books will be those already shortlisted by the official judges, these categories will be awarded by the wider design community, putting the highest honour back into the hands of designers themselves. Winners will be voted for and announced at the Awards Party, or by proxy for members unable to attend.

The Awards Party will be held on August 22 in Melbourne, alongside the Melbourne Writers Festival. From this point, the Awards will alternate between Sydney and Melbourne annually. Moving away from the conventional format of an MC reading out lists of names in an auditorium, this year will see a more “knees-up” approach, with the emphasis on celebration and networking that’s essential for the book design community.

In the near future, the ABDA will evolve beyond its current temporary Facebook presence, developing a virtual home for its members. A sophisticated website will offer news, forums, educational events and more to publication designers and the broader industry (publishers, printers, typesetters, production houses, bookstores), and host a national book design archive. With the blessing of the Australian Publishers Association, the ABDA have access to the previous catalogues which include images of shortlisted books and judges reports dating back to the 1950s. This is a rich and beautiful archive of Australian book design, and deserves to be shared with current and future book lovers.

More on this later – for now, drop everything and enter your books before the June 23 cutoff, or support the ABDA by becoming an individual member or a company member.

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