Friday, 8 July 2011

The Dictionary as Art Concept?

Magritte A to Z, Tate Publishing, 2011, showing Magritte's Time Transfixed, 1938. Designed by Tony Waddingham

How important is originality when it comes to book design? The issue came up recently in a panel discussion in Zurich that I took part in, organized around the annual Most Beautiful Swiss Books competition. The term “beauty” is something of a red herring here. What the jury, which included Cornel Windlin (the chair), Lars Müller and Linda van Deursen, seemed to be looking for were books that contribute something new in their design. Exactly what this means in terms of the 19 titles they chose for their final selection, and how these books meet this criterion, was never properly defined during our discussion. But it did seem that a book that was merely excellent in applying a familiar design approach, as plenty of the also-rans appeared to be, couldn’t, in the jury’s view, qualify as a “most beautiful” book. 

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