As publication of the Australian National Dictionary second edition approaches, we thought we’d share the story behind the cover. We spoke to designer Sue Dani about her experience creating the covers for the dictionary.
What was the brief you were given?
The brief was very open, but key areas of consideration were that it had to reflect the Oxford look and feel, it had to be authoritative, striking, and functional as a reference title.
How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
The content of the dictionary was key as it is a window into our nation’s heritage, history and culture and I felt strongly that this aspect needed to be communicated in the concepts. In light of this, my explorations and experiments featured the use of beautiful works of some of our First Fleet artists, stunning Australian landscape photography and contemporary Australian textile artwork.
This reference title also had the potential to bridge the gap between library purchases and appeal to the collector or gift-giver. It needed to work on multiple levels if we were to gain a wider audience. To achieve this, I needed to consider how all the elements would work in unison to create something tactile and beautiful that people felt the compulsion to pick up, interact with and possess, but, at the same time, fulfilled the need to be practical, spine-out in a library environment. Examples of concepts are shown below:
(Please click to enlarge)
What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
Both these images resonated with me – the classic image of the waratah and the majestic king parrot. The rich colour palettes complemented the Oxford navy livery and helped to unify the two volumes.
What is your favourite thing about the cover?
The king parrot image – there is something about the striking quality of the composition that appeals to me. I began with this image and searched for a partner to complement it.
What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
Discovering and exploring the archives of beautiful Australian First Fleet imagery (the behind-the-scenes process of working through hundreds of images to find those that worked together to unify a two-volume product and case).
What was the most challenging aspect?
Working with the different types of cloth and quarter binding styles to find a combination that fit within our concept, budget and timeframes but also created the right visual message.
What is something about the design of this book we might not know?
The first edition was published in 1988 – the second edition has been 28 years in the making!