The physicality of print and innovative use of type celebrated in the 50 best book cover designs of 2016

Irma Boom, Zak Group and Atelier Dyakova are among the designers behind some of the 50 best book cover designs of 2016, as listed in AIGA’s 50 Books | 50 Covers awards.

Invisible Adversaries, designed by Zak Group

US-based professional design association AIGA and editorial site Design Observer published the results of the competition yesterday, listing 50 designs they say “successfully demonstrate design excellence in book and cover design.” More than 700 submissions were received for this edition from more than 23 countries, judged by a panel including New York-based designer, writer, and educator Gail Anderson; Chronicle Books creative director Michael Carabetta; and Design Observer founding editor Jessica Helfand.

Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs, designed by Atelier Dyakova

According to Carabetta, the final selection of books were excellent “not only in design—[but] in production; in paper, mixing coated and uncoated… People are getting into the real, physical qualities of the book.”

We Must Become Idealists or Die, Gustav Metzger, designed by Estudio Herrera’s Emilio Pérez

His fondness for designs celebrating the physicality of print is shown in a number of selections making bold or unusual use of paper stocks, such as Irma Boom’s designs for Fondazione Prada’s William N. Copley catalogue. Helfand noted its “beautiful use of newsprinted, uncoated papers,” and  added: “a surprisingly animated grid make this a perfect package. The type bleeding on the spine is icing on the cake!” She was also impressed with We Must Become Idealists or Die, Gustav Metzger, designed by Estudio Herrera’s  Emilio Pérez: “My favourite endpapers of the Year! Terrific articulation of bilingual text, and beautiful selection of colours, papers, and images.”

William N. Copley, designed by Irma Boom

Raymond Pettibon: Homo Americanus and its subtly risqué cover, designed by Sarah Lamparter, Büro Otto Sauhaus and featuring one of Pettibon’s typically punk paintings, was also celebrated. Carabetta dubbed it “an original approach to an art book,” highlighting its use of uncoated paper, clean typography and the “paper change from front ‘Germanic Novel’ to formal content of book,” and celebrating that the book design “shows the hand of the artist.”

Raymond Pettibon: Homo Americanus, designed by Sarah Lamparter, Büro Otto Sauhaus

Anderson meanwhile was impresses by the “quirky die cut cover” of José Duarte’s designs for The Natural Flow of Things, stating “this is the way to catalogue a show.”

The Natural Flow of Things, designed by José Duarte

Innovative and considered approaches to typography also proved popular. Helfand was impressed with Ena Cardenal de la Nuez’s work on The Wall of the Abysm / La Pared del Abismoby Nuria Fuster, describing it as “a typographic system that perfectly matches the images, content, and overall tone of the book.”

The Wall of the Abysm / La Pared del Abismo, Nuria Fuster, designed by Ena Cardenal de la Nuez

The selected books have been added to the online AIGA Design Archives and will become part of the AIGA collection at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University’s Butler Library and at the Robert Haas Arts Library at Yale University.

More information on 50 Books | 50 Covers can be found on Design Observer.

Donald Judd Writings, designed by Michael Dyer
Elephant Child, designed by Project Projects
Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, designed by Paul Buckley
BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago, designed by Normal
METAPHORIA II, designed by Sonda
Anri Sala O Momento Presente (The Present Moment), designed by Bloco Gráfico
By the People: Designing a Better America, designed by Other Means