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.