Friday, 29 July 2016

Best Book Design Award

Last night at the PANZ Book Design Awards, James K. Baxter: Complete Prose won the top award for book design. We are thrilled that this magnificent beast (5.5 kgs of books and over one million words) has been recognised for its great design.

The judges report said: "Shortlisted for Best Cover and Best Typography, and winner of the Best Non-Illustrated category, James K. Baxter: Complete Prose excels on all fronts. It is the complete package – an object of beauty that holds the eye and interest, and demands closer attention. The purple ribbons and foiling work in an unlikely – but extremely satisfying – pairing with the buttery three-quarter binding, which holds the gorgeous full-bleed images. These aspects combine to wrap up a tidy internal page layout. The design not only serves the content, it elevates the work of this literary hero, creating a desirable contemporary classic."

Congratulations to Spencer Levine, for his award-winning design. There's a short interview with Spencer below, talking about the Baxter project, and book design in general.

James K. Baxter: Complete Prose, edited by John Weir, VUP: 2015. 
(Grant Maiden Photography)

Q&A with Spencer Levine

First, be honest, do designers actually read the books?

It really depends on the book, so yes and no ––for me, mostly no.

Where did you start with the concept and design for James K. Baxter: Complete Prose?

It started with Fergus––it was his idea that Nigel Brown's work would strongly set the tone for the look and feel.

The heaviness of expression in the chosen triptych gives the box a cloak; the feeling of wearing heavy coat. There is no free space anywhere, just full bleed colour. Then finally on one facet, a flash of calmer colour with the four naked spines. These exposed spines worked well with the feel and heft of the work, and also provided a good material contrast to the case. It gives it a lot of space, and plenty of room to breathe. A lone image of Baxter sits on each book. He's iconic, so an era-specific photograph of him for each volume was enough.  Purple foiled type with a purple place ribbon gives each volume a 'holy' finish.

In your opinion what makes for good book design?

Good covers, and a connection to the material inside them.

Do you try and differentiate the covers for different publishers in terms of the style, or does the book necessarily create this constraint?

It's book first, publisher second... unless you're talking to the publisher!

Is there a publisher (anywhere in the world) that you think is consistently producing good book covers?

I really like Flying Eye books, but there are hit covers all over the place.

(Grant Maiden Photography)

James K. Baxter: Complete Prose, edited by John Weir.
4 hardback volumes with cloth spines presented in a box. Original paintings on box by Nigel Brown.
$200. Available at the best bookshops or through VUP's online bookstore.

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