Today we have revealed the winners of the 2021 Student Design Award, which this year has seen students redesign the covers of books from Meera Syal, David Wallace-Wells and Benjamin Zephaniah.

The winning designs were chosen from over 2,000 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 Meera Syal. Also on the judging panel were Dapo Adeola, award-winning illustrator of the bestselling picture book Look Up!, visual artist Joy Yamusangie, creative director Greg Bunbury and graphic designers Clive Russell and Sabina Radeva.

Adult Fiction Cover Award (Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal)

First place: Ella Garrett, Liverpool John Moores University

Second place: Joo Ann Loong, University of the West of England, Bristol

Third place: Anna Podlipentseva – University of Hertfordshire (British Higher School of Art and Design, Moscow)

(L-R) Joo Ann Loong, Ella Garrett, Anna Podlipentseva

(L-R) Joo Ann Loong, Ella Garrett, Anna Podlipentseva

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

"My design reflects Meera Syal’s female protagonists, celebrating their shared heritage. I took inspiration from Indian matchbox art, which elevates a mundane household object into something beautiful, mirroring the book’s message that there’s beauty and value to be found in the ordinary and domestic."

Author of the book, Meera Syal said: "I totally got the Indian Matchbox /Truck Art vibe here! The handmade feel and the colour palette are so beautiful – humour plus melancholy so well balanced."

Guest judge Greg Bunbury said:

"A fantastic cover – all the judges loved it immediately. So well executed – if I’d done that work today I’d be extremely proud of it."

Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award (The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells)

First place: Megan Kerr, Edinburgh Napier University

Second place: Gretchen Altenberger, College for Creative Studies, USA

Third place: Thomas Ive, The Glasgow School of Art

(L-R) Gretchen Altenberger, Megan Kerr, Thomas Ive

(L-R) Gretchen Altenberger, Megan Kerr, Thomas Ive

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

"The book inspired my design through the feeling it gave me while reading, I pictured a scorched earth being stripped of its resources at the hands of the people it provides for. To achieve this imagery, I took subtle inspiration from the fragility of photographic film when burned to mirror the delicate state of the world today. The ‘Earth’ is burned away to reveal bursts of colour to hint at the effects of global warming, such as red representing the burning forests and blue to represent the rising sea levels. The image is smudged downwards to mimic a fingerprint to remind us how uniquely we each can impact the state of the world today and for the future."

Guest judge Joy Yamusangie commented: "I absolutely loved this design – I thought it was powerful, simple and effective. It was like staring into a black hole and having the feeling that it was widening and expanding – an amazing piece of design."

Art Director for Penguin General, Richard Bravery added: "A fantastic entry, this really stood out and there was a lot of consensus on how brilliant it is. I love it, I thought it was really well considered, the fingerprint took on an abyss-like quality that I kept on falling into – very accomplished."

Children's Cover Award (Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah)

First place: Aphra Blunt, University of Dundee

Second place: Sebastiano Fossali, University of Dundee

Third place: Mason Latter, Coventry University

(L-R) Sebastiano Fossali, Aphra Blunt, Mason Latter

(L-R) Sebastiano Fossali, Aphra Blunt, Mason Latter

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

"Benjamin Zephaniah’s poems enter with a bang. To create similar impact in my design, I used the imagery of a turkey bursting through a doorway – powerful and ready to challenge the reader, but with a playful twist. Taking inspiration from superhero posters – a genre popular with the age range and linking to the book’s own themes of heroism – I gave the turkey a bold stance, reinforced by a vibrant, Reggae inspired colour scheme. His shadow stretches down behind the title, hinting at more to come and implying, like the poems, that one turkey (or person’s) potential is bigger than they know."

Guest judge Dapo Adeola commented: "This cover was very much “it” from the jump for me. It does everything Aphra wanted it to do. We loved the front cover, we loved the turkey, we loved the type, we loved the spine and the back... perfect!"

Anna Billson, Art Director for Penguin Random House Children's said: "This cover stood out amongst the hundreds of entries from the minute we first saw it. All the elements, image, typography and colour combine perfectly – it’s spot on and there was no doubt that it was our winner." 

The winner of each category receives £1,000 in prize money, while those in second and third place receive a £500 cash prize and a £350 cash prize respectively.

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

Find out more about the Student Design Award.

Read more

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