By Caitlin Evans, Paridhi Badgotri, Ellie Brady and Gabriella Sotiriou
“The vital role of illustrators and designers in the production of some of the world's best-loved adult and children's books has created and defined the identity of our UK publishing lists.”
- Tom Weldon, Penguin Random House CEO
Prizes and awards in the book industry are often handed out for the content of a book, the literary quality of a text or the popularity of a novel, or the achievements of an author or individual. However, there is so much more that goes into the success and experience of books that also deserves to be celebrated and recognised. This is why awards such as the Penguin Cover Design Award are so necessary, as they not only acknowledge the importance of cover design to the presentation and reception of a book, but also encourage students to pursue these paths within the publishing industry. Last week, Penguin Random House announced the winners of this year’s Cover Design Award for 2022, which were selected from over 1,500 entries.
The Penguin Cover Design Awards are somewhat unique among the prizes scene; instead of awarding officially published work, the awards call for non-professional design entries that fulfil a predetermined brief. Namely, Penguin selects a published book for each category, and applicants must submit an alternative cover design for that title. This means that the award is open to entries from designers at the beginning of their career, regardless of qualifications, and providing that they have little to no paid creative experience.
The award spans three categories, Adult Fiction, Adult Non-fiction, and Children’s, and a winner is selected for each. Each winner receives a six-month mentorship with a Penguin Design Studios designer, as well as a design kit packaged valuing £1000, and their work displayed in a free-entry exhibition. The runners-up also receive design kit packages, worth £500 for second place, and £350 for third. This year’s applicant pool was innovative and challenging, but the winners for 2022 have officially been named.
Karla Aryee’s book cover design for Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize winner Girl, Woman, Other stood out as the winner in the adult fiction category. A Graphic Communication student from the University of Northampton, Karla made a hand-made collage through a paper weaving technique. She interweaved pictures of multiple women that would be in-line with the connectivity of the novel’s twelve female characters. Along with this, she used adinkra symbols that originated from Ghana for the background. The symbol is widely used in arts and crafts, and it plays a special role in symbolizing each character’s story in the novel. The cover stands out as vivid because of the adinkra symbols combined with dashiki patterns. Bernardine Evaristo, the writer and one of the judges, praised the cover for its creativity and complex use of the symbols.
The winner of the non-fiction award is Lilja Cardew for her design for Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist. Her design is based around the green grass that McAnulty describes as the grounding force for his anxiety. The cover design is wonderfully simple: roughly drawn green grass against a white background with a delicately drawn black fly resting upon a single blade. The style is childlike and endearing, which brilliantly reflects the “young naturalist” that features in the book’s title. The angle of the grass suggests that the viewer, or the reader, is lying down amongst it and immersing themselves within the drawn scene, and also hopefully within the experiences captured within the book. Suzanne Dean, art director at Vintage, praised how the design allows one to simply imagine the author lying down and smelling the earth as they watch the birds amongst the clouds above. Cardew’s cover allows the reader to gain an insight into McAnulty’s perspective, bringing the words of Diary of a Young Naturalist even closer to the reader than the pages alone would allow. This is an example of truly successful cover design.
In the children’s fiction category, Cassia Samson’s cover design for Robin Stevens murder mystery, Murder Most Unladylike, won. Samson’s design takes into consideration a crucial element of the plot – protagonist Hazel’s note taking – and incorporates that into her concept. By alluding to elements of the mystery in this way, the cover gives away just enough to entice any young reader. Her design also takes inspiration from Enid Blyton’s book covers, reflecting the 1930s time period in which the text is set. An extra dose of mystery is found in the girls’ faces being concealed on the front cover, revealed instead on the back. Judges commended Samson for capturing the texts’ elements as both a murder mystery and a girls’ school story, her use of colour, and her utmost consideration of the target audience.