All posts in Awards

Book design winners + graphic novelists in one big evening

On September 22 we’ll be celebrating the winners of the Alcuin Society’s Canada-wide design competition for books published in 2015 – and then hearing artists Nick Bantock, Sarah Leavitt and Johnnie Christmas discuss graphic storytelling.

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Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada winners announced!

For Immediate Release

March 22, 2016

Alcuin Society’s 43 best-looking books of 2015

Vancouver, BC – The Alcuin Society has announced the winners of its 34th annual competition, The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, held Saturday March 19th. Awards will be presented this fall in both Toronto and Vancouver. The winning books will be entered in the international book design competition in Leipzig, Germany in February 2017. They will be exhibited in Germany at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs; in Japan, at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, in conjunction with the Tokyo International Book Fair; and in every province of Canada. The venues are listed on our web site. Continue Reading…

Canadian book honoured at 2016 Leipzig competition


GUILLAUME LÉPINE, designer, La lecture des signes abstraits: une exploration visuelle, by Joséane Beaulieu-April. La chose imprimée (Montréal).

This book has an interesting background. Under the direction of Judith Poirier, a professor at Montreal’s Centre de dessin de l’ UQAM, and Angela Grauerholz, a project – La chose imprimée – was undertaken to “explore the book as a space of experimentation”. As is stated on their website, “The printed book, which was more than once questioned with the advent of multimedia, hypertext and e-book, is not only still present, but … has a real charm thanks to its physical and tactile qualities and the intimate relationship it establishes with the reader.” For the project, students were assigned to collaborate with representatives from various disciplines and the larger community, to create five books on related themes. This is one of those books, on the mechanics of reading and readability. You can find more about this project at their website.

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Book Design Awards Ceremony in Vancouver

The West Coast book designers who won some of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada this year will be celebrated in Vancouver on October 15, at Emily Carr University of Art+Design (Auditorium – Room 301 South Building) on 1400 Johnston Street, in Granville Island. Arrive early, at 6:30, for a chance to view all the winning books, as the event will start at 7 pm.

Book design awards poster

This year the Alcuin Society experiments with a new format: instead of having the habitual speaker, the society invited a panel of children’s books’ illustrators and designers to talk about the challenges, rewards, and future of children’s books publishing. The panel will be moderated by Robin Mitchell Cranfield, one of this year’s judges in the Book Design Awards, and it is comprised of award winning illustrators and designers Sara Gillingham, Julie Flett, Julie Morstad, and Cynthia Nugent. The event will be of great interest to all those fascinated by children’s books, illustration, and book design.

Dolphin SOS, by Roy & Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, won third prize in the Children Books category

Dolphin SOS, by Roy & Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, won third prize in the Children’s Books category

Book Design Awards Ceremony in Toronto

Every year we celebrate the winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada twice: in Toronto and Vancouver. The first drum rolls will be heard this year in Toronto, on Monday, October 5, 5:30 (dinner starts at 6:30). No different than the past few years, the winners will be celebrated with gusto, at the Arts and Letters Club on 14 Elm Street, with a full dinner.

The key note speaker will be George Walker, the winner of this year’s First Prize in the Limited Editions category. Participants will be able to admire not only Walker’s book about Leonard Cohen, praised for its elegant case and exquisite craftsmanship, but also also all the other winning books in this year’s competition. For the full list of winning books, please visit our Awards page.

The Wordless Leonard Cohen Songbook: A Biography in 80 Wood Engravings, by George Walker (box)

The Wordless Leonard Cohen Songbook: A Biography in 80 Wood Engravings, by George Walker (box)

The price of dinner is $24.50 and reservations must be made at the venue by sending an email to reservations[at]artsandlettersclub[dot]ca otherwise your dinner will not be prepared. Please also notify them of any dietary restrictions or cancellations. Space is limited, so early bookings are strongly recommended.

The Vancouver ceremony will be held on October 15, at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. This year the society is preparing a completely new and engaging format. Stay tuned to find out what is so special about it and who our special guests are.

The winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Book Design

We thank all those who participated in this year’s Book Design Competition, and we congratulate the winners in the eight categories. Moreover, we want to thank all book designers out there who count orphans and widows, publishers who ponder trends and budgets, and artists who use their craft to embellish books. It is because of them that authors find voices and readers, that we still step into book stores with wonder, and that books still draw our attention and wonder. Not every book is a work of art and an award winner, but they are all the product of the effort of the people who approach them with respect and love. As Robin Mitchell-Cranfield, one of this year’s judges, put it, “production is one of the quieter elements of design: something we only notice when it’s gone wrong, but which is essential to a well designed book.” Which is why the Alcuin Society applauds every person who has been involved in the making and publishing of a Canadian book: your work is greatly appreciated.

Books entered in the Children Category

Books entered in the Children Category

This year, 201 books entered the competition, coming from 79 publishers from 9 provinces. There is a noticeable downward trend in the number of submissions, from 232 entries from 107 publishers last year. The judges appointed with the difficult task of examining each and every book, and selecting the winners cover a good range of fields and competencies: Rod McDonald is a typographer and designer of well-known typefaces such as Cartier Book, and Goluska; Robin Mitchell-Cranfield is a graphic designer and illustrator with extensive experience in children’s books; Roberto Dosil has over 40 years of working as a book designer and publisher, and is a Senior Lecturer in the Simon Fraser University Publishing Program.

Judges examining books.

Judges examining books.

The judges were unanimously impressed with the quality of the books entered, and selected 31 winners in eight categories (Children, Limited Editions, Pictorial, Poetry, Prose Fiction, Prose Non-Fiction, Prose Non-Fiction Illustrated and Reference). Rod McDonald remarked:

“Over the years I have come to expect a high standard in the Alcuin Society Book Award winners, but I was a little surprised to see just how many of the entries shared that high standard. It made the job of judging very difficult and often the differences between the books that were chosen and those that weren’t was very slight.”

Robin Mitchell-Cranfield also commented:

“I’m seeing quite high standards of production on many of the books, which suggest well-managed projects on the part of the designers as well as advances in printing technology.”

The books submitted ranged from those whose every detail was crafted by hand, to those that were a testimony of the merits of the modern technology. “It was gratifying to see traditional hand-made letterpress books sharing the same table with avant grade digital productions,” mentioned Rod McDonald.

Judges debating who the winners should be in the Children Category

Judges debating who the winners should be in the Children Category

The typography was noticed as well. “I’m seeing some well crafted, clean designs, which I enjoy. I’d love to see some more experimental or playful type as well,” said Robin Mitchell-Cranfield. However, Rod McDonald noticed some bad line breaks, and that “in some books the choice of typefaces and sizes seemed a bit erratic and the use of CMYK colour for the text didn’t work.”

And now drums please! These are this year’s winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. In order to admire the craft of these artists, as well as get glimpses of the judging process, please view the photos on our Flickr channel. I hope you will agree with Rod McDonald’s words: “I came away with the feeling that the book arts in Canada are in a better shape than we are lead to believe, and we are fortunate to have such diversity in Canadian books.”

Call for entries for the 2014 Alcuin Book Design Awards

Happy New Year, dear book lovers. To celebrate in style, the society has just opened the competition for the 2014 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. In order to be eligible, books have to be published in 2014 by a Canadian publisher and designed by a Canadian designer. The entry fee per title is $30 for the Alcuin Society members and $35 for non-members. For five or more entries, there is a discount of 15%. In order to enter please fill out the form on our Apply page and follow the instructions enclosed. The deadline is March 27, 2014. For any questions, please contact awards[at]alcuinsociety[dot]com


This year’s judges are Rod McDonald, typographer and type designer, Robin Mitchell-Cranfield, illustrator, graphic designer and university lecturer, and Roberto Dossil, book designer and senior lecturer. The judging will take place on April 11, and the results will be delivered shortly after. You can check the list of last year’s winners on the Awards page or visit our Previous Winners and Resources page to view catalogues.

The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design is the only national competition of its kind in Canada. This tradition was established in 1981, and it honours not only the Canadian book publishers, but also those who work hard to make books legible and beautiful works of art, and whose names are rarely celebrated: book designers. Please note that the Alcuin Awards are self funded, and the Society that makes them possible is solely sustained by its members and donors. If you love books, like what we stand for, and want to support our rich history and efforts, do not hesitate to visit our Membership or Donate pages.

Awards ceremony in Vancouver, featuring Seth

The winners of the Alcuin Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada were selected back in spring, but we will celebrate them this fall, on September 11, at Emily Carr University of Art + Design Auditorium, in Granville Island. Everyone will also have a chance to admire the books that won the admiration of the judges, so please arrive at 6:30 pm if you want to browse them. The event starts at 7 pm.


On this occasion, one of the judges, graphic novelist Seth, returns to Vancouver, to talk about his work and career. This is not your ordinary presentation, it is in the form of an on-stage interview held by Peter Cocking, designer and art director specializing in typography, and principal of PeterCo Design.

From It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken

From It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken

Seth was born as Gregory Gallant in 1962 in Clinton, Ontario. His work is characterized by the style of The New Yorker classic cartoons and includes comics, graphic novels, magazine illustrations and book design. One of his best known publications is his mock-autobiographical graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, a collection of stories about the artist’s own life. His assertiveness and sense of humour will for sure contribute to an interesting and captivating interview with Peter Cocking. If you want to learn more about the artist, please visit our previous post about Seth.