Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Student Book Design Scholarship Winners

I am delighted to announce that two of my 2nd year graphic design students have won top honors and awards in the 2012 Publishing Professionals Network invitational book design competition which took place at Chronicle Books in San Francisco this past week. Jeremy Grant received the $1000 first place award for his redesign of the book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Sean Loomis won $50 for one of the 11 other merit scholarships in recognition of his book The Dark is Rising. Each year PPN (formerly Bookbuilders), awards 5 or more merit scholarships to students enrolled in a college, university or technical school in 13 Western states. This year the non-profit organization awarded $4000 of merit scholarships on the basis of creativity, meeting design objectives, typography etiquette, and presentation of material. With Jeremy's top honors, this now marks our design program's sixth consecutive, first place win. All twelve of the winners are invited to attend a special evening reception hosted by PPN to be held in their honor on June 27th in San Francisco.
One of the great things about teaching the book design class each Fall quarter—aside from teaching the finer points of typographic etiquette—is to see the level of passion the students have for their chosen books. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Czech author Milan Kundera, has always been a particularly special book for Jeremy Grant. His adaptation embraces the very name of the book in the way he chose to express "lightness" in his design by a variety of means: the physical layout and components of the book are spare and uncrowded; the weight of the Sackers Gothic font in the table of contents quietly shifts from medium to light as it progresses; and the floating initial cap at each chapter opening is itself, very simple and understated. The main text, set in Maoila 10/15 point (by Czech type designer, Veronika Burian), pairs nicely with the Sackers Gothic for running heads and chapter numbers. The modern blackletter, Adso, is used sparingly to provide a note of distinguished contrast for some of the main headings. The few ornamental treatments in the frontmatter and sectional transitions add a bit of mystery and personality to the book. To further echo the "lightness" theme, Jeremy had the book bound in white vellum with just a simple inlayed title plate on the spine, by Ars Obscura in Seattle. I would best describe Jeremy's remarkable interpretation of this novel as a study in simplicity and beauty with a measured sensibility of modern typography. This is a difficult balance to achieve for any skilled book designer, but it gives me great pleasure to see the judges for this student competition recognized this in his work as well.  

Sean Loomis chose to adapt Susan Cooper's tale, The Dark is Rising, seen below, for his book design project this year. Instead of the most obvious solutions of folklore and fantasy elements peppered with Celtic display fonts throughout, Sean tamed it down considerably and presented a much more refined and honorable interpretation. He neatly folded in the two forces of dark and light which are consistent threads throughout the book, by combining a lightly-styled text with dark, watercolor and wash illustrations opposite each of the thirteen chapter openings. The sign of the quartered iron circle is also a constant theme and symbol of the novel and he chose to reinforce this by repeating the shape for his illustrations and for the colophon at the end. For the cover, he repeated the symbol once again without being too heavy-handed. The light and dark tone of the wash in the background provides a subtle visual pun for the title. Sean's entire design is a very handsome interpretation of this famed fantasy and indicates a great respect for Cooper's original novel.  

You can view some of the book designs of past student scholarship winners from 2011 here, and from 2010 here.  


  1. Wow, the first place! two years in a row! When Mr. Grant showed up at the shop, he told J.R that he needed the binding done in a couple of days, and I was really worried.. Not only because we were working on other rush jobs at the time, but especially because the material he chose, which was vellum, is extremely susceptible to moisture, and the finished book must be supervised and kept underweight for a period of time. Anyway, you must be one helluva proud teacher now! I sure feel honored about the fact both the first place winners' works were bound by our company!

  2. Jennifer Kennard, Sr. LetterologistMay 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    It was so nice of you to do Jeremy's binding on such a tight deadline. It turned out beautifully. Everyone is truly impressed with it! Your work on his book and Joe's winning book last year were exceptional and go far beyond the typical student work. I hope the trend continues!

    Thank you for your assistance!


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