Awards Book Archive

Alison Forbes: Hall of Fame 2018
  • Winner

Designed by
Alison Forbes
Hall of Fame
Design Rationale

Established in 1994, the Hall of Fame Award has been presented to designers whose body of work and role in the industry have made a significant contribution to book design in Australia. Members of the Hall of Fame are (chronologically) Patrick Coyle, Alec Bolton, Arthur Stokes, Harry Williamson, George Dale, Deborah Brash, Sandy Cull, W. H. Chong and, in 2016, Tony Palmer, who was the first recipient of the inaugural ABDA edition. To judge this lifetime achievement award, we again reconvened the advisory panel of past inductees to confer with the ABDA committee on the nominations. In 2018, the vote was unanimous for Alison Forbes, towards whom we extend our congratulations.

Alison Forbes (1933–) was the first full-time independent book designer in Australia, and her pioneering career paralleled the transformative period of Australian publishing. From illustrator at The Herald, to becoming the first staff designer at Melbourne University Press, to three years in the London publishing scene and back again, Forbes designed hundreds of titles. Her remarkable legacy can be seen today on the bookshelves of Australian homes, libraries and schools, and includes covers for Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), The Land that Waited (1967), John Cotton’s Birds (1974), The Art of the First Fleet (1988) and Robin Boyd: A Life (1995) – titles that occupy a significant position within the Australian literary canon. Over the years, Forbes worked with many of Australian publishing’s seminal figures, including Frank Eyre, Andrew Fabinyi (Cheshire), Gwyn James (MUP), Max Harris (Sun Books), Lloyd O’Neil, Sam Ure Smith, and Ken Wilder (William Collins). Her work has been recognised by every major industry award, including the Transfield Design Awards, ABPA and the Australian Commercial and Industrial Artists Association (ACIAA). In 1955 her illustrations and design for Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles was acknowledged as one of the Australian Book Publishers Association (ABPA) Books of the Year. In 1989 she was presented with the ABPA inaugural Award of Honour ‘for her continued and outstanding contribution to Australian book design and production’, and in 2016 Alison Forbes was inducted into the Australian Graphic Design Association’s Hall of Fame. Alison considers herself a Book Designer in the fullest sense. She thoughtfully planned every aspect of the beautiful illustrated history, art and garden books she designed, sometimes doing her own picture research, and on several occasions even being credited as a coauthor. She equates her role with that of an accompanist – supporting the content of the book, not being too flashy or forward. For over five decades, Alison Forbes designed books, never straying into commercial graphic design or advertising, tempted by the greater financial rewards or the brighter spotlight her talent would surely have demanded. The result of this singular, unstinting focus is an enduring body of work unique in its quality and quantity.