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SPECIAL PRIZES      ___________________      ABOUT THE COMPETITION


The competition 25 Best Designed Estonian Books aims to celebrate books with the most remarkable design and technical execution which are part of our intellectual heritage. The first contest was held in 1956, many years later the tradition fell into oblivion. In 1998, the contest was revived by the Estonian Graphic Designers Association, partnered by the Estonian Publishers' Association and the National Library of Estonia.

Vasak poolne tekst


The year of pandemic had no tragic effect on the Estonian book design. Defying the digital world, paper books persist and continue to thrive. This time the contest received 145 submissions from 87 publishers, eight entries more than last year. Also, it is a delight to witness the clear and continuing upward trend in the quality of book design. As a seasoned jury member, I can say that in many a previous contest, the 10–15 best designs were a unanimous choice – and then followed haggling over who else to nominate. This time, we had to very carefully consider which ones to drop, because worthy candidates abounded.

It goes without saying that levels of difficulty and beauty vary by individual genres. At first glance, a bulky art album full of colour photos or children’s book with sweet illustrations seem to be more likely to end up on the best designed list than a book containing nothing but plain text. However, this contest is divided into categories – fiction, non-fiction, textbooks and children’s books, art, and book series. The venerable jury acknowledged them all – for the shortlist to feature sophisticated art albums, black-and-white unillustrated fiction as well as non-fiction volumes with ingenious printing solutions. Seeing as our winners compete at the “Best Books from all over the World” contest in Leipzig, relevance in the global context was also an important point to consider

Every book takes after its designer. Practice makes perfect, as we know, and like in earlier years, the copyright pages revealed many a familiar name. Nevertheless, each year we see new and talented designers and fresh approaches joining the old hands.

Mention should be made of the progressively knowledgeable, professional choice of print materials. Using two or more interior papers is no more an offbeat practice. Paper excellent for reading may not be suitable for communicating colours. Also, laminated hard covers have, for the most part, become a thing of the past. Even bulky art albums are manufactured with soft covers or open spine.

A beautiful book is an amalgam of many details: choice of types, page proportions, paper(s), digital image processing, printing materials, and binding. All this may be too much for one person to handle, however. Collaboration and teamwork are therefore on the rise.


Do we have any distinct trends in book design? For an insider, it is difficult to comment. However, our colleagues from abroad have noted with slight envy that the overall quality of Estonian book design is good and worth taking seriously. We haven’t quite reached the levels of Germany or the Netherlands yet, but we are closing in on them. Anyway, spotlight should be shone on our cover designs which are typically tasteful, eloquent, and theme-appropriate.


Mart Anderson

Chair of the Jury

25 Kauneima raamatu žürii



Mart Anderson, 
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Tiina Kaalep
Estonian Publishers’ Association

Kadi Kiipus
National Library of Estonia

Karel Korp
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Arvo Pihl
Association of Estonian Printing Industry

Agnes Ratas
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Endla Toots,
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Parem poolne tekst



Did the extraordinary year of 2020 reflect in any way upon Estonian children’s literature or book design? Probably not, at least not directly. Perhaps one year is too short a period for the pandemic and the accompanying tensions to manifest in texts. In any case, the overall amount of children’s books printed has remained unchanged from the past few years. Even the trends and tendencies, and also designers are largely the same. The quality is nothing to worry about – as testified by numerous exhibitions all over the world. It is a pleasure to see the number of publications ignoring even the basic design principles dropping year by year. It goes without saying that, by no means underestimating the importance of design, illustration takes centre stage in a children’s book. More concretely, Estonian book illustration might be categorised, albeit subjectively, as follows:


· Traditional style, largely based on watercolour.

· A more youthful approach leaning towards grotesque and defying the classical drawing techniques.

· Sensitive style characterised by refined detailing, originating in printmaking.

· A more masculine, stylistically varied approach practised by a handful of male artists.


This year’s longlist also included several children’s books focusing on global problems or existential matters, catching the eye with exciting illustrations and compelling design. Authored by book designers of the younger generation. A closer look, however, reveals an outstanding tendency: scant representation of designers in their thirties and total absence of the twenty-something generation. Perhaps this generation has no interest in designing paper books? I don’t think so! Directories listing young illustrators are readily available at bookstores. A deficit of opportunities is a much likelier explanation. The average publisher seems to be rather conservative and unwilling to take risks. Obviously it is much safer to employ familiar and tested designers: smooth work process is guaranteed, and the reader, too, is accustomed to the already established visual language. A reasonable and well-motivated model for a business but counterproductive for the advancement of book illustration. Let us hope that writers and publishers will take notice of the young and hitherto unknown illustrators who might bring new energy into the Estonian book illustration scene. To round off, here’s a paraphrase of last year’s most popular catchphrase: “Let’s stay creative!”


Urmas Viik Chair of the Jury

5 Kauneima raamatu žürii



Kadi Kiipus, 
National Library of Estonia

Kadi Kurema, 
Association of Estonian Printmakers

Anne Linnamägi
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Jüri Mildeberg, 
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Viive Noor, 
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Annika Reiljan, 
Estonian Publishers’ Association

Liis Sein,
Estonian Children’s Literature Centre

Kertu Sillaste, 
Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union

Urmas Viik, 
Estonian Artist’s Association