WORDS Richard Holmes IMAGES Supplied
The Good Book Appreciation Society’s new Book Cover Design Awards prove that South African shelves are heaving with design talent.
Don’t the adage warns us, judge a book by its cover. And yet, of course we do. Unless a friend or a book club tip-off steers us in the right direction, it’s the cover – perhaps even just the spine – that first tempts us to lift a book from the shelf.
Celebrating this under-appreciated art form is what Paige Nick set out do in 2021, with the inaugural Good Book Appreciation Society (GBAS) Cover Design Awards.
Beyond her day job in advertising, Paige started the GBAS in 2012 as a private Facebook space for like-minded readers to share and discuss their favourite books. It’s had remarkable success, and is today an active community of more than 17 000 bibliophiles.
“Book covers are where my two worlds collide – my love for design in advertising, and the world of publishing,” says Paige. “A cover is the gateway to a book, and South Africa doesn’t have any book cover design awards – so I thought it would be an interesting exercise.”
With five categories ranging from non-fiction to poetry and illustration, the awards received 300 entries that each went through a rigorous judging process. To balance a creative eye with a nose for commercial success, Paige chose diverse judges, with the 2021 panel made up of acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Faith47; chief creative officer at GridWorldwide Nathan Reddy; artist and author Mohale Mashigo; and Mervyn Sloman, owner of Cape Town’s much- loved The Book Lounge.
But what makes a great cover? Beauty and creativity alone won’t sell books. Judges based their choices on originality in thought and design, beauty in design, relevance to the genre and ability to stand out on the shelf.
“There are certain global trends that sweep through publishing – last year it was all neon colours and botanicals on the cover – but within those, we definitely have our own local feel,” says Paige. “In South Africa, we’re often limited by budgets, so we have to be a little smarter and more experimental. That has created a huge design culture that really sets us apart. Plus, we have so many African influences that are beautiful, and trending right now – which puts us on the cutting edge of design.”
NON-FICTION African Europeans: An Untold History by Olivette Otele (Jacana), designed by Russell Stark
FICTION Junx by Tshidiso Moletsane (Umuzi), designed by Fahiema Hallam
FMR POETRY AWARD Years Of Fire And Ash: South African Poems Of Decolonisation (Jonathan Ball), designed by Michiel Botha
HONORARY SPECIAL MENTION Vier Susters by Gerda Taljaard (Penguin Random House), designed by Russell Stark
AFRICA BOOK & DESIGN FESTIVAL AWARD FOR ILLUSTRATION EXCELLENCE Wayfarers’ Hymns by Zakes Mda (Umuzi), designed by Gretchen van der Byl
GBAS READERS’ CHOICE AWARD Glass House by Chinenye Emezie (Penguin Random House), designed by Georgia Demertzis