All posts in Book Awards

Reserve your spot for the Toronto edition of the Alcuin Book Design Awards!

The Toronto award ceremony for the Alcuin Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be held on October 3, 2016. The event will include a keynote talk by designer Michael Solomon, the presentation of the awards, and an excellent sit-down dinner. The event will open at 5:30 pm for a chance to view the award-winning books, and dinner will follow at 6:30 pm.

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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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Canadian books praised in Leipzig in the Best Book Design from All Over the World

We are happy that once again Canadian book design is held in high regard internationally. Last year two Canadian books were shortlisted for the Best Book Design from All Over the World competition in Leipzig. This year, again two books have been shortlisted, and one won a Honorary Appreciation.

Every year the Alcuin Society sends the winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada to compete with hundreds of books from around the globe in Leipzig. This year, the society has sent 37 books out the total of 585 entries submitted from 30 countries.

More Than Two (Let It Make Itself) by Micah Lexier and designed by Jeff Khonsary was awarded one of the five Honorary Appreciations. This is a catalogue of the author’s work, which pleasantly surprised the judges with its back story, concept and choice of colours.

More Than Two (Let It Make Itself) by Micah Lexier

More Than Two (Let It Make Itself) by Micah Lexier

The shortlisted books are With A Bao A Qu: Reading When Attitudes Become Form, by Maria Fusco and designed by Jeff Khonsary, and Résidus visuels, by Johanne Jarry, designed by Judith Poirier. The former examines contemporary art writing, shifting its focus from the conceptual towards its the more physical representation. The latter explores the boundary between those who can see and those who cannot, creating a tactile experience that uses a combination of Braille and latin alphabet.

With A Bao a Qu: Reading  When Attitudes Become Form, by Maria Fusco

With A Bao a Qu: Reading When Attitudes Become Form, by Maria Fusco

Résidus Visuels, by Johanne Jarry

Résidus Visuels, by Johanne Jarry

All the 37 books submitted by the Alcuin Society are donated to the German Book and Type Museum in Leipzig, where they will be available for consultation and exhibitions. The Society still accepts submissions for its design competition for books published in 2014 until March 27, 2015. Please review the information on our Apply page.

Penguin Random House Design Awards 2014

Penguin Random House invests in future book designers by organizing Design Awards for students, and each year they are asked to design covers for one adult and one children’s literature book. This year the chosen books were What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The winner in the adult category was Ellen Rockell, who created a book cover that spelled out the name of the novel as a floor plan.


It was a risky design, as it could have affected the legibility of the title. What is more impressive is that Rockell did not just use computer software to design the cover, she actually built the whole thing and photographed it. Ellen’s Tumblr page offers some insights into her design process.


The Penguin website offers more information about the judges, prizes and winners in this category.

The second winner was Craig Cox, with a blood-spattered comb for The Outsiders. This is quite a tricky cover to design, so the judges may have had a hard time to single out a winner out of the shortlisted work.



The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada

Very soon the winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be chosen from among 230 entries from 106 contributors that include publishers, book designers and authors. This year the three judges are Jessica Sullivan, creative director at Figure 1 Publishing, Susan Colberg, Associate Professor of Visual Communication Design at the University of Alberta, and Seth, cartoonist, designer and collector.

Judge_JessJessica Sullivan is one of the best Canadian book designers whose credentials include no less than 36 Alcuin Awards and a CBA Libris Award for Book Design of the Year, so she definitely knows what makes a winning book. Her original focus on layout and typography is what makes her work stand out.

Judge_SethSeth‘s success started with the comic book series Palookaville. His work appeared in New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, McSweeneys Quarterly, on the cover of the New Yorker and Canadian Notes and Queries. His cartoons have been exhibited all over the world.

Judge_SueSusan Colberg‘s areas of expertise include visual communication design, typography and book design. She has experience as both a design award winner and judge on juries for the Association of American University Presses and the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada among others.

The categories in which the Alcuin Awards winners will be selected are: Children’s Books, Limited Editions, Poetry, Pictorial, Prose Fiction, Prose Non-fiction, Prose Non-fiction Illustrated, and Reference. The judges will carefully consider each and every book submitted, taking in all the details from colour, layout and typography, to how these elements come together and complement the subject of the book. For more details about the eligibility criteria and the judging process, please visit our Awards page. The winners will be announced in a few days, when we also have a pleasant surprise: the launch of the new, redesigned Alcuin website, which will bring a great improvement in information organization, navigation and design.

Canadian books shortlisted for Best Book Design from all over the World

The Best Book Design from all over the World is an annual competition held in Leipzig since 1963.  This year, as the contest celebrates its 50th anniversary, the judges had the difficult job of sifting through 567 books selected from 30 countries, in order to pick fourteen winners. Please note that these books were produced in 2012.

The fourteen winners of the Best Book Design 2014

Canada had the privilege of having two books among those shortlisted. One of them is Love and the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche, designed by Andrew Steeves, from Gaspereau Press, which got the first prize in the Prose Fiction category in the Alcuin Book Awards. More about it here.

The other one is the poetry book Form of Forms, by Mark Goldstein, designed by the author himself. It was awarded a Honourable Mention in the Poetry category by the Alcuin Society for its unusual layout.

Congratulations to our wonderful publishers and book designers. The Alcuin Society submitted 41 books, that were winners of the 2012 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. The books are now part of the German Book and Type Museum in Leipzig.

Seth — A cartoonist’s life in broad strokes


“Cartooning is a solitary pursuit. The cartoonist sits alone at a drawing table for most of his life, struggling with himself and his past in an attempt to create something meaningful.” Seth

Seth details the experience of the cartoonist’s reclusive life in the article “The Quiet Art of Cartooning.” Looking at his beautiful, distinctive work, one often wonders about the process that brings it to life. It turns out that random things go through the artist’s head while working hard on drawing and inking. Snippets of memories, random thoughts, sometimes even full-blown emotional outbursts. And some of them find their way into the work that comes to life under the cartoonist’s hand.

Seth’s work, so moody and recognizable, has been influenced by The New Yorker classic style, with heavy lines and muted colours. After he started doing comics and illustration, he published his own series, Palookaville, which initially was assumed to be autobiographical. Since althen, Seth has illustrated and designed books and book covers, has had his work published in The New Yorker, The Walrus, the New York Times Magazine, and Canadian Notes & Queries, and Palookaville has just reached its 21st edition. His work is becoming more and more in demand, which may be because of the new-found popularity of the graphic novels and comics. “Seth’s cartooning sensibility is front and centre in virtually every book design he produces,” says Chris Oliveros, who has worked with Seth on the Palookaville series since 1991, quoted in Quill and Quire.

It is hard to predict what will be Seth’s next project, but we know for sure that he is one of the judges in the Alcuin Book Design Competition that will take place on April 12.

The Alcuin Award-winning books travelling the world

The books that were chosen as the best designed and published in Canada in 2012 are travelling not only across our provinces and territories, but reaching distant lands such as Germany and Japan.

One of the big supporters of the Alcuin Society and its Awards is the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo. Under the care of Misako Terauchi, Assistant Library and Academic Relations Officer, our books were loved, treasured and exhibited inside the embassy library from July 15 to October 18. More than 3,300 visitors had a chance to admire these books, some of them being introduced to the collection while doing the tour of the Embassy. A representative of one of the Japanese major publishing house, who took a long time to examine all the details of each book, such as binding and paper, fell in love with Out of the Wood and purchased it online shortly after.

The collection is continuing its journey as it is loaned to the Printing Museum in Tokyo as part of the exhibition “World Book Design 2012-2013”, which ends on March 2, 2014. There, our books are in select company there, next to award-winning books from Japan, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, China, Belgium, and books accepted for the World’s Most Beautiful Book competition.

Many thanks to Shelley Gruendler, who designed this year’s very visually-appealing and well-organized display cards, that accommodated the information in English, French, and Japanese. In the past years the cards in English and French were accompanied by separate Japanese translations.

Alcuin Book Awards 2013 Recap – Round 2

The winners of the Alcuin Society Book Awards will be honoured on October 2 in Vancouver and October 7 in Toronto, but the competition took place way back in March. The Alcuin Society members got a chance to admire the winners’ work in their own catalogues, but now it is a good time to remember why we celebrate them. Before the ceremonies start, we will present some of the awarded books at random — it’s so hard to pick and choose from all the typographic and publishing goodness. The first series can be seen here.

There were many wonderful entries in the Children’s Books category, which made the judges choices all more difficult. Surprisingly, a colouring book found its way to the top: Robot Feels Sleepy, published, designed and illustrated by Jeff Kulak, got one of the two second prices. What is even more remarkable is that Jeff folded and hand-stitched each copy. The judges appreciated its originality, its clean and simple design and layout.
The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition
The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition

The first prize in the Prose Non-fiction Illustrated category went to Living the Canadian Dream: How Canadian Tire Became Canada’s Store. Written by Daniel Stoffman, designed by Linda Gustafson and Peter Ross, this book is a lovely piece of corporate history. Flaunting an unusual cover, the book was commended for the great production details, particularly the headband, endpapers, and two-piece binding.

The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition

The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition

When it comes to the Prose Fiction category, the cover carries a lot of weight in the overall design than in other categories, not only due to the creative potential, but also because of the fewer alternatives in designing the content. With Y, Marjorie Celona’s first novel, the judges noticed the compelling cover, but also the superior stamping on the binding, and the clean, readable text in Sabon and Didot. The book is designed by Lisa Jager, and published by Hamish Hamilton Canada.

The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition
The 2012 Alcuin Design Competition