Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 21, 2020

2020 Australian Book Design Awards longlist

The Australian Book Designers’ Association has just announced its Book Design Awards longlist: there are 17 categories, all of which you can see here.

The categories that most interest me are

  • commercial fiction
  • literary fiction
  • biography, autobiography and memoir
  • non-fiction

Here they are:

It’s hard to judge between them when I’ve read some of them and can see how the designs relate to the book content, but my favourite of these is The Sea and Us, designed by Josh Durham from Design by Committee.

I’m amazed to see that I’ve read only two in this literary fiction category, but once again my favourite is designed by Josh Durham from Design by Committee, I think that cover for The Returns is both beautiful and clever.

In this category I like From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage, with its pitch perfect cover by W H Chong.

And finally, the only category where I’m choosing without being influenced by having read the book, and I’m afraid I think they’re a rather dull lot.  I quite like  Songspirals by Lisa White but it’s not really very original, and I quite like the cunning of Capturing Nature by Pfister + Freeman—but none of these make me want to pick up the book and read the blurb in the bookshop.  I don’t know if it’s eligible but I’d have nominated Island Story… and I am guilt-stricken because I forgot to include the details about the designer when I reviewed it, and it was from the library so I can’t check it now.  If anyone has a copy, please let me know so that I can amend it.

Update: I went to the library today and found the book: the designer is Imogen Stubbs, and she has a portfolio of really lovely designs at her website. On her About page it says that Imogen is the art director at Text Publishing, where she has worked as a book designer and production manager since 2011. She manages the book and marketing design program while also designing covers for literary fiction, non-fiction, young adult and middle grade titles.  IMO this is the book that should win the prize hands down!

What do you think?
Which would you choose for the shortlist, or is there something else that you wish had been nominated?


  1. The cover of Shepherd is ominous.


    • You think so? Is that because you’ve read the book? For me it conjures up that painting ‘American Gothic’!


      • It put me off.


        • Yes, I think some of them are off-putting, and some are just ‘meh’. I don’t think large capital letters on some kind of background are a substitute for design, but I am reminded that there are ‘rules’ for different genres of books, and that those large capital letters usually signal commercial fiction which is unlikely to interest me. (Though I have just read a book, a work of commercial fiction, whose cover is guilty of such things, and it was really very good indeed. So I should be careful of making wild generalisations!)


          • I actually read this book … and didn’t think much of it.


            • I’ve only ever read one book by Catherine Jinks, The Inquisitor. It was ok, but it didn’t make me read more of her work.


              • I think she’s a children’s or YA writer… and it showed in this one. It would have made an ok short story but as a novel it was far too long.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d have to agree with your choices of Song Spirals and The Returns but I’m going purely on aesthetic appeal since I know nothing about the books. The autobiography shortlist seems particularly dull


    • I think it’s probably the most difficult genre to design, especially if they don’t have a catchy title.
      But now that I look at it more closely, I’m a bit puzzled about why From Democracy Sausage is in that category. It’s not a bio, or a memoir. It’s more of a history IMO, and should be in the last category.


  3. Thanks for sharing, Lisa. :-) I now know what is going on outside my home region. :-)


    • Do you have anything like this journal in your neck of the woods? China has been very active in some African countries, I believe…
      Update, a day or two later: LOL Celestine, I answered this thinking you were commenting on the foreign affairs book!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The thing that strikes me about all these designs is the lack of photography. Most seem to be typography based…


    • And when there is photography it’s just Shutterstock, or in the case of the Bowditch book, it’s a really awful photo of her.


  5. Island Story cover is wonderful. I liked a few, but some are quite mediocre, in my humble opinion. I always like nature or environment on covers. Illustrations of donkeys always draw me in which is quite funny or anyone with a hiking pole in their hand. Lol


    • Yes! remember the donkey on the cover of David Malouf’s Ransom, that was so clever because, let’s face it, until that book none of us ever thought of the donkey in relation to Homer’s Iliad!
      BTW I’m hoping to find time to get to the library today… they have a copy of Island Story and I should be able to get the cover designer’s name…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I went to the library and got the designer’s name: it’s Imogen Stubbs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t think Islands and Bruny are more or less Literary or Commercial than the other (but I like Bruny’s cover).


    • Yes, I wondered about how they were classified one way or the other, but I guess that’s how the publishers would have entered them?


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