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BooksSeptember 23, 2022

Let’s hear it for the bees: All the winners from the 2022 PANZ Book Design Awards


The awards where Aotearoa’s books are totally judged by their covers.

It’s hard to beat a lovely looking book as an object to have and to hold. Textured, eye-catching, sitting there waiting to be all handled. Beautiful books are an art object that expects to wear the interest in it over time. There’s that whole thing about not judging a book by the cover etc., but that concept seems so dated in this age of high-volume publishing.

There are a heck of a lot of books published every year, every week, so it can’t hurt to ensure that they’re competing for our eyes and aesthetic tastes as much as for our imaginations. Here are this year’s PANZ Book Design Awards winners along with some thoughts, controversies and otherwise:

Gerard Reid Award for Best Book sponsored by Nielsen BookData 

WINNER: Conversātiō In the company of bees by Anne Noble with Zara Stanhope and Anna Brown (Massey University Press). Cover designed by Anna Brown & Matt Law. Interior designed by Anna Brown.

I did actually gasp with bibliophilic pleasure when I received this book earlier in the year. Mainly because the dust cover is a very tactile, deep blue fabric and when you take it off and fold it out there reveals a constellation and a swarm of golden bees. It’s friggen gorgeous. And then you see the stunning binding, all quires and stitching in neat U-shapes. It feels like you have something old-school, almost Medieval. And that’s big for a book nerd. Real big.

Inside it’s just as wondrous. The paper is delicious, the reproductions of Anne Noble’s art works are stunning, the variety of content from the scientific to the whimsical is dynamic and fun. Very deserving winner. Anna Brown is a marvel. No complaints here. Carry on. 

Books editor’s own copy with the fabricy dust cover off so you can see the beaut binding (Photo: Claire Mabey)

Penguin Random House New Zealand Award for Best Illustrated Book

WINNER: Conversātiō — In the company of bees by Anne Noble with Zara Stanhope and Anna Brown (Massey University Press). Cover designed by Anna Brown & Matt Law. Interior designed by Anna Brown.

See above. Excellent. Onwards.

Upstart Press Award for Best Non-Illustrated Book

WINNER: A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Paula Morris and Alison Wong (Auckland University Press). Cover designed by Keely O’Shannessy. Interior designed by Keely O’Shannessy with typesetting by Tina Delceg.

This book was up against Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life by Jill Trevelyan, which is stiff competition. I was curious as to why it was on the shortlist, given it was first published in 2008 – the response was that the book was eligible for this year’s awards because it underwent a complete redesign for its re-release in association with the recent Rita Angus exhibition at Te Papa.

Nevertheless, A Clear Dawn deserves this win. The cover is mesmerising. The notes on the book say the cover is “Flexibind cover printed 4c with gloss machine varnish on cloth-wrapped 250gsm board”. Well, that glossy cloth was a great call because it shimmers and shifts and is a beguiling beginning. From there on in, the book is stylish and sleek. Sometimes anthologies can feel overwhelming or crammed but not this one: A Clear Dawn gives each writer space on a very lovely page.

Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children’s Book 

WINNER: My Cat Can See Ghosts by Emily Joe (Beatnik). Designed by Emily Joe.

Tough category! Among the shortlist is Gavin Bishop’s Atua which cleaned up at the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; and The Tiny Woman’s Coat by Joy Cowley and Giselle Clarkson, which has some of the sweetest, sweeping double-page spreads. 

Emily Joe’s My Cat Can See Ghosts compels from the start with those spooky eyes. I tested this cover on a four-year-old who immediately wanted to know more about the ghosts and why they are inside a cat’s eyes. Also the text is hand drawn (custom typography is the tech term for it) and they melt into the images just perfectly, like ectoplasm.

Lift Education Award for Best Education Book or Series Primary

WINNER: Inside New Zealand Wildlife by Dave Gunson (Bateman Books). Cover design by Dave Gunson & Alice Bell. Interior designed by Alice Bell


So it’s literally about the insides of creatures and the cover shows a cross-section of a Takahe so you’re right … in there, bones and arteries and all. It’s certainly an arresting start. The word “Inside” is stamped in red across the words “New Zealand Wildlife” so it’s like, a beware-classified-information-ahead typographical joke. That vibe doesn’t spill through into the spreads – inside it’s a classy affair: detailed, scientific drawings reminiscent of 19th century natural history illustrations. Plenty of accompanying information alongside. 

The shortlist contained two worthy competitors: Toitoi Jillion 2 (Cover: Vicki Birks, Toitoi Media with cover illustration by Jasper Macknight-Wilson (aged 11) Interior: Kelvin Soh and Sam Wieck, DDMMYY) which showcases student art work (mad, colourful, moving) and writing; and Why is That Spider Dancing? Amazing arachnids of Aotearoa (designed by Kate Barraclough, Kate Frances Design).

The Arachnids really should have taken it in my opinion. The enthusiasm for spiders leaps from the cover and onto every page. The mix of photography, diagrams, illustration keeps every spread dynamic and the curiosity level high. The consistency of design principle matches the bug-eyed feeling you want young readers to imbibe, especially when it’s about a potentially intimidating subject. 

Lift Education Award for Best Education Book or Series Secondary/Tertiary

Winner: No winner but special commendation to Social Policy Practice and Processes in Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Graham Hassall and Girol Karacaoglu (Massey University Press). Cover designed by Tim Denee. Interior designed by Megan van Staden.

So there were only two books in the shortlist for this category (the other book was Tūtira Mai: Making Change in Aotearoa New Zealand). So neither were good enough to win but Social Policy Practice and Processes in Aotearoa New Zealand got “special commendation”. So basically the winner? OK. 

1010 Printing Award for Best Cookbook

WINNER: Homecooked: Seasonal recipes for every day by Lucy Corry (Penguin Random House NZ). Cover designed by Cat Taylor with original cover art by Evie Kemp. Interior designed by Cat Taylor.

One hundred per cent worthy winner. This is the book I turn to on days when the idea of trying to come up with a dinner for my family makes me want to curl up in the corner of the kitchen and cry myself to sleep. Evie Kemp’s cover makes it all feel much more do-able, even delightful. There’s a picture-book vibe about it – as if Vanessa Bell had made a Bloomsbury picnic book for a charming and arty time with vegetables and canned fish. Inside, the photography is crisp, delectable. The layout is clear, simple and rich with colour. Yum.

Allen & Unwin Award for Best Commercial Book for Adults

WINNER: Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (HUIA Publishers). Designed by Te Kani Price and Camilla Lau.

I was initially bamboozled by this shortlist. It was definitely surprising to see Kurangaituku here though in a great way: literary fiction, particularly boundary-breaking novels like this one, isn’t usually considered a commercial offer. Jenna Todd’s (one of the judges) opening comment for this category says: “This category could be considered controversial? What is commercial? This led to a lengthy discussion amongst our team of judges. Therefore, we presented a list of finalists that sit within the definition of commercial to us. Concluding that commercial equals a book that appeals to a large audience and…quite simply, sells.”

Well that’s quite brilliant. Simply sales, no attempt to pigeonhole genres into categories. So, to the winner: Kurangaituku is one of the most exciting books to arrive in Aotearoa in recent times. This is the novel with two covers because readers can start the story from either end of the book. There is no back or front, only one way or the other, and an interweaving halfway through: this completely flips linear ways of reading, and thinking about story, and it is genius. Whiti Hereaka’s formal challenge was I am sure a tough one for her publishers to pull off but they absolutely did. The weight and texture of the cover is also luxe (“linen finish paper stock”) – it is a pleasure of a thing to hold as you devour the story, just as the font inside (Arno Pro, regular) is a delight on the eye.

HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Cover

WINNER: Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Te Herenga Waka University Press). Designed by Xoë Hall.

Yup. Impossible to beat Xoë Hall’s striking art and the way this cover shatters any preconception that poetry is a quiet, reserved kind of literary form. Tayi Tibble’s star is so bright and this cover has that ascension written all over it.

Te Herenga Waka University Press Award for Best Typography

WINNER: He Ringatoi O Ngā Tūpuna by Hilary and John Mitchell (Potton & Burton). Designed by Floor van Lierop, This is Them.

About the typography, the book notes say:

Body text: Morison Semi Light, 8.5pt, 14pt leading

Emphasis/quotes within body: Morison Semi Light Italic, 8.5pt, 14pt leading

Footnotes: Morison Light, 7pt, 12pt leading

Captions: Morison Regular, 6 pt, 9pt leading

Tables, including whakapapa tables: Respublika FY X Bold, 6pt, 7pt leading, capped and Respublika FY Bold, 7pt, 7pt leading

Section opening pages: ‘Part’: Morison Regular 100pt, capped. Title: Morison Semi Bold 36pt, 42pt leading, capped

Part IV of the book (on Isaac Coates’ Māori subjects):

Titles: Morison Display Bold, 54pt, 34pt leading

Subtitles: Morison Display Italic, 21pt, 24pt leading

Subheading 1: Morison Bold, 10pt, 14pt leading, capped

Subheading 2: Morison Bold, 10pt, 14pt leading, sentence case

Blue portrait pages within Part IV:

Titles: Morison Bold, 21pt, 25pt leading, caps

Subheading: Respublika FY Bold, 10pt, 13pt leading, capped

Sub-subheading: Respublika FY Bold, 7pt, 9pt leading, capped

Captions: Respublika FY Semi Light italic, 7pt, 11pt leading, capped

Parts I, II, III, V (context and background on Isaac Coates):

Titles: Morison Display Italic, 32pt, 37pt leading

This will mean a lot to someone. The book is very nice to the eyes. Well done.

2022 Hachette Aotearoa New Zealand Emerging Designer 

WINNER: Te Kani Price (HUIA Publishers)

One of the designers of Kurangaituku, surely one of the most fascinating challenges in the realm of fiction publishing for ages. Super work, worthy win.

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand People’s Choice Award 

WINNER: Conversātiō — In the company of bees by Anne Noble with Zara Stanhope and Anna Brown (Massey University Press). Cover designed by Anna Brown & Matt Law. Interior designed by Anna Brown.

Perfect symmetry. What a buzz.

For more information on the PANZ Book Design Awards 2022 visit the website.

Keep going!