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Penguin relaunches design award and removes higher education requirement

The well-known publisher Penguin has recently announced significant changes to its Student Design Award.

For the first time in its sixteen-year history, the prestigious award will be open to non-students, and will thus become known as the Penguin Cover Design Award. This move will ensure that a lack of higher education will not be a barrier to aspiring designers, and the move should also significantly increase applications. 

The award involves creating an alternative book cover for popular titles such as Girl, Woman, Other, and carries with it significant rewards and opportunities.

Winners receive a six-month mentorship with a Penguin Art Director, as well as a design kit package including subscriptions to editing software to assist with their further projects. Those who are shortlisted receive personal feedback and further suggestions for direction from an Art Director at Penguin, before being invited to re-submit their work before the final round of judging. 

Former winners have included students in Edinburgh – in 2021, Edinburgh Napier University student Megan Kerr won first prize in the adult non-fiction category. Her design used photographic film and beat over 2000 other entries, tackling the theme of climate change.

Talking about her inspiration for this innovative work, she said:

“I pictured a scorched earth being stripped of its resources at the hands of the people it provides… To achieve this imagery, I took subtle inspiration from the fragility of photographic film when burned to mirror the delicate state of the world today.”

This move is part of a number of innovative moves by Penguin, a publishing house known for its eclectic art and design. The Penguin Essentials series, launched in 1998, purposefully commissioned a large selection of designers from all over the world. Penguin is also collaborating with The Runnymede Trust and Pearson in order to highlight the importance of a diverse English Literature curriculum, and recently launched the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme, which aims to encourage schools to teach a wider range of literature through providing lesson plans and book donations.

A second-year student, Joe Sullivan, said of the decision:

“Penguin expanding their cover design programme to non-students sounds like a really good idea. It opens up the financial and professional opportunities of a winning cover design to people who might not have the financial or otherwise resources to access higher education and breaking down barriers like those can’t ever be anything else but good.”

Jason Smith, Art Director, Cornerstone, at Penguin, said:

“We’re thrilled to be launching our Cover Design Award for 2022 and opening the process to a much wider pool of design talent than in previous years.

“At Penguin we don’t require degrees for any of our roles, so we’ve removed that criteria from this award to offer more people the opportunity to experience a real-life book cover design brief and be mentored by one of our designers. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the range of ideas and concepts for these three brilliant books.”

Image via Flickr