Penguin Random House UK reveals the winners of the 2017 Student Design Award

Winning Jackets

The three winning cover designs were announced tonight (Wednesday 21 June). The winners of the 2017 Student Design Award from each of the award categories will receive a work placement within the Penguin Random House UK design studios and £1,000 cash prize

The 2017 winners are:

  • Adult Fiction Cover Award – Madalyn Farley, Kingston University (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

  • Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award – Elliot Lee, University of Northampton (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)

  • Children’s Cover Award – Beth Ewens, Leeds College of Art (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend)

The winners were selected from a shortlist of 30 designs (10 in each category) by three judging panels consisting of Penguin Random House designers and Managing Directors and guest judges from across the design industry.  

According to the judges, the winning covers were chosen from a competitive field of 2,100 submissions because they each demonstrated an original interpretation of the brief, showed a good understanding of the marketplace and appealed to a contemporary readership. The judges were also impressed by the imaginative approaches and competent execution taken by each of the students.

The award, now in its eleventh year, aims to find the next generation of book cover designers by giving students the opportunity to experience real cover design briefs first-hand.

Commenting on this year’s award, Penguin Random House Art Director and one of the judges in the Adult Non-Fiction category, Jim Stoddart, said:

“Design is hugely important to everything we do at Penguin Random House. Great design helps to bring our authors’ words to life; it gives our books an identity and ensures they stand out whether on the bookshelf or a small screen.

“Working as a book cover designer is a challenging and sometimes demanding job, but it’s also deeply rewarding. There aren’t many design careers that let you experience so many diverse, exciting and creative briefs.

“The Student Design Award is a brilliant opportunity for our design teams to see what new and fresh perspectives young designers can bring to our iconic books.

“I want to congratulate all our winners for the bold, eye-catching designs they produced - and encourage them and all the shortlisted students to consider a career in cover design.”

2017 Student Design Award winning entries

Adult Fiction Cover Award: Madalyn Farley, Kingston University

“The left hand is significant in To Kill a Mockingbird as a key symbol of innocence, whereas the open palm suggests vulnerability – two key themes of the story that inspired me.

“I included the small bird-foot detailing in the creases of the hand to subtly reference the title without using the obvious mockingbird imagery. The writing in the creases of the hand refers to fate and is my way of linking the title to the story. The bold contrast in colours refers to racial divisions in 1930s America, another core theme in the book that inspired me to create this cover.”

To kill a mockingbird book cover

Judges’ comments:

  • “A bold, graphic solution. It’s a confident concept that catches your attention on first viewing but layers of meaning reveal themselves as you look. A worthy winner.” Richard Ogle – Art Director, Transworld

  • “This cover is bold, eye-catching and dramatic. The design invites you to pick it up. I love that the lettering is so small and the birds’ feet can be found, with a closer look, in the creases of the hand.” Suzanne Dean – Art Director, Vintage

  • “I love how this illustrated the main themes from the book with layers and simplicity: divisions of race, the accused being right-handed, swearing on the Bible in court. I think it works well that the title of such an iconic book is small and to be discovered.” Sarah Hyndman

Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award: Elliot Lee, University of Northampton

“My creative process initially started with researching old, American-style prison mugshots, followed by different representations of the height charts. Though the images of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were important to ideation, it was an old image of the famous Steve McQueen prison photo that was a huge influence on my final concept. I felt that the hand-drawn visceral lines provided me with the chilling and shocking aspect the book has, in a simple way.”

In cold blood, book cover

Judges’ comments:

  • “All five judges were drawn to the winning design. We liked its monochrome, stark clarity. The journey to the finished piece was interesting and the response to the art direction moved the design on to an even better result. We all loved it!” Joanna Prior – Managing Director, Penguin General Books

  • “A very enigmatic book cover that stood out from the start and achieved a unanimous first place. Full of atmosphere and not much else; it takes confidence to make something this simple work.” Jim Stoddart – Art Director, Penguin Press

  • “A unique cover. It leaves gaps for us to interpret the image which – brilliantly – can be read in more than one way. The sparse palette feels subtly chilling – a sophisticated choice considering how gratuitously covers in this genre can be treated.” David Pearson

Children’s Cover Award: Beth Ewens, Leeds College of Art

“The concept behind my design was to keep the tone of the cover classic while giving it a modern and rebellious twist. It was inspired by the iconic moment in the book where Adrian paints over his Noddy wallpaper with a tin of black vinyl paint.

“Being embarrassed by your childhood bedroom wallpaper is a feeling that many of the book’s readers making the transition into adolescence will be able to relate to. It is a theme of the book which has transcended time and is still as pertinent today as when it was first published back in 1982.”

The secret diary of adrian mole, book cover

Judges’ comments:

  • “Bold, funny, subversive – a great approach for Adrian Mole. The design really stands out and it makes you, as a reader, want to find out what’s going on in the story. Well done!” Francesca Dow – Managing Director, Penguin Random House UK Children’s

  • This cover really captured the essence of the book for me in an arresting but really funny way. It’s lively, playful, visually well considered and gets to the essence of Adrian’s story.” Nadia Shireen

  • “Instantly striking, clever design that works on many different levels – our stand-out winner.” Anna Billson – Art Director, Penguin Random House UK Children’s

  • “It really stands out on the shelf – visual impact, combined with a great idea, well executed – that’s all you need for a winning cover!” Caz Hildebrand

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