Penguin Random House announces the winning covers for its student Design Award

2016 marks the ten year anniversary of launching the Design Award, which provides an opportunity for Art or Design students to experience real cover design briefs first-hand. The winner for each of the three categories; Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction and Children’s, each receives a work placement within the Penguin Random House UK design studios, as well as a £1,000 cash prize.

Since the launch of this competition, there have been 7,724 cover submissions by students from 130 UK and international universities. The work experience opportunity is a great way for students to hit the ground running in a working environment. Two entrants now work at Penguin Random House and there have been 17 winning students across the 3 categories. In 2016 the award had a record breaking of 1,639 entries.

The categories for 2016 are: Children’s Cover Award - Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner; Adult Fiction Cover Award - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; Adult Non-Fiction cover Award -How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.

The winners for 2016 are:

Ailsa Johnson (Children’s Prize winner)

Ailsa Johnson (Children’s Prize winner):
Student at the University of Edinburgh

“When thinking about the book I considered the setting of 1930’s Germany, and the sharp contrast between town life and the lights of Berlin. The train scene is quite tense – Emil has already been getting wound up thinking about the police and about the money in his pocket; and now he has to sit on a train, alone, and make sure nothing happens, all while worrying about Berlin. I wanted to use this scene because it’s where the story really kicks off, but it doesn’t give much away to the reader, either.”

Judges comments:

  • “The design conveys a real sense of story, inviting us into the book – making us want to find out what’s going on. Very clever and very funny.” Anthony Browne, Author and Illustrator of children’s books
  • “It’s really exciting to see how these designers and illustrators interpret such a beloved classic as Emil and the Detectives. Overall, the standard was incredibly high. I was awed by the talent! Excellent work all round.” Author and Illustrator, Sophy Hen
  • What fantastic storytelling in the design! I loved this cover, really accomplished composition, humorous touches and attention to detail. Definitely our winner!” Francesca Dow – Managing Director, Penguin Random House UK Children’s 
  • Our stand-out winner – a very accomplished illustration, with fabulous detail, combined with great design” Anna Billson – Art Director, Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Zack Crook (Adult Fiction Prize winner)

Zack Crook (Adult Fiction Prize winner):
Student at the University of Central Lancashire

“With my cover, I decided to focus on the language famously used by Anthony Burgess in his novel. I picked out words from the language I thought related to the themes in the book and illustrated this on the cover using my own typographic style which I tried to relate to the dystopian future setting of the book. I then started to pick out details in the typography such as Alex’s face in orange and then also the name of the book in black.”

Judges comments:

  • “I was immediately drawn to the clever idea of using the language as the only device on the cover” Alexandra Shulman - Editor-in-Chief, Vogue UK
  • “We loved how this brought Burgess’s remarkable language on to the front of the cover. It’s a clever, intellectual solution and that seems right for this book. Also a fantastic piece of design” Joanna Prior – Managing Director, Penguin General Books
  • “So good to see a typographical solution, almost the only one submitted. I love the simple confidence of the design and typography” Jim Stoddart – Art Director, Penguin Press
Zachary Wieland (Adult Non-Fiction Prize winner)

Zachary Wieland (Adult Non-Fiction Prize winner):
Student at the University of Texas

“Caitlin Moran is taking a pen to dated definitions of feminism that exist today and starting a new conversation about being a woman that needs to be had. I wanted this cover to reflect what the book represents as a whole, as Moran shares her fresh take on what has begun to feel like a dated and overlooked topic. This new cover pulls design elements from feminist non-fiction novels of the 1970s and ’80s but looks as though Moran took her own pen to it and pulled out everything we didn't know that we needed to know about it.”

Judges comments:

  • ‘It’s as if Caitlin herself had taken a pen and underlined the most important words and phrases. Bold, clean and refreshingly simple’ Suzanne Dean – Art Director, Vintage
  • ‘Zachary has produced a very confident package which is influenced by classic design but feels cool and relevant’ Richard Ogle – Art Director, Transworld
  • ‘I love the confidence and assertiveness of this design. It looks like it really means business’ Tracey Thorn, Everything But The Girl

Speaking at the London awards ceremony, Tom Weldon, Penguin Random House UK’s C.E.O said:

“The Design Award was first launched in 2007 as an opportunity for students on an Art or Design course to engage in design for publishing during their studies and to experience real jacket-design briefs first-hand.

The award has gone from strength-to-strength and is now part of our Creative Responsibility strategy which we launched earlier this year. Other companies talk about Corporate Responsibility, while we talk about Creative Responsibility and this is incredibly important to us. Creative people imagine, they invent, they solve problems and they get things done. Unfortunately we don’t all have an equal opportunity to meet our creative potential and this has been identified as the creativity gap. The creativity gap exists because of inequality in the UK and it’s our missions to help close this gap.The Penguin Random House Design Award and our close working with Colleges to find and nurture emerging creative talent is just one of the ways we do this.”

To see the full shortlist or for more information on entering the award visit  The 2017 award will launch in October - more details will be on our website soon.

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