Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This Sunday Times Bestseller and multi-award winning book is the bestselling popular science book of the twenty-first century.

Bill Bryson’s challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It’s not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the Earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?

On his travels through time and space, he encounters a splendid collection of astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists, like the painfully shy Henry Cavendish who worked out many conundrums, like how much the Earth weighed, but never bothered to tell anybody about many of his findings. In the company of such extraordinary people, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye-opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

‘Truly impressive . . . it’s hard to imagine a better rough guide to science’ Guardian

‘A travelogue of science, with a witty, engaging and well-informed guide’ The Times

The Brief

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, it is the biggest-selling popular science book of the twenty-first century, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

We are looking for a cover design that is smart but accessible. It should not look like a textbook you read at school! This is a science book with popular appeal. If you can get your hands on a copy of the book in order to get a sense of the content and writing style, this will only help to inspire your design. The cover should feel timeless, confident and appeal to a whole new generation of readers.

Your cover design needs to include all the cover copy supplied and be designed to the specified design template (B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine width 34mm). Please refer to the Submissions Details page for full details on 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 Penguin Random House 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

To be announced.

Published covers

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

    Bryson

  • Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science.

    The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

  • Buy the book

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