COVID-19: what a year everyone has had. All sails had to be set and a great appeal was made to our improvisation capacity. And this certainly also applied to students in general and to the Student Jury of The Best Dutch Book Designs in particular. In this very busy year 5 students participated in the jury process to finally reach a selection of 30 books. They gave all their effort. It will not have been easy. So I want to express my sincere gratitude to Doğa Deniz Gönüllü (ArtEZ), Esmée Jakubowski (HKU), Juliette Lepineau (Gerrit Rietveld Academy), Lulu van Dijck (KABK) en Nina Schouten (Werkplaats Typografie) and to Maryse Poels (ArtEZ), who made the catalogue together with Doğa. You are the best!
I always notice eagerness and commitment when I receive the students who have been nominated by their academies to participate in the Student Panel of The Best Dutch Book Designs. These traits are desperately needed in the book trade. After all, there is great concern about the future in the graphic industry. Especially because so few young people are interested in getting trained in the technical parts of the profession. Fortunately, things are going well in the design department and students are more and more interested in arts and crafts. The relevance or need to select a book as the main form to publish content is also subject of debate at the graphic design departments of the Dutch art academies.
The Student Jury follows the same procedures as the professional panel, examining the books on a number of days and later spending two days arriving at their own final selection. This year 267 books were submitted, the student panel choose 30 books, the required minimum (33 books is the max). 13 books overlap with the professional jury, 17 other books have been rewarded by the students. The student panel too presents a report of their decisions. Both the selection and the judges’ report are being made available here online and in a catalogue.
The Best Dutch Book Designs. Five students, from different academic years, different academies and with different ideas on design were presented with the task to select the best designed books from 2020. Out of almost 300 books, we selected 30. We saw books from big publishers, photography books, art theory books, cook books, artists’ books, children’s books. Traveling through the snow in the first weeks of this year, enjoying the first sunny afternoon on the last day, we all travelled to the printer Zwaan Lenoir in Wormerveer to sit at a big table and fulfill our jury duties. Carefully placing our cups of coffee on the edge of the table (or in the windowsill) to elude the chances of spilling it.
In our notes on the selected books, you will find words such as playful, poetic, delicate, rhythmic, sober, balanced and urgent. In our descriptions of the materials, you will find floppy, honest, dynamic, inviting, rich, smelly and supportive. Take a look and observe which books we are talking about. But being a jury member is not just looking at books: with the power to select comes responsibility.
On the selection days—and now still, a couple of months later—we’re left wondering what constitutes the ‘best’ designs. Is it flawless typography? Paper? Lithography? Swiss binding? Is it the designers we know and admire? Is it the design we were taught to love? Is it all, or none of the above? How to compare a cheaply produced novel that needs to have commercial success to an expensive 100 copies funded artist’s book? Their objectives could not be more different. Do we criticize the novel for bad typography? Do we criticize it for cheap hot glue binding? Do we select books because they are so impeccably designed, or for what they represent?
Being a student jury member for The Best Dutch Book Designs has taught me that a superlative such as ‘best’ cannot be fairly used in subjective realms such as design. The usage of the word ‘best’ makes selection incredibly difficult, and leaves us students confronted with the biases and problems of our best intentions, our design education, and our personal tastes. This time, we were the ones in power, and we made the same mistakes we criticized the ones in power for so many times. It is an educational experience; not merely because we saw so many beautiful books, but because we got first-hand experience in a real-world situation—a collective and valuable experience at the intersection of good intentions and responsibility.
– Lulu van Dijck
For the sixth time, the student jury has made its own selection from this year’s submissions (267 books). Members of the jury were:
Doğa Deniz Gönüllü
Lulu van Dijck
Koninklijke Academie van de Beeldende Kunsten (KABK)
Hoge School van de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU)
Gerrit Rietveld Academie