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APBA Design Awards, 1979

May 1980, no. 20

APBA Design Awards, 1979

May 1980, no. 20

A revolt! Well, that is a welcome change, even if the awards produced some inconsistent results. Arthur Leydin, the chairman of the judges, has reacted violently against ‘good taste’ and ‘Englishness’ this year, and books which in other years might have carried off first prize, such as MUP’s Ludwig Becker (designed by Len Trenkner, printed by Wilke, and a 2½-pica book by my reckoning), barely scraped a commendation.

The Book of the Year and winner of the generous P&O Prize, A&R’s The Cheated (designed by Neil Carlyle and printed in Hong Kong), is a book that had passed me by until the awards were out. To be honest, I would have passed it by, with an award of maybe 1½ picas for its haunting cover. I don’t greatly like it, but Arthur Leydin has made me reflect on it at length, and I am overhauling some of my ideas.

What can we admire about this collection of newspaper paragraphs and photographs reporting the disasters that overtake ordinary people? Chiefly, I think, that it has a visual style that belongs to our own day and no other, which cannot be said of most of the books submitted. That it is unpretentious and plain, which are appropriate qualities for the material. That it is a paper­back at $7.95, which is a pleasing break from a tendency in the APBA competition for ‘quality’ and high prices to go together. And that because its design is not deeply indebted to English or American styles – I believe it is Neil Carlyle’s first book – it may even assert some original ‘Australian­-ness’ of its own.

For these reasons, and perhaps as much for what it aspires to as for what it achieves, I salute The Cheated as a brave and bold choice.

Some sentences from Leydin’s summing­ up of the awards explain his approach:

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