‘It was a real pleasure to discover such a wealth of talented artists and I was hugely impressed with the way they responded to my novel’s cover redesign with such flair and originality. I wish we could have garlanded all the finalists as each design impressed on so many levels. A heartfelt thank you to all the participants and judges’

- Meera Syal, author of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

Winners

1st Place, Ella Garrett – Liverpool John Moores University

Ella Garrett's cover design of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

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. I also incorporated elements from Indian truck art, which is made to honour home and family, to maintain a connection to these things when uprooted from them. I used paper-cutting to create the shapes, pattern and type, making something visibly handmade. The rough edges produce a handcrafted, imperfect cover for a story about imperfect people and their imperfect relationships.

Comments from the judges:

‘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’ Meera Syal

‘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’ Greg Bunbury

‘Loved this design as soon as we saw it – so graphic, the whole package has been considered thoughtfully, love the vibrant colours’ Jason Smith – Art Director, Cornerstone

 ‘A fantastic cover – vibrant, tactile, and a superbly considered package – we all loved it. We instantly saw that the inspiration was from Indian matchbox art’ Suzanne Dean – Creative Director, Vintage

‘Beautiful, we loved the depth, the texture, the colours – the whole package is brilliant’ Loulou Clark – Art Director, Ebury

2nd Place, Joo Ann Loong – University of the West of England, Bristol

Joo Ann Loong's cover design of 'Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

I decided to use fire as the key visual motif as it narratively bookends the story without giving anything away. The fire on the back cover depicts the marriage at the beginning of the book, and the questionable promise of ‘happy endings’. On the other hand, the burning car on the front symbolises Deepak’s desperate actions towards the end, which eventually rekindles the friendship between the three women, echoing the overarching theme of friendship.

Comments from the judges:

‘Amazing colours – the pantone pink would jump off the shelf. Loved the unexpected nature of it, the title really plays against the image’ Jason Smith – Art Director, Cornerstone

‘A really delightful cover and a great approach to the brief. Very different from anything anyone else had done – so original’ Greg Bunbury

‘An amazing cover – I love the car, it’s got such character and the lettering is superb. The beautiful pink against the yellow background means it would really stand out in a bookshop’ Suzanne Dean – Creative Director, Vintage

‘Fabulous use of colour, it would jump out at you on the shelf. A beautiful, quirky illustration style – really original and unexpected’ Loulou Clark – Art Director, Ebury

3rd Place, Anna Podlipentseva – University of Hertfordshire (British Higher School of Art and Design, Moscow)

Anna Podlipentseva's cover design of 'Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

In my design, I combined a Punjabi embroidery pattern with London architecture by making the geometric elements of the pattern resemble rows of houses. This allowed me to reference both the area of London that the protagonists are from and the culture of the Indian diaspora that plays a central role in the novel. These two main references are supported on other levels like the colour palette referencing Punjabi textile or the author’s name stylized as a London street sign. My cover also reflects the general theme of domestic life and the life circumstances of the three protagonists.

Comments from the judges:

‘This tells you all you need to know about the story straight away – literally windows into women’s lives but with real elegance and depth. Anna really gets the Punjabi textile feel in the colour palette and layering’ Meera Syal

‘There’s so much narrative and story on the cover – it’s a great snapshot of London, really makes you feel like you’re there – and it’s a fantastic illustration’ Jason Smith – Art Director, Cornerstone

‘This was one of my favourite entries from the start. I really love how it encapsulates the themes and the narrative within the book. It beautifully captures my experience of reading the book and the motif of windows reflects how I felt exploring the characters and protagonist. Brilliantly executed and original’ Greg Bunbury

‘The colours in this design are fantastic and I like the fact that it references Punjabi embroidery, colours and texture. Anna has a real eye for detail. I love the characters, the windows on the world and the way the quotes run along the edge of the houses – just beautiful’ Suzanne Dean – Creative Director, Vintage

‘Jumped out at me from the moment I saw it. It’s so original – I love the illustration style and the colours that have been used are beautiful. I particularly liked how the type has been integrated in the little street sign. It’s all been so well considered and sets the scene of the book’ Loulou Clark – Art Director, Ebury

Shortlist

Zayna Ahamadeen – Leeds Arts University

Zayna Ahamadeen's cover design of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

My design focuses on newlyweds Chila and Deepak and the evolution of relationships in general. My vibrant colour palette reflects the extravagance of the Indian bridal wear worn by both puppets, together with the excited feelings of being young and in love but most importantly…unaware! I chose to let colour take the reins, as to me that is what Indian culture is all about. My playful, handcrafted typography is made to look like it was written by one of the girls themselves, a personal touch allowing the reader to feel included in their lives. My favourite detail is the linking of the puppets by interlocking rings, at first representing ‘tying the knot’, but then leading round to the deeper and darker truths behind wedlock. 

Amogh Bhatnagar – National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

Amogh Bhatnagar's cover design of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

The narrative of the book is very layered, and very personal. With my design for the cover, I wanted to incorporate the layering and the nuance by creating a patchwork quilt of sorts, through collage. Indian weddings, and the idea of marriage as a whole, seem to be a recurring theme in the story, so elements like the Groom’s horse, wedding jewellery, and marigold flowers make an appearance on the cover, along with a background inspired by Indian textiles, particularly Phulkari embroidery from Punjab, which is the native land of the main characters. There are smaller elements placed here and there which act as Easter eggs as you read into the story, like the camera and the pink tassels.

Loredana Burdo – Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University

Loredana Burdo's cover design off 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

My aim was to introduce the story through the cover — to help the viewer to get inside the story quickly. The arrangement of the faces of the three female characters establishes their close relationship, and also hints at the concept behind the title — that life has not always been positive and easy for these women. The composition also communicates some of the drama within their stories. The use of strong colours, patterns, and landmarks is meant to reflect the diversity within the cultural diaspora, but it also helps to bring out some of the wit and humour of the novel.

Dorrina Efah – The University of Northampton

Dorrina Efah's cover design of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

Where past book covers are solely centred around Asian culture, my concept represents the culture clash that the characters experience trying to find middle ground and identity between the norms of both their Asian and British communities. Clothes are known to express identity, by creating type from both western and traditional South Asian fabrics, it becomes approachable for audiences of any diaspora / background. The back alludes to the red mini dress Sunita wears along with a stain from her dying her hair as she experiments and tries to revive her youthful self. The burn is from Tania’s cigarette to represent tension.

Tasia Graham – University of the Arts London, London College of Communication

Tasia Graham's cover design of 'Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

I wanted the cover to focus on Indian culture combined with femininity and intimacy. There was much emphasis on the jewellery specifically 3 bangles for each woman. Referencing to  Sunita Chila, and Tania . I was fortunate to collaborate with Mathushaa Sagthidas of Indian descent who photographed beautiful traditional fabrics, hands and jewellery to reference from. The bangles represent womanhood, intimacy and identity, whilst the fabric represents tradition in Indian culture. The juxtaposition of the front and back cover represents the disconnect each woman faces with their culture and themselves.  

Angghitya Purwaningsih – Institut Teknologi Harapan Bangsa, Indonesia

Angghitya Purwaningsih's cover design of 'Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

For the general design, I took a contemporary theme with Indian nuances that I emerged from the shape of graphic elements and the bright colors. I chose Indian nuances as the main theme because the book Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, took the characterisation from India. For typography, I was inspired by types of typography that are entertaining and funny to give a humorous impression. For graphic elements, I was inspired by the typical Indian pattern shapes, which I simplified into simpler shapes. For colour, I was inspired by bright colors which are typical Indian colors, such as blue, pink, yellow, orange, and purple.

Andrea Veseth – University of Huddersfield

Andrea Veseth's cover design of 'Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee'

For my design, I wanted to use separate events in the book and put them together, comparing the likeness and themes that are repeated in the book. The story of a supporting character left a big impression on me, and I knew I wanted to incorporate what happened to her in my book design. The two cars on the front cover represent incidents where two characters lose something that means the world to them – the perpetrator both being their husbands. The typography and illustrations are isometric, which gives the design simplicity and depth. 

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