School of Art

School of Art Professor Philip Zimmermann (Illustration + Design) was a winner in the AIGA ‘50 Books | 50 Covers’ competition for the best designed books of 2020 with his book, “Delirium.” 

Zimmermann retired in January of 2019 after 10 years of teaching at the University of Arizona.

The competition, established in 1923, is considered the most competitive and coveted honor for book design. AIGA, the professional association for design, had 696 book and cover design entries from 36 countries this year. ’50 Books | 50 Covers’ recognizes and showcases design excellence from a year marked by unparalleled change. 

“Because it is so competitive, I was very surprised and happy to learn that I had been selected as one of the 50 best design books of 2020,” he said. “This year, they changed the qualifying rules slightly and lowered the number of books that had to be in the edition from 100 to 25. This allowed me to apply for the first time, since I usually make very short-run editions of my artists’ books.”   

The 2020 winning selections will be archived in the AIGA Design Archives – a permanent, accessible, and historic collection of notable graphic design – and the AIGA collection at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University’s Butler Library in New York City. 

>> AIGA announces the ’50 Books | 50 Covers’ 2020 winners
>> Delirium, Philip Zimmermann (2020)

“Never had they thought their judgments, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs more unshakeable.”

“Delirium” is a book based on a dream, a feverish dream by the hero, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov from the Fyodor Dostoyevsky classic, “Crime and Punishment.” Zimmerman was inspired by a strangely prophetic passage near the end of the book written in 1866 that reads in part:

“He had dreamed that the whole world was doomed to fall victim to some terrible, as yet unknown and unseen pestilence spreading to Europe from the depths of Asia. Everyone was to perish, except for certain, very few, chosen ones. Some new trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged themselves in men’s bodies. … Never had they thought their judgments, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs more unshakeable. … Entire settlements, entire cities and nations would be infected and go mad. Everyone became anxious, and no one understood anyone else; each thought the truth was contained in himself alone, and suffered looking at others, beat his breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know whom or how to judge, could not agree on what to regard as evil, what as good. They did not know whom to accuse, and whom to vindicate.”

Looking for a text to use for his visual book about the coronavirus pandemic, Zimmerman selected this as “most powerful and apropos.”

“That … one small paragraph from perhaps the most famous of Dostoyevsky’s novels, struck me as the most startling if for no other reason than it’s prescience.”

“Delirium” by Philip Zimmermann

Zimmerman found that many of the web illustrations online in the early days of the pandemic to be “stunning …  surprisingly lush and jewel-like. The colors used were often saturated and seductive.” He manipulated the images, changed the color and converted them into large half-tone patterns.

And he returned to the feverish dream throughout the book’s narrative. 

“I wanted the large full-bleed images to be the theatrical visual accompaniment to that short text: hallucinogenic and furiously color saturated, and using the highly lurid language of a feverish nightmare.”

Delirium is printed in 2020 by archival pigmented inkjet onto Mohawk acid-free paper, 60 pages, in an edition of 30, handbound by the artist, and signed and numbered. The book comes in an archival, protective, phase box. The dimensions are 37cm x 28.5cm x 1.5cm (14.5″ x 11.25″ x 5/8″).