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Winners of Penguin’s 2022 Cover Design Award revealed

Announcing the winners of the inaugural Cover Design Award, which were chosen from over 1,500 entries.

Today we have revealed the winners of our inaugural Cover Design Award, which has seen aspiring creatives redesign the covers of books from Bernardine Evaristo, Dara McAnulty and Robin Stevens.

Formerly known as the Student Design Award, the award’s new name reflects how this year, for the first time, applications were opened to anyone interested in becoming a designer, regardless of their higher education status. Around 20% of the shortlist were able to submit this year because of the eligibility change.

The winning designs were chosen from over 1,500 entries by a judging panel made up of Managing Directors and Art Directors from across Penguin Random House UK, as well as guest judges from the design and publishing industry, including Robin Stevens, the author of Murder Most Unladylike. Also on the judging panel were Nathan Burton, the designer of the published cover for Diary of a Young Naturalist, Harry Woodgate, the award-winning author and illustrator who previously won the Non-Fiction category of the Cover Design Award in 2018, Nina Tara, the illustrator of the Murder Most Unladylike series, Claire Skeats, book designer, and Anna-Maria Nabirye, a multi-disciplinary artist who read the audiobook for Girl, Woman, Other.

Adult Fiction Cover Award (Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo)

First place: Karla Aryee

Second place: Isabelle Poulson

Third place: Mollie Boardman

L - R: Karla Aryee, Isabelle Poulson, Mollie Boardman

Talking about the concept behind their design, winner Karla said:

"My cover design was hand-made using the paper-weaving technique. Interweaving pictures of multiple women enhances the book’s theme of interconnectivity between the twelve characters. I integrated adinkra symbols into the cover design as well, as they have been used throughout the book to symbolise each character’s story and create a strong sense of identity. Pairing the adinkra symbols with a vibrant dashiki pattern helped bring life to the cover design by introducing vivid, contrasting colours."

'It’s a book cover, a poster and a work of art - all three'

Bernardine Evaristo

Author of the book, Bernardine Evaristo said: "The winning design is stunning, creative, surprising and bold while also being multi-referential and complex with an imaginative use of the Ghanaian Adinkra symbols. It’s a book cover, a poster and a work of art - all three."

Richard Bravery, Art Director at Penguin General said:

"I was immediately floored by the spirit of this cover, it has so much energy and colour and identity. The woven elements marry so well to the woven narrative of the story."

Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award (Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty)

First place: Lilja Cardew

Second place: Nancy Jackson

Third place: Zofia Chamienia

L - R: Lilja Cardew, Nancy Jackson, Zofia Chamienia

Talking about the concept behind their design, winner Lilja said:

"I kept coming back to the way the natural world around Dara was a grounding force for his anxiety. Lying in deep grass is soothing, at least to me. All the senses are heightened. The smell of the earth and grass. The rustling and crackling of the insects, yet intense silence rises from the soil. I relate to Dara’s attachment to nature, and the more I drew, the narrower the view became, until green grass represented the nuances, all too often overlooked that Dara writes about so beautifully."

'Lilja’s design has stunningly embodied the core of the book by elevating what we see every day'

dara mcanulty

Author of the book, Dara McAnulty said: "Lilja’s design has stunningly embodied the core of Diary by elevating what we see every day. The angle, which I have positioned myself in for most of my childhood watching insects and listening to every sound is perfectly captured here. There’s a special order about the design that really appeals to me, the lines have a wild logical sequence. I love it!"

Guest judge Harry Woodgate commented: "There is something wonderfully calm and expressive about this design. Through the simplicity of its textures, the different shades of green and the loose pencil work, it has captured the essence of Dara’s writing – immediate, enchanting, and grounded."

Art Director for Ebury, Loulou Clark added: "I loved the connection to nature that comes through the textures and perspective of this artwork. Just so perfect for the book. And the naïve hand drawn lettering put me in mind of indie movies, which is perfect for the younger market we’d like to reach.."

Children's Cover Award (Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens)

First place: Cassia Samson

Second place: Charlotte Jones

Third place: Rebecca Sheerin

L - R: Cassia Samson, Charlotte Jones, Rebecca Sheerin

Talking about the concept behind their design, winner Cassia said:

"Whilst reading the book, one of my favourite parts were Hazel’s notes, it brought a real sense of fun. As it is written from Hazel’s perspective, her note-taking role is an integral part of the story and narrative, so my concept stemmed from that. The focus of the cover concept is the note and paper. With the papers falling from her briefcase, it sets up Hazel's role, indulging in the sense of mystery with her ‘PRIVATE’ book. I wanted the illustration to reflect the 1930s when it is set, inspired by covers of Enid Blyton’s books. The colour palette was important to make bold and complimentary, and I also wanted the girls to be dressed in 1930s English boarding school clothes to help visualise the characters but leave a sense of mystery by not revealing their faces until you turn to the back."

'The cover reads as both a school story and a children's murder mystery, and I can really see where it would sit in bookshops.'

robin stevens

Author of the book, Robin Stevens commented: "This has so many wonderful details! I love the lettering of the title, the bright colour palette and the way it showcases the friendship and connection between my two heroines. The cover reads as both a school story and a children's murder mystery, and I can really see where it would sit in bookshops."

Anna Billson, Art Director for Penguin Random House Children's said: "A brilliant and very accomplished design. It cleverly depicts the friendship and period setting of the book in a contemporary way that will appeal to the target audience. Smart use of colour with perfectly weighted combinations and connections between the multiple elements. The development from initial design to finished cover was spot on, making it a very much deserved winner!" 

Francesca Dow, Managing Director for Penguin Random House Children's, added: "This is a wonderful, confident, cover that captures the spark of the story beautifully and calls out, Pick Me Up! You’ve created a very accomplished striking design, that’s also full of fun and child-appeal. I love your title type, the logo design, the use of colour with the hot pink satchel."

The winner of each category will have a six-month mentorship with a designer at Penguin Random House, plus will receive a design kit package worth over £1,000. Those in second and third place receive a design kit package worth over £500 and a design kit package worth over £350 respectively. All packages include a Wacom tablet, and a year-long subscription to both Creative Review and creative learning platform, Skillshare.

Take a look in more detail at the winning designs, and see the 21 shortlisted covers.

Find out more about the Cover Design Award.