The competition “Best book design from all over the world” in Leipzig Book Fair 2015
Official information the “Stiftung Buchkunst” website:
“The annual book design competition “Best Books from all over the World” has been held in Leipzig since 1963. An independent international jury convenes every year in February in Leipzig with the task of selecting fourteen outstandingly designed books from about 700 of the best books from more than 30 countries: the best of the best. 14 awards are placed at the jury’s disposal whereof the “Golden Letter” is the highest one, followed by one gold medal, two silver medals, five bronze medals and five honorary appreciations.”
From the official text we have to be ready to see something magic – best books from all over the World. “Best books” means best book design in the World. Fantastic. I would like to see the best books, most beautiful books, books made in innovative modern design, printed and bound books like never have seen.
I have to say, I have been in Leipzig Book Fair many times, not as viewer, but as exhibitor with international artist’s book exhibitions. Many years I admire the competition “Best Book Design from all over the World” with really wonderful books with great book design, fantastic paper, printed how you never expected.
Did we found “best books” in this Leipzig Book Fair 2015? Sorry, no, sorry. We found terrible books, without design. Why? Because the jury was unprofessional. They, like students from the first class, wanted to be very “modern” and “decided” to collect books without design (or with tragic design). It is “cool” to give the best prizes for books without design, said one man, friend of jury members. “It is cool to reach the bottom in book design competition” he said.
Let’s look on awarded books.
The Main Prize – Goldene Letter
Author: Paul Elliman
Title: “Untitled (September Magazine)”
Design: Paul Elliman / Belgium
Publisher: Roma Publications and Vanity Press
This is thick “fashion magazine”, where models and dresses photographed (in bad quality what is also “cool”) in a fragments. Cool… And that is all. Oh, no, some important parts of the body are in fragments. Big conception? Not at all, students has such “conception” of fragment in first classes. No typography at all. So, for what this book (magazine) got the Main Prize in the World? Very simple, because it has no design. (Ten or even more year ago it was very cool and great conception to make photos with old mobile phone of drinkers, … or … and to print picture in very big size.)
Does this magazine, winner of the Goldene Letter, is modern and has “good design” if we compare it for example with “Smile i-D” (U.K.) published in 1980 ? No. 35 years ago Terry Jones created the magazine which until now is a modern and has made with a great conception. Can we compare design of “winner” with “Ray Gun” made by David Carson? or with “Archis” (The Netherlands), “Spector Cut+Paste” (Germany), “Spektacle” (U.K.) or “sexymachinery” (U.K.) ? Sorry. No. The awarded “Untitled (September Magazine)” is an absolute loser.
“A magazine is more than just paper and ink – it’s a set of values, a belief system” wrote Andy Cowles.
Author: George Arbid, Kingdom of Bahrain National Participation, Biennale di Venezia 2014
Title: “Fundamentalists and Other Arab Modernisms. Architecture from the Arab World 1914–2014”
Design: Jonathan Hares / Switzerland
Publisher: Bahrain Ministry of Culture, Bahrain; Arab Centre for Architecture, Beirut
The book with many pictures, designed in post soviet style. Yes, everything what is bad, is also very cool. People lives too good, especially in Switzerland, so they look for adventures. So if you like soviet art or soviet life style, please, visit Russia, Crimea or east Ukraine and you will discover magical world… and you will never forget it. This book has also no typography or design. Actually we should say, that it has bad book design, like housewife did it.
Author: Thomas Hvid Kromann, Maria Kjær Themsen, Louise Sidenius, Marianne Vierø
Title: “Danish Artists‘ Books / Danske Kunstnerbøger”
Designer: Louise Hold Sidenius / Denmark.
Publisher: Møller and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
I don’t think that using black background in the photo of an artist’s book is book design. If brutality in typography with old fashion book design for somebody means “modern book design”, I am sorry. Book designer has no imagination, he didn’t developed this “style”. Tuning in a book shows, how immature is book designer.
Author: Awoiska van der Molen
Designer: Hans Gremmen / The Netherlands
Publisher: Fw:Books, Amsterdam
Again book without text – what a wonderful “conception” has awarded artists… Different artists, different countries, but the “conception” – one, but very “modern”.
So magic, so sweet, my mother-in-law would love this book, maybe. Beautiful photography in black and white printed on black fine paper in two colour. Yes, book printed in The Netherlands, in pressman country, has value because it printed good. But where is book design?
Author: Bruno van den Elshout
Title: “New Horizons”
Designer: Rob van Hoesel / The Netherlands
Publisher: The Eriskay Connection, Breda
What a challenge ! Again book without text. One book was with darkness, this one – with the view of the sea. Really beautiful, I love the sea. And my wife loves the sea very much. But if you would say, that it is a great concept to make photos from the same place in the night and in the day, in the morning and in the rain, – I would not agree with you. All of as did such photos, just we didn’t printed it not because we had no money for such “new” idea, but because we discover that it is very, very banal. Maybe with the see – not banal… But what about book design and typography. Oh sorry, no text, no letters, no typography – it is “modern design” without typography, – image speaks to us. But designer hear about grid in pages… One who did great job – printer from The Netherlands, and the book is bound good.
It is look I wrote enough about “best” books from Leipzig Book Fair 2015. I don’t want to write more about not so “best” books.
1. If we compare “the best books” from this competition with students books from universities exhibited in the Leipzig Book Fair 2015, we would found that students books are more innovative, more modern and conceptual. Here is an idea bank.
2. And if we look on books exhibited in Leipzig Book Fair 2015 from China or South Korea, from the competition of the “best” I want to cry.
3. If I look on my students, they are simply geniuses in comparison with this competition.
Prof. Kestutis Vasiliunas
P.S. When I was driving my car from Leipzig to Lithuania it was the night. I did not look back in a mirror. I didn’t want to turn into a pillar of salt.