AIGA 41/50

A handful of designers over at Design:Related are expressing their frustration with the AIGA’s decision to only select 41 covers for this year’s 50/50 competition.

The two main points of contention seem to be: (a) people paid good money to enter ($35-$50 per), so the AIGA has an implicit responsibility to keep its end of the deal, (b) to say that there were only 41 entries worth including is insulting at best and a slap in the face at worst.

Without seeing the actual entries or having been privy to the judging, it’s hard to weigh in with absolute conviction, but having kept pretty decent track of covers published in 2008 (188 in the Archive for last year alone), it does seem unlikely that there weren’t at least 50 designs worth highlighting. Also note that the designers expressing their frustration are no slouches. If talents such as Gregg Kulik, Henry Sene Yee, and Kimberly Glyder, to name a few, are expressing frustration, then you know something is amiss.

A representative of the AIGA has commented here before. I’d be interested to see if anyone can shed some light on this.

July 6th, 2009 by Pieratt

11 Responses to “AIGA 41/50”

  1. It would seem they’re trying to be more like the D&AD in Britain, which is under no obligation to award silver and gold medals. A few years ago, there was a bit of a stink over there when only one project from the entire subject of graphics won a silver (Michael Bierut’s packaging for Saks 5th Ave).

    But I agree that they should be faithful to the true spirit of the competition and award 50 entries winning status. Unless, of course, they only received 41 entries. That would be a sad state of affairs indeed; economy be damned.

  2. Robb Irrgang says:

    If I was receiving the book I’d rather get 41 good ones instead of 41 good ones and, say, 39 weak. I once judged a minor competition and certain categories did not get a best of because none of the judges could find a piece that had enough merit.

    I’d actually kind of praise this kind of curation, to be honest.

  3. I would actually really like to see some of the top ranking covers that didn’t get picked… it would be fun to see those entries and be able to judge for myself. Design can be a fairly objective thing… so when you only have five judges it seems to be an unfair assumption that only 41 are worthy.

  4. Ric Grefé says:

    It is wonderful that people are following 50 Books/50 Covers so closely. The conversation validates its continuing relevance.

    AIGA selects a jury of thoughtful, experienced, respected professionals to select a representation of the best design of the year, considering a variety of criteria applied to the books that have been entered (and we know there are worthy and exciting designs that are not entered). AIGA has never set a quantitative target over a qualitative judgment and we respect the jury in deciding where the threshold falls in meeting a consistent standard in their judgment.

    In this competition, as in the broader 365 competition, AIGA trusts the jury to explain the standards it sets and to apply them consistently and appropriately. This is not the first time that there have not been 50 covers; however, this is still a more generous selection than in the categories of 365, in which only 5-15 might be selected (even for broad categories like brand design or package design or information design).

    The title is simply that: a title and a target that we provide to the jury in its deliberations and usually it works well, although every jury has the greatest challenge in closing the gap between the selections that meet a natural consensus, usually fewer than fifty, and the strive target, since this often involves changing the criteria that have been agreed upon and then reducing the number of selections that meet a different criterion.

    We hope you will all join us in encouraging designers and publlshers to enter their work next year so that they can be certain to be considered.

  5. Pieratt says:

    Ric – A roundabout way of stating that you’re sticking to your guns.
    Certainly appreciate your weighing in.

    One thing’s for certain. The limited number of selections makes it all that much more meaningful. No one wants to run the suspicion of having been the quota-topper.

  6. It would be great to hear some of the judges comment on their process… just to receive some inside perspective. Maybe we would then better understand Ric’s response, which is pointing towards the judges.

  7. Megan Wilson says:

    The cost of your entry went to a better quality cheese straw at the next AIGA party–so quit whining!

  8. Erik Schwan says:


    Seriously, why not allow the judges to speak for themselves? I see your stance on it and believe that if you’re not willing to pick 50, then the entry fees should be mailed back. Or maybe ask the judges to each pick one book that was never entered that they would like to see as a special judges selection winner? From an outsider looking it, the judges have turned their noses up at anyone who didn’t win and then just gotten lazy.

    Can we see a break down of the finances that AIGA just raked in off of this? Maybe you didn’t gain anything financially, in which case you would have no problem directing me to a pdf link showing that. Thanks!

  9. Catherine says:

    If you take the average price of entries, which range from $30-$55 x 900+ entries, AIGA is looking at maybe $35-$45k coming in from entry fees alone. (that’s not counting the $25 fee/book for late entries).

    If you win, “There is a production fee of $40 for members, $60 for nonmembers, per selected entry, payable after notification of selection.” So that’s an additional $5000 more or less.

    I’m assuming some of this goes to the production of the annual, although, over the past few years the quality of the annuals has declined. Consider the annual from 2000 against the one from last year— you’ll see the latest annual has cheaper paper, less effects, smaller trim size, and fewer pages…

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