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AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers Exhibition

The AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers is a juried competition that recognizes excellence in book design and production. Selections are exhibited every year at the AIGA National Design Center, drawing attention to the “process of design, the role of the designer, and the value of design to business, culture and society at large.”

Classmates—Barbara deWilde, Tony Chu and Sana Rao—and I created this year’s 50 Books/50 Covers exhibition to further the ongoing conversation about the book. Juried selections are featured throughout the exhibition on wall-mounted shelves and floor-standing sheaves of paper. (Fig. 1) Three tightly-intertwined interactives (website, chalkboard and shelf) reflect the behavior of visitors both online and in the physical space. (Fig. 2)

The exhibition’s companion website, whatthebook.org, collects “yes” and “no” responses to a series of statements ranging from cheeky—“I silently judge others by their bookshelves.”—to pragmatic—“I would never give an ebook as a gift.” Individual responses are tabulated and reported as percentages. (Fig. 3) The final screen of the site invites visitors to share their definition of the book. (Fig. 4; Read others)

Each day for the duration of the exhibition, responses and definitions gathered by the site are displayed in the physical space: responses are visualized by books arranged on shelves; definitions are transcribed on the chalkboard. Visitors in the physical space interact by rearranging and adding books on the shelf (Fig. 5) and rewriting definitions with eraser and chalk (Fig. 6). Within the first month of launch the website has garnered nearly 3,000 unique visitors and 800 definitions.

In collaboration with: Barbara deWilde, Lead Designer; Tony Chu, Designer and Developer; Tom Hubben, Designer; Sana Rao, Designer.

Photography credit: © 2011 Mark Dye.