Penguin reveals shortlist of Student Design Award 2020

A total of 30 book cover designs for The Night Manager, A Short History of Nearly Everything and Goodnight Mister Tom have been unveiled.

Penguin Random House has announced the shortlist for its 2020 Student Design Award.

Launched in 2007 to stimulate interest in graphic design within the publishing sector, the annual award is open to all students studying on a further or higher education course.

Amie Carter

Each year is split into three categories: adult fiction, adult non-fiction and children. The chosen books this time around were The Night Manager by John le Carré, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian respectively.

For le Carré’s The Night Manager, judges asked students to try and avoid the spy and crime tropes that characterise so many book covers within the genre. In place of these “clichés”, students were challenged to come up with something “clever, fresh and contemporary”.

Freya Westall

Playing on the author’s claustrophobic world of corruption and the “downward spiral” of deceit, Arts University Bournemouth student Amie Carter has designed a shadowy and dark abyss, created using a textured layering effect. To depict the disruption of main character Johnathan Pine’s life and lifestyle, and the distortion of the espionage world, Loughborough University’s Hazel Shorney covers her design with a crystal that requires the reader to decipher what is really behind it.

While most shortlisted entries relied on graphics to tell the story, others, like Falmouth University student Freya Westall, went for a more typographic treatment. Westall uses contrastingly coloured letters to give readers a hidden message behind the title of the book.

Hazel Shorney

When it came to Bryson’s popular science hit A Short History of Nearly Everything, students were tasked with designing a cover that felt accessible, but still confident, much like the book itself.

In her entry, University of South Wales student Emily Roach casts humanity and the history or the universe as the parts of a plastic model building kit, complete with planets, dinosaurs, atoms and tools. Meanwhile University of Portsmouth student Phoebe Hoare acknowledges the chaos that is history, with a lively design filled with facts, quotes an stars in a simple black and white colourway.

Emily Roach

Among the ten shortlisted non-fiction entrants, Leeds Arts University student Max Basey stands out for his cover depicting a flattened sandwich wrapper, a nod to Bryson’s own quote: “[The universe] is a place of most wondrous and gratifying possibility, and beautiful, too. And it was all done in about the time it takes to make a sandwich.”

For Michelle Margorian’s modern children’s classic Goodnight Mister Tom, the brief tasked students with a “striking” and “imaginative” concept that could encourage both children and adults to buy it.

Max Basey

Solent University Southampton student Oda Margrethe Lilleaasen has opted to focus on the bike that main character Will learns to ride, which acts as a symbol of freedom and friendship.

Alternatively, Falmouth University’s Isabelle Walker focuses on the evacuee label given to Will and other children during the time of the Second World War (when the book is set). This, she says, is a way of visually referencing the war, in a way that isn’t intimidating or deterring.

Oda Margrethe Lilleaasen

Now on its fourteenth edition, more than 2,000 students entered this year’s competition. The winner will be announced for each category on 22 September, with the winners receiving £1,000 in prize money, and second and third placed entrants earning £500 and £350 respectively.

The winners will be chosen by a panel of art directors from across Penguin Random House UK, as well as guest judges which this year includes illustrators Millie Marotta, Yehrin Tong and Sarah Horne, and Creative Review editor Eliza Williams.

Phoebe Hoare


Isabelle Walker

Full shortlist of student designers

Adult Fiction Cover Award

  • Leah Barford-Pinnock – Middlesex University
  • Amie Carter – Arts University Bournemouth
  • Kate Harmsworth – Greater Brighton Metropolitan College
  • Jacob Hedges – Coventry University
  • Annie Kobyluch – Glasgow School of Art
  • Olivia McEwan-Hill – Leeds Arts University
  • Joshua Millard – University of Lincoln
  • Alissa Morgan – York St John University
  • Hazel Shorney – Loughborough University
  • Freya Westall – Falmouth University

Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award

  • Max Basey – Leeds Arts University
  • Kael Crozier – Leeds Arts University (pictured in the page banner)
  • Allana Friedrich – Middlesex University
  • Aleksandra Galewicz – Camberwell College of Arts
  • Megan Glover – Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Nelson Goldsworth – Montana State University
  • Phoebe Hoare – University of Portsmouth
  • Emily Roach – University of South Wales
  • Thomas Shepherd – Robert Gordon University
  • Ashley Warwick – Birmingham City University

Children’s Cover Award

  • Lotte Cassidy – Arts University Bournemouth
  • Adriena Fong – Falmouth University
  • Bethany Free – Nottingham Trent University
  • Gita Govinda Kowlessur – Anglia Ruskin University
  • Holly Lewis – Montana State University
  • Oda Margrethe Lilleaasen – Solent University Southampton
  • Chi Park – Kingston University
  • Cara Rooney – University of Dundee
  • Beatrice Simpkiss – Arts University Bournemouth
  • Isabelle Walker – Falmouth University


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