U of R Press art director receives top book jacket design recognition

By Costa Maragos Posted: February 8, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Duncan Campbell, art director at U of R Press, with the book "Reading from Behind - A Cultural Analysis of the Anus." Campbell’s design has been chosen as one of the top 50 book designs in North America.
Duncan Campbell, art director at U of R Press, with the book "Reading from Behind - A Cultural Analysis of the Anus." Campbell’s design has been chosen as one of the top 50 book designs in North America. Photo courtesy of U of R Press

Duncan Campbell, art director at U of R Press, has joined some esteemed company.

A book jacket designed by Campbell has been chosen as one of the top book jacket designs of 2016 by the American Association of University Presses.

It’s the first time a U of R published book has received such recognition.

Reading from Behind – A Cultural Analysis of the Anus by Jonathan A. Allan and published by U of R Press, is one of 50 covers chosen as the best from across North America among scholarly presses.

“It’s quite an honour and it is humbling to be chosen among a lot of beautiful book designs and designers,” says Campbell.

Reading from Behind
“The book needed something with edge – that pushed the boundaries” says Duncan Campbell, art director at U of R Press. Courtesy of U of R Press

The cover of Reading from Behind is dominated by a large hand-drawn asterisk. The title and byline are presented in elegant type and are set almost like a footnote. The cover is a nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s back-door asterisk illustration that first appeared in his novel Breakfast of Champions.  

“The cover design allowed us to simultaneously proclaim loudly, and also bury in a footnote, the taboo subject matter,” says Campbell. “The book’s content was humorous and unconventional and required a cover that broke the rules. The book needed something with edge – that pushed the boundaries.”

There were 563 entries from university presses. Of those, 50 were chosen in the juried design competition which was held in New York. According to the American Association of University Presses, jurors gather to examine and then select “the very best examples of book, journal, and cover designs. Jurors are esteemed interior and cover designers.”

Campbell’s award winning cover is featured alongside university presses that include Columbia University Press, John Hopkins University Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, The Museum of Modern Art, MIT Press, NYU Press, Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, Yale University Press and others.

All of the final selections will be featured in a travelling exhibit across North America. The 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show, by the American Association of University Presses, runs from September 2017 to May 2018.

According to the association the show honours “the design and production teams whose work furthers a long tradition of excellence in book design” that visually teaches “the tenets of good design.”

Reading from Behind has been extensively reviewed in Canada and the U.K. The book’s rights have now been sold in Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Campbell’s works are increasingly getting attention in the book-publishing world. His cover design for The Education of Augie Merasty received an honourable mention at the Alcuin Society Book Design Awards, Canada’s only national competition for book design.

The recognition builds on the recent success stories coming from the University’s publishing house. Since U of R Press was launched in 2013, it has produced six national bestsellers, two of which are scholarly titles.  

The University’s publishing house latest national bestseller is Speaking in Cod Tongues – A Canadian Culinary Journey by Lenore Newman.

The other national bestsellers are: