For this year’s edition of its annual Student Design Award, Penguin Random House UK invited students to produce a new cover for three widely known books: The Night Manager by John le Carré, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and children’s book Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.
The Adult Fiction Cover Award was won by Glasgow School of Art student (and Gradwatch pick) Annie Kobyluch, whose simple yet striking design for Le Carre’s spy novel The Night Manager represented a “fresh take on such an established author and genre,” according to Penguin General Books art director Richard Bravery.
“When starting my design I knew that I wanted the weapon to be the main focus,” Kobyluch said of the cover, which also incorporates hotel motifs in the form of a ‘do not disturb’ sign that hangs off the barrel of the gun. “My colour palette was intentionally simplified to add strength to the image and not provide a distraction to the visual concept.”
Central Saint Martins student Megan Glover won the Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award with her playful design for A Short History of Nearly Everything. Glover, who was praised for her fun, confident and light-hearted approach, lifted inspiration from Bryson’s obscure titbits of information littered throughout the book.
“While reading the book I was struck by the analogies and facts Bryson used to explain complex theories and findings. So, when Bryson mentioned that bananas share more than half of their DNA with humans, I knew that was what I wanted to focus on,” Glover says. “My design is not what you would expect a science book to have on its front cover. It’s a banana. But because of its simplicity I was able to turn it into a quirky abstract piece that makes the potential reader ever more curious.”
The Children’s Cover Award was won by Kingston University student Chi Park, who reimagined the cover of Goodnight Mister Tom in a moving painterly style. “In this cover design, watercolour paint is used to set a particular restrained tone that evokes the dark war-time era, at the same time still conveying warm nostalgia through the texture. The characters are walking ‘into’ a space where several visual elements of the narrative hint to what lies ahead of them and the audience who follows them behind.”
Penguin Random House UK Children’s art director Anna Billson praised the colour palette that balances “warmth” with “sadness and hurt”, with other judges recognising the appeal to children thanks to childlike touches. The book’s author, Michelle Magorian, added that she is “delighted, and so would Tom and William be, that this design award exists to highlight the talent of these wonderful artists. It also reminds us that there is more than one way to tell a story.”