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Over a long day of deliberation, Matthew Ritchie: Incomplete Projects 01-07 sat quietly on a side table, waiting patiently as the jury attended to more glamorous, eye-catching works. Bold type! Full-bleed photos! Day-Glo colors! Die cuts! Flocking! Any number of gimmicks and graphic devices tugged at the jury's sleeves, demanding attention like spoiled children. Eventually, the group noticed the simple red case with the simple black type, and then there was no question as to this year's Best of Category.

The cover is so understated, it takes a commitment for the reader to open this, said Bielenberg. It's small but expressive. It's masterfully done. The designer could have designed something glossy, but didn't. Sahre added: You have to really know what you're doing to make this work.

Conny Purtill, of Philadelphia's Purtill Family Business, most assuredly knew what he was doing; the project, intended to offer artists and institutions a new model for publishing when confronted with very small budgets, had been seven years in the making. That process began in 1999, when Purtill was asked by Ritchie, a New York – based installation artist, to create a publication format that could achieve two goals: to provide, at low cost, stand-alone catalogs accompanying a series of exhibitions, and to allow the separate pieces to be gathered into one bound publication. Purtill produced a limited edition of each catalog, with half of the run saddle-stitched and bound in a cover printed with all publication information. The balance of the run was stored as uncut sheets at the printer, eventually to be finished in a hardcover edition called Matthew Ritchie: Incomplete Projects 01-07.

The jury was especially impressed by this strategy. It really uses economy, said Bielenberg. The pieces are very different, but they all hold together, offered Sahre. The graphic glue uniting them is a manual-style presentation that defies easy classification. It could be a book about 1950s something. It just feels like it's from another era, Sahre added. DiMatteo agreed. It feels like a hand-me-down, she said, and then articulated the jury's decision: It's respectful to the work. When you look at the work, what else would you want to do?

87 If you love numbers in an aesthetic and not an actuarial kind of way, then Jonathan Ellery’s 87 is the book for you. It's the simplest of projects a single number, from 1 to 87, is luxuriously printed on the right-hand page of every double-page spread but in that simplicity lie visual and tactile grace. The fonts and paper stocks change, leaving only the numbers in all their jet-black glory. You show it to 99 percent of the people in this country and they'd be perplexed, said Bielenberg. It's a designer thing. Just the lusciousness of the letterforms, the black on white, the paper stocks, the changing type forms. It's great to open a book and have to contemplate a Futura 4. DiMatteo echoed precisely that sentiment: You want to give it as a gift to a designer, she said.

ABRISSBLOCK.DE When it opened in East Berlin in 1976, the Palast der Republik was the architectural showplace of the East German state, home to its parliament and all manner of entertainment venues: restaurants, dance clubs, theaters, even a bowling alley. With Germany's reunification, the future of the building a lovable relic and historical landmark to some, an execrable symbol of oppression and shoddy design to others became a source of contention. Eventually the struggle was won by the forces calling for its demise. But the building didn't disappear entirely. Cornelius Mangold of the Berlin firm Superclub Nonbook Publishing created a 1:1000 scale model of the megastructure as a notepad. The project plays on a German pun: Abriss means demolition, and an abriss-block is a tear-away pad. Images of the building in its original glory make up the sides of the paper brick, which is shrink-wrapped with a fact sheet about the structure. It's got a real connection to the project, and as these things go it's got a nice size and shape, said DiMatteo. There's something nice that you're destroying this building as you go through the pad.

MOTHER'S NECKLACE A soaring mountain, commanding and stalwart in its thrust skyward, seems a logical icon for a financial services company. The U.K's Invesco Perpetual chose for its mascot Ama Dablam "Mother's Necklace" a peak of legendary beauty on the trail to Everest in the Nepalese Himalayas. (The name refers to a pearl-like glacial formation that loops down the mountain facade.) The company then hired London design firm Browns to create a book featuring the work of Magnum photographer Donovan Wylie, who circled the 22,000-foot mountain in a helicopter operating at a level beyond what, in his words, was mechanically wise. That's got to be pretty dangerous, said Sahre, who admired the commitment level of the entire project, in particular the delicate line diagrams illustrating the perspective of each photograph. It's like an art book, said DiMatteo. Sahre nodded: I love this.

VILCEK AWARD The deliberations moved dangerously close to Charlie Kaufman territory when our jury chose to award an award to an award in this case, Stefan Sagmeister's Vilcek trophy, given annually to American immigrants who have made lasting contributions in the arts and sciences. For the prize, a square base is formed from a typographic composition including the winner's name, and this is extruded via rapid prototyping into a foot-long pyramid plated in silver. Our jury especially liked that the award would be equally at home standing up or lying on its side. It's crazy, but in a good way, said Sahre. The form of the thing is coming from the thing itself. I love it. Bielenberg agreed. The way it's individualized I think that’s awesome. Also awesome: the $50,000 check that comes with it.

CROW The brief given to Psyop's Marco Spier and Marie Hyon was to create a breathtaking station identification spot for MTV's new high-density network, and to do so by showcasing the medium's ability to reproduce imagery in extraordinary detail. Crow, a dazzling animation in black and white, begins with the creatures fluidly emerging from birch branches and morphing into a forest, a flock, a single, gorgeously rendered and ornithologically correct bird, and finally a gracefully falling feather. The jury sat through it twice, and the appreciation only increased. It doesn't even feel like it's trying, said DiMatteo. It blows my mind, echoed Sahre, who considered it as a candidate for top honors before noting, I've watched it for a second time, and now I'm done, as opposed to an award or a book, which I could spend a lifetime with.

ELSE/WHERE MAPPING Created by the University of Minnesota Design Institute, Else/Where Mapping combines essays and imagery to demonstrate the ascendancy of mapping as a fundamental design process. The inch-thick paperback is advertised as an intensive three-year editorial and design collaboration between its editors, Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, and graphic designer Deborah Littlejohn, and it plainly exhibits the intensity of that partnership with its intricate and information-crammed composition. Visuals are organized in what the editors call gazetteers: banded image banks that act as a counter-text to the book's essays, which are printed in small blue type that the jury found disconcertingly difficult to read. Still, the book's concentration of ideas left them happily overwhelmed. It's dense, though I don't feel tired going through it, said DiMatteo. It's sc
ary, the amount of stuff and the complexity, added Sahre. It's a universe on every page. It's like learning there's a whole other civilization under your fingernail.

DROSSCAPE: WASTING LAND IN URBAN AMERICA Of the several books on environmental issues that were chosen for recognition, Allen Berger's Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America was the jury's favorite, owing to its seriousness of purpose and clear presentation of multiple forms of visual material. The book, a scholarly analysis of the perils of urban development, opens with an eight-page manifesto in bold orange type on a field of recycled brown paper. Drosscape's format was developed to accommodate the large-scale display of detailed aerial photographs, maps, and charts, while maintaining a reader-friendly size, writes Adam Michaels, principal of New York's Project Projects, which designed the book for Princeton Architectural Press. It starts off simple and then goes into these complex information graphics, said DiMatteo. It's very smart.

STELLA WEISSMULLER ORTEGA BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT Designers and parents-to-be Uschi Weissmuller and Robert Ortega spent nine months scribbling potential male and female names for their unborn child into the pages of a Moleskine notebook. When the stork finally delivered it's a girl! a scan of one of those pages became the source of their new daughter's birth announcement: More than 75 names, from Anton to Ursa, are reproduced in ballpoint-pen blue, with the winner, Stella Ortega, engraved in red. On the flip side of the announcement card, a photograph of the newborn is set carefully in the bottom left corner. I love how it's a jumble of boys and girls names, said DiMatteo. It communicates the process, noted Sahre. Bielenberg just beamed. I know everyone who got this enjoyed receiving it, he said. It cost nothing to make. It's considered. It makes me smile.