Do you ever look a book and wonder where it has traveled?
In the Frank Waters Room in Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico, there is an exhibit of books that have traveled all around the United States, called the “University Presses Book, Jacket and Journal Show.”
The books displayed in the show are winners of a design competition that the Association of University Presses holds every year, said Lisa Tremaine, the art director and production manager of UNM Press.
“It’s really prestigious, and for university presses, this is the show every year,” she said.
UNM Press, UNM’s book publisher, is a member of the Association of University Presses, Tremaine said. Every year, UNM Press picks books it has already published that year that members feel are of quality design to submit to the competition.
“It’s pretty interesting how important design is becoming, because we’re surrounded by so much visual information,” she said. “I was just talking to a friend the other day who was bemoaning the lack of design training here, at UNM, because we don’t even have a graphic design track, and I think it’s really sad...It’s really important to be able to make things.”
The UNM Press usually spends $400 to submit between 12 and 15 books, jackets and covers each year, Tremaine said.
After every participating university press does this, the association has judges pick their favorite submitted book designs to win the competition. These judges are different every year, and although the show never has a particular theme, subjective tastes give each show a different flavor, she said.
Then, after the judges choose the winning designs, the show hits the road, Tremaine said.
“They split it into four pieces, and it travels to different areas of the country,” she said. “We are next-to-last for the west and southwest. After here, this will go to Denver up to University of Colorado Press.”
But the participants are not limited to the United States. The association is expanding to include university presses from other places, like Canada, Hong Kong, the West Indies and Dubai, Tremaine said.
Felicia Cedillos, the senior book designer of UNM Press, said the association rebranded itself. Now it is called the Association of University Presses instead of the Association of American University Presses.
“Now they encompass the entire world, essentially,” Cedillos said.
Tremaine said that because UNM is one of the last universities to host the show, each show UNM presents is from the previous year. That is, the show in the library right now is the 2017 show, which features books from 2016. Next year, UNM will have the 2018 show, which will feature books from 2017.
The 2017 show going on right now does not feature a book published by UNM Press, but the show next year will feature a book by Beverley Spears, Tremaine said.
“There are some really, really beautiful books in this show...(I appreciate) something different enough to catch your eye. The things that people think of every year is just amazing, and it’s so inspiring when you can look at all these books and see what you can do in your own work,” Cedillos said.
Tremaine said, designing books is important because it is a way of marketing the book.
“What it needs to do is to just hint — and I’m really passionate about this — but it needs to hint at what’s inside,” she said. “You don’t want to give away the story. ‘The Blue Roof Cottage’ and then you have a picture of a cottage with a blue roof? No, no, no, that’s giving away everything. You want to hint and then get someone to pick it up.”
The “University Presses Book, Jacket and Journal Show” will be on display in the Frank Waters Room in Zimmerman Library now through Friday free of charge.
Ariel Lutnesky is a freelance culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ArielLutnesky.