50 Books/50 Covers of 1999

September 7–October 12, 2000

50 Books/50 Covers exhibit west view  


If the book had been invented after the laptop, it would have been hailed as a great breakthrough.
—Neal Gershenfeld

Granted, a book too difficult to read is useless. But the attitude that printing must serve only the function of readability is like saying that the only function of clothing is to cover nakedness or that the only use of architecture is to provide shelter.
—Merle Armitage

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.
—Gilbert Highet

My belief in print is a belief in ink on paper. Everyone complains that it has all been done before, but we haven't even begun.
—Tibor Kalman

Since 1923, the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers competition has recognized excellence in book design and production. The entries include books and book covers designed between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year. Categories range from trade, reference and juvenile books to university and museum publications and include limited-edition and special-format books.

Each year a set of the selected entries is donated to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University, which houses the AIGA collection of award-winning books dating back to 1923. The selections also travel to Germany, where they are entered in the Leipzig International Book Design competition, and then exhibited at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Curatorial statement
“For the book designer, the marriage of form and content is a creative consummation. This marriage can be a glorious union that somehow becomes more than the sum of its parts—or it can be a tortured coupling. This exhibition reveals some of the ways this synthesis can be achieved and celebrates the vibrancy that a thoughtfully designed book conveys to a reader.

Since content informs the creative choices underlying each book's design, we have divided the exhibition into categories that a reader or designer would find relevant. We avoided such terms as ”general trade“ and the like, which have limited usefulness outside of a marketing meeting.”
Studio Blue