25 Years of The New York Book Show

I am embarrassed to admit that, until last week, I had never heard of the New York Book Show. I love books! and have worked in the book industry for nearly 15 years but, nope, never. If a friend of mine hadn’t invited me to the event I probably still wouldn’t know about it. Whether that speaks to the marketing efforts of the show’s sponsor, the Book Industry Guild of New York, or to my journalistic shortcomings, I’m not sure. But the fact that it has been around for 25 years definitely says something about the endurance of the show itself.

Essentially—and not to be glib here—the New York Book Show awards do, in fact, judge books based on their cover (and interior) design. As far as I know there is no accounting for the quality of the prose (which is why one of the winning books was an elaborate DC Comics pop up catastrophe that would scare the hell out of me if I were a kid). That and the fact that the event was held in the Hammerstein Ballroom’s Grand Room (an overly plush, musty, almost eerie nod to old Victorian days) gave a surreal “cognac-in-the-library kind of feel” to the occasion.

Regardless, there were some gorgeous books on display from small and large publishers alike. My favorite of the winners was the bold, clean, iconic cover for Pearson Press‘s book Criminology, created by San Francisco designer Elina Frumerman.

Cover winner in the "school publishing" category. Design by Elina Frumerman.

Said Frumerman of her design approach:

Pearson Press approached me to design a textbook cover for a book that deals with the sociological aspect of crime. They wanted the cover to look more like a trade book than a textbook. The interior of the book used a lot of photography to draw the students into the material and present the concepts in a memorable and thought-provoking way.

I felt it was appropriate to approach the cover in the same manner. I began by looking at the faces of hundreds of criminals via their mug shots. Initially I wanted to reduce and tile the images to illustrate the myriad ways that crimes can be personified. But when I came across the image of Lee Harvey Oswald, I decided to use one iconic image. Because he and his crime are so recongnizable, I  chose to obscure his face with the text title in order to comment upon the faceless nature of mugshots, a reductivist practice that makes no distinction between petty thief and serial killer. The goal was to create a cover that created a mystery around the image and peak the reader’s curiousity to learn more.

An alternate design of the cover with the title type reversed out of a black bar.

Other 2010 winners included:

For entire book in the “Children’s Trade” category.

For jacket design in the “General Trade” category.

For entire book in the “Special Trade” category.

For jacket cover in the “Scholarly and Professional” category.

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