Adult Fiction shortlist

Karla Aryee - Winner

My cover design was hand-made using the paper-weaving technique, which involves strips of paper being interwoven to create a grid consisting of one or more pictures. 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 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 that make it stand out.

Judges comments:

'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’

Bernardine Evaristo

‘I was immediately drawn to your cover, heart to heart. There was something about the layers, unexpected elements, energy, playfulness, tangibility of the technique you used, that really held all the threads of this massive book. The photographed face of a Black woman really spoke to me, the clarity of her being, but paired with her partially obscured- made her both real but also felt like she could be many. It feels like London to me, exciting and on the move. I feel like the back cover could have had more of that bold energy in celebrating the quotes and taglines but for me you really nailed the heart of this book and made a cover that would draw me in to find out more’

Anna-Maria Nabirye, guest judge

‘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’

Richard Bravery, Art Director – Penguin General

‘The spirit, and cut-and-paste aesthetic of this design, resonated with me immediately. It particularly put me in mind of Amma and her world. Karla has also thoughtfully inter-woven the symbols used in the text design, which create texture and rhythm’

Clare Skeats, guest judge

‘This design is full of life. The initial impact is an abundance of colour, pattern and words. Then, tuning into the face behind, the layering of personal response comes through. A unique cover’

Jim Stoddart, Art Director – Penguin Press

‘This design just catches the mood and energy of London and Modern Britain. The tone feels perfect for the book. Layers and textures and the eye-catching type set within. I would buy this book. Great spine too’

Jon Gray, Deputy Art Director – Penguin General

Isabelle Poulson - 2nd Place

My design aims to represent the key themes from the novel Girl, Woman, Other. At first glance, the design appears to overtly represent the novel’s focus on the lives of black women in Britain. However, on closer look, the disposition of the image alludes to other aspects of the novel. In particular, this aims to represent both the complexity of each individual character’s identity and the interlocking narratives of the characters' lives as a whole. Through this, the overarching theme of human connection and interdependency is shown.

Judges Comments:

‘There’s something very enigmatic and intriguing about this design with echoes of West African face masks. As I looked at it, I found myself turning my head to the side to try and work out what I was seeing. The combination of the unusual but striking colour scheme along with the strange facial image makes it a fascinating image with hidden depths’

Bernardine Evaristo

‘This is such a beautiful, powerful image, one I would gladly have on my wall. I loved seeing the unapologetic Blackness of this face in this style, the detail and beauty that transcends gender. Representation is so important and you nailed it. The layered element for me speaks to both the complexity in the stories and each person's life but also the fragmented reflections and expectations we as onlookers give to these women and people. The colouring is both powerful, bold and sensual, something that feels like a really strong element of the book’

Anna-Maria Nabirye, guest judge

‘Conceptually I loved this design. It’s so distinctive and well-articulated. The gaze is so compelling. I love the unconventional placement of the type’

Richard Bravery, Art Director – Penguin General

‘An ambitious composition, that successfully integrates type with a sophisticated illustration. The stylised face with its direct gaze, works extremely well to communicate the theme of identity, in a way that feels progressive and new’

Clare Skeats, guest judge

‘This cover jumps out with colour, shape and type juxtaposing – making a classic poster cover’

Jim Stoddart, Art Director – Penguin Press

‘A really eye-catching composition, this was one of my favourites from the outset. Great use of colour and texture and, above all, composition. The way the type is integrated within the illustration. A really strong, effective cover’

Jon Gray, Deputy Art Director – Penguin General

Mollie Boardman - 3rd Place

Mollie Boardman's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

The concept behind my book cover design is character-driven but influenced by the abstract format of Bernardine Evaristo’s writing. From my research, it was clear that many books about black women or black feminism have very similar cover compositions and colour schemes that seemed ineffective for Girl, Woman, Other. I really wanted to draw upon the uniqueness that is present due to the poetic flow of the narrative and the variety of strong characters – a boldness I feel I have shown through my colour palette.

Judges comments:

‘It’s a simple and symbolic image. In my imagination the ‘eye’ represents the multiple I’s (characters) in the book who are inviting the reader into their lives while also looking out at - us, the reader, their people, society; the red mouth shape represents their voices - speaking, being heard as well as seen’

Bernardine Evaristo

‘I love the colour, the power, boldness and uniqueness of your cover. I love that you saw and felt something different in this book and translated it into your cover. There is a false narrative hangover in some aspects of culture about the limitations of Blackness, or Blackness as a monolith, I love that you saw the fullness of this book and those represented in it and then allowed your imagination and cover to be as full and unexpected as the book. I love the joy and playfulness that is held in your work.’

Anna-Maria Nabirye, guest judge

‘This is such a joyful cover, the colours leap off the page and the simplicity of the layout compliments the avantgarde illustrations so well. Wonderful’

Richard Bravery, Art Director – Penguin General

‘The colour palette is a real head-turner and I can imagine this bold, stylish and optimistic design working brilliantly in various print and digital formats. It's a highly plausible and commercially-aware cover – I can already see the tote bags!’

Clare Skeats, guest judge

‘This cover was above all joyful and it just stood out. The simple use of bold flat colour and the composition of the illustration make you want to pick it up’

Jon Gray, Deputy Art Director – Penguin General

Evy Olivia Diepenbroek

Evy Olivia Diepenbroek's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

It was difficult to visualise something that reflects all subjects, so I tried to focus on how the characters feel. The hands are representing topics and the characters' relationships between them. Some are pulling, stuck, being played with, and some pick up the pieces. The red thread represents the thread of the story and what can be pushed around. Lastly, the one thing we all have in common is our hands, it’s just what you do with your own. It doesn't immediately give away the story but hopefully generates curiosity.

Mae Dunham

Mae Dunham's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

I wanted to create a cover design for Girl, Woman, Other which would reflect the deep authenticity of the themes: feminism, gender identity, human connection and interdependence. Once I had focused on this, I realised they linked to love, relationships, and family. The textures and outline are unique, as are the 12 voices of the characters. Creating my cover by lino printing means the work has imperfections and flaws just as humans do. The cover bears the scars of imperfect process, which is beautiful in its own flawed way, just like all the women in this book.

Poppy Loughtman

My design draws from the themes of feminism and gender identity within the book. I liked that each woman had their own unique voice and I wanted to represent all the complex personalities using abstract figures as well as representing the powerful and dynamic writing style. I experimented with layout and bold colours to help it stand out on a bookshelf. I love using hand lettering in my work, so I chose to use it to emphasise the author’s name.

Natalia Nascimento Hartmann Mendes

Natalia Nascimento Hartmann Mendes's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

My cover design is based on the way Bernardine Evaristo has woven a narrative of human connections and race. To represent this idea, I used strips that intertwine, sometimes touching sometimes not, as if they were parts of fabric to be built. Not all the threads of the story directly linked, but as a whole they are connected. For each character there is one colour to represent their individuality, and the design attempts to represent the complexity of how they interact. Retro typography interweaves with contemporary, unornamented colour to reflect the way the book’s narrative shifts between the past and the present.

Lauren Sharples

Lauren Sharples's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

Girl, Woman, Other, a novel faithfully depicting the Black British experience, warrants a cover equally devoted to the interconnectivity of the twelve women and nonbinary characters in its pages; one illustration does not fit all. My design is a tapestry of modern British iconography but, by interlacing it with traditional Adinkra symbols used to represent each character on their chapter pages, ultimately celebrates the diaspora. Formulated in a mosaic where iterations of race, gender, class, and sexuality are in the foreground, this cover reflects the form of traditional Adinkra cloths and gives each character the space to be celebrated.

Lucie Tranova

Lucie Tranova's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

Do you know what it is like to be underestimated? Or not being allowed to speak up? Or being laughed at because you feel love for the same gender? Look at the girl with a butterfly on her lips preventing her from speaking up. But just like flowers, women grow in beauty and strength, no matter how hard it is. You can stand for yourself. Your rights. You are allowed to love and be loved. Let all those buried feelings come alive. The cover is about frustration but also about boldness and strength, about women, girls, and others.

Julia Villard

Julia Villard's cover design of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

When reading the book I was intrigued by the diversity of characters and voices depicted and how strongly their identity is portrayed through their language. The characters in this book are touching, bold, strong, and the flow of speech through the pages fascinated me. I wanted to reflect this through a typographic cover. I created this cover using letterpress, drawing inspiration from archives of protest and theatre posters. Each letter has its unique flaws, reflecting how our identity is mirrored in our language and speech.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more