We’re ecstatic to unveil the award-winning poster for the 2023 National Book Festival, designed by fine artist, author and illustrator Lisa Congdon. Original artwork has traditionally been the visual centerpiece of the festival, and this year is no exception. Congdon recently won an American Illustration Award for her National Book Festival poster design.
You can download a high-resolution PDF of the poster, plus view and download other festival posters through the years from our National Book Festival poster gallery. More details about printed versions of the poster will be available closer to the date of the festival.
We sat down with Congdon to hear about her background and inspiration for the poster.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background as an artist.
A: I started my art career in a very unconventional way. Growing up, I never thought of myself as being artistic and, aside from loving to decorate my room as a kid and fashion as a teenager, I never remember having any particular interest in art or design. When I was in my twenties, I discovered art, design, museums, art and design books. But I never thought of myself as an artist; only someone who loved art and design. At 31 years old, I decided to sign up for a painting class. And that was where my own creative journey began!
Q: And then what came next?
A: From there I began painting and drawing outside of my 9-to-5 job. Eventually I started sharing my work online, and in 2007 I took the leap and went part time at my job. I loved it so much that, even though I was pretty broke, I left my job within a year to do freelance work and run an online shop. Meanwhile, I was making a lot of work, trying to hone my style. In 2008 I signed with an illustration agent and my illustration career began. It has continued to grow, slowly at first, then in more recent years, it has exploded. I now run a studio with two full-time employees, regular illustration assignments, gallery shows and a thriving e-commerce site.
Q: What interested you in contributing to this year’s National Book Festival?
A: I have to say first that it was such an honor, even to be considered! When I got the email inviting me to design this year’s poster I was flabbergasted. It was an immediate YES! I love books and book festivals are my jam. To have my artwork both promote and surround the festival was a dream come true. Designing posters is my favorite kind of illustration project.
Q: What was your creative process like for designing this year’s Festival poster? What was your inspiration?
A: I was really given full command of the poster design, and when a client really allows you to design the poster from the ground up, it’s very exciting! They basically said, “Do Lisa.” And so I did! I wanted to create something that was colorful and vibrant and eye catching. I love working on a grid and so that’s where I started, and then I added icons representing books, libraries, and writing, along with some fun, decorative elements. I also created some hand drawn type for the poster. I found out recently the poster won an American Illustration Award and I am really proud of it.
Q: Tell us about a book project you are proud of.
A: I have written and/or illustrated over a dozen books, and it’s hard to select a favorite. But, I am super proud of a book that just came out that I illustrated for legendary children’s book author Cynthia Rylant called “Rain.” It’s a love story about the magic of rain and stars my dog Milkshake.
The National Book Festival will take place on Saturday, Aug. 12 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Visit loc.gov/bookfest to learn more about attending the festival. A comprehensive schedule will be announced in the coming weeks on this blog.