Alcuin Book Design Awards

As many of you know, I’m pretty obsessed with book design. I’m not the kind of person who can tell you at a glance how many picas a book has for its margins, or what exact font the body text and headers are using, but the general aesthetic fascinates me, and I love looking at and examining interior book design (one day, I’ll add cover design to my repertoire).

It should come as no surprise, then, that when I heard that Canada has its own book design appreciation society, that I wanted to join right away. In early September (I know, I’m late blogging about this!) I went to the Alcuin Society’s Awards for Excellence in Book Design award ceremony. Part of the reason I heard about it is that the Director for MPub (John Maxwell) was also MCing the event.

The award show was held at Emily Carr University, which I had a hard time getting to because I decided to walk across the Granville Bridge (on the wrong side for quick exiting) in flats with very little support. The award show was small, but the books were really interesting, including my favorite, a book that set up their running headers to mirror each other exactly (so the left side was backwards, but readable).

Alcuin Society Book Design Awards
(Left) The quarterly magazine for members; (Top Right) Backwards headers; (Bottom Right) Event Banner

I didn’t get photos of the books, as it didn’t seem like an “allowed” thing, but the event was followed by a panel on graphic storytelling with Johnnie Christmas (the illustrator of Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird) I found the panel really interesting, though there were some moments of tension, once when an audience member heckled another audience member (!), and another when two of the panelists admitted very different emotional reactions to starting their creative process for the day.


The event made me curious about other possible societies out there, and I figured I’d share the links here, in case anyone is interested:

Alcuin Society

Society of Publication Designers (SPD)

Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA)

Do you know of any others? Let me know!

6 thoughts on “Alcuin Book Design Awards

  1. Serendipitous. I just noted in my journal: “join?” Meaning, reminding myself to start looking for groups I might join that support the things I’m interested in, too. Also, just before reading your post, I read an article that might interest you about self-publishing … … Can artful work like yours follow this path to publication and audience? (You don’t have to answer that question! It’s what I’m pondering…slowly.)

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    1. I’d actually seen this article before! I think anyone can make a go at self-publishing, but genre matters. You can make good passive income on nonfiction that helps other people, for example… or in coloring books! Adult coloring books in particular are really, really in vogue right now. 25% of all print sales from last year, if you can believe it. Strike while the iron is hot!


  2. So there are still book cover illustration, awards? 😉 You’re talking to someone who likes visiting museums and when I see the occasional velum manuscripts, books and illumination on borders, I get absorbed. I did take several courses on Western calligraphy and intro page illumination. I also took a course on book preservation for antiquarian books.

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