Winners of the 2019 Student Design Award revealed

SDA winners 2019

Penguin Random House UK last night revealed the winners of its 2019 Student Design Award at a prize-giving ceremony at its office in central London. 

The Student Design Award, now in its thirteenth year, aims to find the next generation of book cover designers by giving students the opportunity to experience real cover design briefs first-hand. The competition sees students reimagine iconic book covers across the award’s three categories: Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction and Children’s.

The winning designs, which were chosen from a record-breaking 2,313 entries, are:


Adult Fiction Cover Award (Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami)

First place: Bethany Rush, Falmouth University

Second place: Josie Staveley-Taylor, Falmouth University

Third place: Louis Gabaldoni, Norwich University of the Arts

Fiction winners
From L-R: Josie Staveley-Taylor (2nd), Bethany Rush (1st) and Louis Gabaldoni (3rd)

Taking about the concept behind her design, winner Bethany said:

"My redesign of Murakami's Norwegian Wood focuses on the characters’ desire for understanding pain through letter-writing. I looked to create something that reflects both the author’s story and the way in which he writes it. By creating a detailed and sympathetic response to the brief, I wanted to create the same sense of symbolic possibility Murakami uses to construct his narrative.

"Each stamp is a representation of the main characters, and I have appropriated the traditional Japanese style using the symbols, metaphors and allegories that have been weaved throughout the book."

Fiction award guest judge Noma Bar, said: 

“I love the letter-writing allegory; it stands out from the other solutions. It’s a great way to express the relationship without showing figures or romantic symbolism. Discovering Reiko and Midori’s names on the stamps and realizing that each stamp resembles the characters was a great surprise that took the cover storytelling to the next level."


Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award (The Establishment by Owen Jones)

First place: Toby Clarke, University of Northampton

Second place: Lewis Bowness, Nottingham Trent University

Third place: Samuel Ayres, Solent University

SDA Non-fiction winners
From L-R: Samuel Ayres (3rd), Toby Clarke (1st), Lewis Bowness (2nd)

Taking about the concept behind his design, winner Toby said:

"My clean and minimalistic design demonstrates the main themes of censorship and authority. This is achieved by the use of official-looking redacted text which has been manipulated to represent a Government letter. It allows for the concept to express a cold, harsh and unreceptive tone through use of its restricted colour palette and rigid grid design. The use of redaction creates imagery of a metaphorical imposing brick wall which further emphasizes the themes of obstruction and the prevention of information from the Establishment."

Non-Fiction guest judge Seb Lester said:

“The winning entry combines strong concepts with strong execution. The cover is stark and beautiful. Heraldry embodies the Establishment in many respects and I like the designer’s clever spin on this visual language to reflect themes in the book.” 

Owen Jones, author of The Establishment, also added:

“An incredible cover. Really gets the sense of what I was trying to do with The Establishment which was to convey that sense that those with power wish to hide from us the truth, the reality about what’s happening in our society.”


Children’s Cover Award (Wonder by RJ Palacio)

First place: Sian McKeever, University of the Arts London

Second place: Sam Prentice, Arts University Bournemouth

Third place: Beatrice Simpkiss, Arts University Bournemouth

Children's cover award winners
From L-R: Beatrice Simpkiss (3rd), Sian McKeever (1st), Sam Prentice (2nd)

Talking about the concept behind her design, winner Sian said:

"I wanted to capture the main character’s perspective of the world as a little boy. His world is whimsical and ever-expanding, full of curiosities, just like outer space. Noting the character’s love of Star Wars, I illustrated Auggie as a duck in a space helmet. The duck is in reference to the character’s self-portrait he draws at school.

"Lastly, the placement of the duck in the centre of the page is to symbolize how the other characters in the story orbit around Auggie’s life experiences."

Children's guest judge Jan Bielecki said: 

“A wonderfully vibrant cover. The level of abstraction is measured and effective and the bold type makes the whole cover fly".

All three winners will receive a work placement within the Penguin Random House UK design studios, as well as a £1,000 cash prize. Those in second place will receive a £500 cash prize, whilst those in first place will receive a £350 cash prize.

The winners were selected from a shortlist of 30 designs (10 in each category) by three judging panels; consisting of Art Directors from across Penguin Random House UK as well as guest judges from the design and publishing industry, including: Noma Bar, Seb Lester, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Jamie Keenan, Laura Ellen Anderson, and Jan Bielecki.

Commenting on this year’s three winners, Jim Stoddart, Art Director for Penguin Press, said:

“The winning designs stood apart for their unique and original interpretation of the brief, whilst perfectly capturing the themes and narrative of each book. They were all united in bringing to life simple yet hugely powerful concepts, with bold style and impeccable execution. Congratulations to Bethany, Toby and Sian for all their hard work and incredible vision.”

Find out more about the Student Design Award here.

2019 SDA winners

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