A night at the ABDA Awards with Holly Dunn

The 2019 ABDA Awards were held on Friday the 31st of May at the State Library of New South Wales. ABDA Member and special representative from New Zealand Holly Dunn recounts her ABDA Awards experience.

Last week I travelled from my little studio in Nelson, New Zealand to Sydney for the 2019 Australian Book Design Awards. Despite having spent several years living overseas, I had never visited Australia, so it was wonderful to be able to spend some time exploring Sydney and to meet a few of the very clever people responsible for some of the most beautiful books in Australian publishing.

The awards were held at the State Library of New South Wales, a gorgeous building and the perfect venue to celebrate book design. At the door, I was greeted by members of ABDA and given a voting sheet for the Designers’ Choice Awards. So began the incredibly difficult task of voting for Book of the Year, Cover of the Year and Children’s/Young Adult Book of the Year. Well, I did not envy the judges one bit! With so many incredible books to look at, choosing the ones to vote for was a near impossible task.

As I was browsing the nominated books, I noticed a few themes. The children’s book shortlists were full of bright, bold colours, as you would expect, but the trend continued into the other categories. These punchy colours worked perfectly with the catalogue we were given at the end of the night, designed by Hazel Lam to look like a delicious box of chocolates!

Hand lettering is still big, I was glad to see. I hope this trend sticks around for a long time, as there’s so much you can do with it. There was also a lot of illustration on the covers and inside the books, in a fantastic range of styles.

To make a broad generalisation based on the shortlisted books, I’d say that there’s a lot more illustration and lettering in Australian book design than in New Zealand, which is often more photography-heavy. Likewise, the colour palettes seem to be brighter.

Finally, I had to make a decision and vote for my favourite books. The one I knew I had to vote for was Hazel Lam’s design for The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, which is one of my favourite covers of the past year. I’m a big fan of Edith Rewa’s, who did the illustrations, and Hazel did an awesome job of combining them with elegant type. I was delighted to see this one win the Booktopia Designers’ Choice Award for best cover.

There were two other categories chosen by ABDA members. Dirk Hiscock’s design for the imaginative exhibition catalogue, Escher X nendo | Between Two Worlds, won the Hachette Designers’ Choice Book of the Year. Miriam Rosenbloom and Antonia Pesenti took out the McPherson’s Printing Group Designers’ Choice Children’s/Young Adult Book of the Year with the fun and colourful Rhyme Cordial.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the night. There were so many incredible people there from all areas of publishing. Among many others, I chatted with Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon who wrote and photographed the shortlisted book Places We Swim, which documents lakes, rivers, beaches and pools across Australia. I’m hoping they’ll do one on New Zealand next! I also spoke to the designers from Evi O. studio who were all lovely and had a bunch of books shortlisted in various categories. It was also awesome to meet Mark, Alissa and the other members of ABDA who I’ve previously only spoken to online.

All up, it was a great experience and well worth the trip. Thank you ABDA for letting me in, despite me being a Kiwi!

The ABDA committee thanks Holly Dunn for this article.

For the full list of winners from the 2019 ABDA’s, please click here.