OU Exhibit Celebrates Book Cover Design

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Literature and graphic design collide in the exhibit 50/50: 50 Books/50 Covers and 50/20: 50 Books/20 Years, opening Tuesday, Sept. 4 at the Ohio University Art Gallery in Seigfred Hall.

The show combines a traveling exhibit from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and a collection of handmade books from Ohio University’s bookbinding class.

Since 1923, the AIGA’s “50 Books/50 Covers” competition has recognized excellence in book design and production. The OU exhibit will showcase the 50 best-designed books and book covers from the 2011 contest.

A free public reception will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, along with a talk by noted designer Michael Bierut. Bierut, a Cincinnati native, works with renowned design firm Pentagram and has had his work displayed in museums around the world.

In this age of e-books, the exhibit sets out to prove that the printed word still can be relevant.

“You can see the rich variety of a hand-held book. They’re beautiful to touch and look at,”  said Sherry Blankenship, associate professor at the Ohio University School of Art. “There’s a variety of sizes, shapes and subject matters. Some have die-cut fronts, some have slipcovers. Some are children’s books, we have one on Indonesian fabrics. Others are profiles of artists.”

For the past 20 years, OU’s bookbinding class has been taught by Don Adleta, professor and chair of the Graphic Design Program at the OU School of Art.

Many of the 50 handmade books on display are constructed out of unusual materials, such as washcloths. Since 1992, the books have been stored in Alden Library’s Mahn Archives and Special Collections.

“Some of them haven’t been seen in the 20 years since they were made,” said Blankenship.

The exhibit will run though Thursday, Oct. 11. Visit for more information.

50 Books, 50 Covers exhibit poster