Established in 1923 by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as "Fifty Books," the 50 Books | 50 Covers competition has continued to carry on the tradition of awarding the best book designs, annually, for over 90 years. For the past five years, Design Observer has joined AIGA in hosting the competition. This year they expanded the process to involve a published book and an upcoming exhibition of the winners, held in October in New Orleans, which they funded on Kickstarter.
And last week, Design Observer announced this year's winners, divided up into overall book design and solely cover design. Across both categories, typography takes center stage over book cover imagery; in many cases, bold or experimental type is the only thing featured. Take designer David Smith's clean, white and orange embossed design for A New Quiet by artist Mark Garry or the rainbow gradient type of Mongrel Rapture: The Architecture of Ashton Raggatt McDougall, designed by Stuart Geddes and ARM Architecture. In Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett's profanity-filled self-help book, F*ck Feelings, designed by Jason Heuer the only graphic embellishment is a bubbly red asterisk.
Trends in book cover design tend to be a reaction to the book cover trends before it: in this case, a course reversal from image-heavy covers to set a book apart from others on the shelves (real or virtual). Typographic overs are also easier to see and read at thumbnail size, an increasing concern for book designers as online retailers like Amazon have redefined the market. As the judges write in their announcement, "Covers ... do double and triple duty, functioning not just as alluring packaging on the bookstore shelf, but as telegraphic icons in the realm of online marketing and sortable rubrics in online libraries."
Either way, not a bad trend—particularly in this batch of winners. Check out our selection of the typographic book covers from this year's 50 Books | 50 Covers and head over Design Observer for the full list.
[All Images: via Design Observer]