Friday, June 13, 2014

The 2014 PANZ Book Design Awards

Today the Publishers Association of New Zealand, aka PANZ, announced the shortlists in its 2014 Book Design Awards. Congratulations to all finalists – all the books I have seen are very worthy. But.

There are seven categories: best illustrated book; best non-illustrated book; best children’s book; best educational book; best cookbook; best typography; and best cover.

There are four judges: convenor Gideon Keith, a book designer; Alan Deare, a book designer; Cameon Gibb, a graphic designer; and Noelle McCarthy, a broadcaster and book reviewer.

Here is the awkward part: Alan Deare is a finalist in four categories, and Gideon Keith is a finalist in one.

This is not meant as a criticism of the judges: I am sure that proper process was followed in the judging and that any judge under consideration left the room when his book was being discussed. But it’s not a good look, is it. This is not the judges’ fault – it is the organiser’s fault. Looking at you, PANZ. None of the judges should have been put in this position – the Montana/NZ Post awards were always very good about making sure this visible conflict of interest could never happen.

When I was a judge of the design awards a decade ago with Adrian Clapperton and Dorothy Vinicombe, none of us was working as a book designer though Adrian had a lot of magazine design experience, I had a little and we all had book nous, especially Dorothy. Other panels I recall from that time were the same – never a possibility of a conflict of interest.

Also: book design is dominated by women. It’s a bit odd not to have a design-literate or design-experienced woman on the panel.

These awards are really good, really valuable. But they won’t be taken seriously if they are run like this.

On Facebook an author friend comments:
The part where they say thank you and shake their own hands will be good.


Agnes Day said...

If I was a designer who had entered a book in one of the categories in which one of the judges was a finalist, I would be pretty peeved.

Anonymous said...

It's not just that the judges are judging their own books but they're judging their direct competition! It's unbelievable that anyone thinks this is ok.

Stephen Stratford said...

Quite. Hard to believe the direct competition will be happy about this.

Anonymous said...

They aren't.