In London: Penguin Books UK’s 2024 Cover Design Awards

In News by Porter Anderson

The Penguin Books UK competition in book cover design for a third year was open to all applicants: 30 percent are not students.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Mentoring, Tablets, and Design Books for Winners
With as much of an overload of book and publishing awards programs as there is in the world’s markets, we normally must forgo looking at contests that involve aspirational, nonprofessional work—not because we don’t appreciate encouraging potential talent, of course, but because the glut of accolades for professional output requires so many resources.

However, one element of book publishing that’s oddly not recognized by many of the world’s award regimes is design. And it’s design, after all, that can sell a book in a physical bookstore or online. This is why so many in publishing are so adamant that illustrators be credited in children’s books: the dad or mom walking the aisle in a store is drawn first to that cover, not to the excellence of text or story that’s not even seen at that moment. The kid who asks for a book has seen that book’s cover first.

Unless a book, for adults or children, has an author whose name propels sales, the cover art is the pitch to the consumer.

Penguin Books in the United Kingdom has again run its Cover Design Award program, and this year it drew more than 1,800 entries.

The brief here for applicants is that they must work with covers of key Penguin titles chosen by the company. Categories include a Children’s Cover Design Award, an Adult Fiction Cover Design Award, and an Adult Nonfiction Cover Design Award.

The winning illustrators are offered a six-month mentorship with a member of Penguin’s art department, something that could really make a difference to a talented designer ready to begin working into professional-class challenges. Those winners also get what the second- and third-place honorees each receive—a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium tablet and £100 (US$127) in Penguin Random House design books.

Until 2022, the program was called the Student Design Award. But two years ago, the competition was opened to “anyone interested in becoming a designer, regardless of their higher education status.” The company explains that Penguin doesn’t require degrees for any of its hires, “so it made sense to remove that criterion to offer more people the opportunity to experience a real-life book cover design brief and be mentored by one of our designers.”

The company is pleased, its spokespeople say, because that change has meant that fully 30 percent of the shortlists this year comprised people who could not have entered their work when the program was limited to students.

Penguin UK Cover Design Award 2024: Children’s Books

Published cover design

Selected book: City of Stolen Magic by Nasneen Ahmed Pathak and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

The three top contenders in this category, ranked by jurors, are:

1st place: Charlotte Jennings

2nd place: Evan Connolly

3rd place: Karin Keratova

Anna Billson, art director at Penguin Random House Children’s in London commented, in part, “A very much deserved win for a very accomplished design. The smart use of color and the considered balance between the multiple illustrative elements combine to make a striking and inviting cover which opens up the world inside the book. The development from the initial submission to the final design has been really well executed, showcasing a strong design eye for both illustration and typography.”

Penguin UK Cover Design Award 2024: Adult Fiction

Published cover design

Selected book: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The three top contenders in this category, ranked by jurors, are:

1st place: Cadi Rhind

2nd place: Max Bicknell

3rd place: Rebekah Sinclair

Richard Ogle, art director at Transworld made this comment on the jury’s rationale in choosing the Rhind design: “This design is a worthy winner. There’s a confidence in the use of type and color that reflects and builds on the references to the 1970s aesthetic, and Cadi’s reminiscences of family car journeys soundtracked by her father’s love of 1970s music, like Eagles and Joni Mitchell, really feels like it has filtered through to the authentic, yet contemporary, resonance of the design.”

Penguin UK Cover Design Award 2024: Adult Nonfiction

Published cover design

Selected book: Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way To Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

The three top contenders in this category, ranked by jurors, are:

1st place: George Griffiths

2nd place: James Gregory

3rd place: Craig Ferdinando

In a comment of rationale about Griffiths’ design, Richard Bravery, art director at Penguin General, calls the work: “A beautifully layered, well-crafted design that subtly alludes to the narrative of change and habit.

“We loved the way that George has combined collage with this subject matter to achieve a striking and genre bending design. A worthy winner.”

More about the PRH-UK Cover Design Award is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on book cover design is here, more on the world industry’s myriad book and publishing contests is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s book publishing market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.