Anna Brown, NZ Book Design Awards Supreme Winner, 2022.
Anna Brown is the overall winner of this year’s Book Design Awards, her cover of Conversātiō – In the Company of Bees, was considered this year’s finest, winning both Best Book and Best Illustrated Book. The judges described it as a “delightful blend of science, art and book design in one volume devoted to the bee”.
Tell us how you got into designing book covers.
I’ve been designing books since I left design school in 2001 and it’s been my love from the start. When I left design school, the people I looked up to were Sarah Maxey and Catherine Griffiths, two amazing graphic designers from New Zealand. I was thrilled when one of my first jobs was composing Rosemary McLeod’s book Thrift to Fantasy with Sarah.
Book design is a very small group of people in Aotearoa. It requires an inquisitive and intelligent mind as you need to understand the content and intent of the author or artist and translate it into something visual that will also be engaging to a reader.
I’m thrilled to see young designers from diverse cultures rising through the ranks of this space, such as Te Kani Price (who was named Hachette Aotearoa New Zealand Emerging Designer 2022 at the awards show) and Aakifa Chida, a recent AUT graduate.
What makes the perfect book cover?
A perfect cover is an embodiment of everything inside the book. It must be catchy.
There’s that famous saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, but for most book buyers, publishers, and booksellers, that’s the entry into the book. What I really like about Conversātiō is that it’s very tactile coverage. You want someone to pick it up, smell it, open it.
The first thing I do when I pick up a book is smell it! The cover is the entry into the content. You can never separate a book cover from its contents – it should be a package and the two should go hand in hand with each other.
The judges described Conversātiō – In the Company of the Blanket of Bees as “a cabinet of wonder.” What made this book special for you?
A cabinet of wonders is a perfect metaphor for this book. The center piece is Anne’s Apiscope work at the Queensland Art Gallery and it was very deliberate to put it front and center as it is the culmination of 10 years of her work.
We interspersed photographs with text giving everyone a space to do their work. It is a relationship where each form elevates the other. The cover was designed to be handled and when unfolded it shows the flight path of the bees. This book was an 18 month project in conversation with Anne and Zara.
Do you have a favorite book cover?
I don’t have a favorite, but one cover I’ve always loved is a Russian edition of The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It’s two volumes. One volume is a white cover with black typography and the other is a black cover with white typography. It’s simple, bold, elegant and powerful.