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The Best Designed Book of the Year 2003 and the Distinguished Books Selection

The Finnish Book Arts Committee awarded the finest books of the previous year for the 58th time on 18 March 2004. The Committee had been submitted 195 books by 54 publishers in 2003, of which 25 also competed for the Best Book Jacket award. The Committee nominated 21 books by 12 publishers for the Distinguished Books Selection, and gave an Honourable Mention to 5 books for their respective jackets.

The objective of the Finnish Book Arts Committee is to increase appreciation for fine books. Its tasks include finding and presenting books which combine form and content in the best possible manner. The Committee particularly focuses on emphasising the overall attributes of basic graphic design, typographic characteristics, materials and printing quality, but finds it equally important to consider new and unusual ideas and to encourage designers to take up fresh and innovative approaches. The Distinguished Books Selection displays Finnish books also in the international context, for example at the Frankfurt and Leipzig book fairs. The Distinguished Books Selection has also been on exhibit at Finlandsinstitutet (Finland institute) in Stockholm, Sweden as of 2003, and lately also in Estonia, where the new Selection will be exhibited both in Tartu and Tallinn.

 

The Distinguished Books Selection

The number of individual books submitted to the Distinguished Books competition in 2003 had slightly decreased as compared to the previous year. The applicants were nevertheless of consistently high quality. Graphic design of illustrated works and non-fiction books was particularly professionally realised. Printing materials had been carefully selected and the printing quality of images was remarkable.

As regards fiction books, the focus of design seemed to be on materials, format and cover design, but the typography of the contents should merit a more ambitious approach. Automated production and hectic schedules may particularly influence the finishing of typography, and perhaps the attempt to eliminate orphan and widow lines has been given up in the midst of all this. However, thorough consideration should be given to whether there is a valid reason to let go of these long-lasting good guidelines, especially if their neglection disrupts the typographic balance and harmony of the text.

A wide selection of children's and young adults' books was submitted in 2003. It was interesting to note a lack of a prevailing trend in this category: the submitted books represented a number of styles and realisation methods, with the main focus on images or illustrations. Books with materials, colours and typographic solutions that do not restrain the illustrations, but instead match and even support them, thus creating a functional and lively overall impression, were nominated to the Distinguished Books Selection.

Textbook evaluation criteria are somewhat different from those of other categories, as this body of texts and illustrations is subject to specific pedagogical requirements, and also as financial questions play an important role in the choice of materials for books in the category. Textbooks should be able to offer clarity, harmony and experiences. Despite of good illustration choices, pleasant details and magnificent jackets, only few textbooks or reference books succeeded in achieving the desired clarity and illustrativeness. The range of book jackets seemed particularly diverse in 2003, and gave the impression that the publishers had not submitted their best book jackets to this Committee. Nonetheless the collection of selected book jackets highlights some fresh and innovative approaches.

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