Adult Fiction Cover Award

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

‘Evocative, entertaining, sexy and funny; but then Murakami is one of the best writers around’ Time Out

When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marched into his life and he had to choose between the future and the past.

‘Such is the exquisite, gossamer construction of Murakami’s writing that everything he chooses to describe trembles with symbolic possibility’ Guardian

‘This book is undeniably hip, full of student uprisings, free love, booze and 1960s’ pop, it’s also genuinely emotionally engaging, and describes the highs of adolescence as well as the lows’ Independent on Sunday

‘A heart-stoppingly moving story... Murakami is, without a doubt, one of the world’s finest novelists’ Herald 

The cover used in the briefing notes was created in 2012 by Suzanne Dean, Creative Director at VINTAGE and illustrator and designer Noma Bar.

The Brief

Haruki Murakami’s books and stories have been bestsellers in Japan as well as internationally. His writing is vivid, dazzling, experimental and imaginative and your cover design should reflect this.

Try to get your hands on a copy of the book in order to get a sense of the writing, this will only help to inspire your design.

The story is well known both in celluloid and print so it is essential to come at it from a fresh angle. It should appeal to a contemporary, enquiring and literary readership.

Try to design a new cover for a new generation of readers, avoiding the obvious clichés. Originality is key.

Your cover design needs to include all the cover copy as supplied and be designed to the specified design template (B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine 25 mm wide). Please refer to the Submissions Details page for full details of the spec and how to submit your entry.

Copyright must be cleared for all images used in your cover design and you must include a credit line on the back cover of your design for any third party images used. For example: ‘Cover photograph by Joe Bloggs’.

What the judges are looking for:

We are looking for a striking cover design that is well executed, has an imaginative concept and clearly places the book for its market. While all elements of the cover (front, back and spine) need to work together, remember that the front cover has to be able to work on its own, and to be eye-catching within a crowded bookshop setting as well as on screen at a reduced size for digital retailers.

The winning design will need to:

  • have an imaginative concept
  • be an original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to the broadest possible audience for the book
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from other books that it will be competing against in the market
  • be able to sit on the shelves of a supermarket or ebook store as easily as it sits on those of more traditional bookshops 

The Prizes

1st Prize

The winner of each category will be invited to spend four weeks in the Penguin Random House Design Studios on a work placement*, working on live briefs. The work placement will be paid at the current London Living Wage rate (subject to any applicable taxation) and the winner will also receive a cash prize of £1,000.

*Subject to agreeing terms in advance. Entrants must be eligible to work in the UK.

2nd Prize

The winner of the 2nd Prize will receive a £500 cash prize.

3rd Prize

The winner of the 3rd Prize will receive a £350 cash prize.

All the shortlisted entrants will be invited to an award ceremony where the winners will be announced, and at which an exhibition of all the shortlisted designs will be on display.

The Judges

Penguin Random House Judges

Suzanne Dean

Suzanne Dean – Art Director, Vintage

Suzanne graduated from Kingston University, where she studied Graphic Design. Her first job was at The Greenhouse, designing food packaging and brochures. A year later she was asked if she might be interested in publishing. She joined Penguin Books as a Senior Designer, working for Hamish Hamilton. Three years later she joined Macmillan, to work on the Picador list. Five years later she joined Random House as Art Director for Vintage Books, whose many imprints include Jonathan Cape, Chatto & Windus and Harvill Secker. Here she established the design for the Vintage Classics list. She has worked on a wide range of cover designs for authors such as Mark Haddon, Haruki Murakami, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Yuval Noah Harari, Richard Flanagan and Rachel Kushner.

Richard Ogle

Richard Ogle – Art Director, Transworld

Richard graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a Graphic Design degree. He was drawn into publishing through book cover design agency The Senate and has never looked back. He became Art Director at Transworld Publishing, within Penguin Random House, in 2015. He was previously Art Director at Cornerstone, also in the PRH Group, for thirteen years. He has also worked at Pan Macmillan as Associate Art Director, and Headline Books as a Senior Designer

Over the years he has worked on a range of cover designs for books, in all genres, including novels by John Grisham, Kate Atkinson, James Herbert, Paula Hawkins, James Patterson, Shari Lapena, Wilbur Smith, P.G. Wodehouse, Lisa Jewell, Sophie Kinsella and Douglas Coupland, plus autobiographies by Peter Kay, Tony Blair, David Jason, Rod Stewart, Steve Coogan and John Cleese.

Jason Smith

Jason Smith – Art Director, Cornerstone

After graduating from the University of Derby with a BA Honours in Graphic Design, Jason moved to London to further his education at Central Saint Martins. He began his career working for a company which specialized in packaging for CDs and DVDs, combining his passion for music and film with design.

The move into publishing was a natural progression and he secured a job at Random House as designer, quickly followed by a more senior role. As Art Director of Cornerstone, Jason works on a list of successful authors including James Patterson, Helen Dunmore, Tony Parsons, Tim Peake and Katie Price to name a few.

Guest Judges 

Noma Bar

Noma Bar – Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Artist 

Noma Bar is an Israel-born graphic designer, illustrator and artist. His work has appeared in many media publications including: Time Out London, BBC, Random House, The Observer, The Economist and Wallpaper*. Bar has illustrated over one hundred magazine covers, published over 550 illustrations and released three books of his work: Guess Who - The Many Faces of Noma Bar in 2008, Negative Space in 2009 and Bittersweet 2017, a 680 page 5 volume monograph produced in a Limited Edition of 1000 published by Thames & Hudson.

Bar's work has become well known throughout the world, winning many industry awards; more recently a prestigious Gold Clio for his animation & direction work for the NewYork Presbyterian Hospital, a campaign to highlight new frontiers in cancer treatments. He has also won a Yellow Pencil award at the D&AD Professional Awards and his London Design Festival exhibition 'Cut It Out', was selected as one of the highlights of the festival. The project was nominated in the graphics category for the Design Museum, Designs Of the Year.

Jamie Keenan

Jamie Keenan – Designer

Jamie Keenan worked in-house for Jonathan Cape before turning freelance. Since then he has worked for a mixture of British, American and European publishers and his work has been shortlisted for the AIGA 50 Covers competition in the U.S. and the D&AD Annual in the U.K. numerous times. He has talked about and exhibited his work at the V&A in London, the School of Visual Arts in New York and for the BNO in Amsterdam. He is also a co-founder of the Academy of British Cover Design. 

  • Norwegian Wood

  • When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.
  • Find out more about the book