Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech Wins AIGA’s 50 Books Award
In the summer of 2019, creative Virgil Abloh took to the art world launching his first-ever solo exhibition at the MCA in Chicago. In tandem with the exhibition, Abloh released “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech” a special edition hardcover book that featured a complete retrospective of the thousands of projects he’s worked on. Today the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) awarded the book as one of its 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2019 competition.
Book designers and publishers entered nearly 800 book and cover designs from 32 countries and this year’s jury recognized submissions that successfully demonstrate design excellence in the book and cover categories. The jurors – Michael Bierut, chair, Hilary Greenbaum, Lisa Lucas, and Silas Munro—evaluated each work’s integrated design approach, including concept, innovation, and visual elements such as typography, illustration, and information design – their selections from the 50 Books | 50 Covers competition exemplify the best current work in book and book cover design.
The 496-page book with nearly 2,000 images was published by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in celebration of Abloh’s multihyphenate art. For Abloh, the museum catalog was an opportunity to “question everything.” The monograph, produced in close collaboration with the artist himself, explores his creative output in a three-books-in-one format. The catalog section offers an overview of Abloh’s interdisciplinary practice by Michael Darling and features essays and interviews with key voices in art, fashion, design, and architecture, including Taiye Selasi, Lou Stoppard, Michael Rock, Samir Bantal, Rem Koolhaas, and Anja Aronowsky Cronberg.
In the archives section, more than 1,800 never-before-seen images pulled from the artist’s personal files reveal the breadth of his influences and collaborations. And the index cross-references the catalog plates–Abloh’s works–with his projects and process, using a vocabulary of themes developed by Abloh. The book comes in a cloth slipcase with “Personal Copy” silkscreened on the book fore-edge, a measuring tape ribbon marker, and a flexi disc printed with a Juergen Teller photo that includes a recording of Virgil Abloh discussing his inspirations. This book is designed with Swiss binding. When opened the front cover lays completely flat and is not attached to the front pages of the book. The binding also intentionally exposes the spine of the bound book and the raw boards used for the case.