Penguin Book Covers

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For this project we have been tasked to create (a) book cover(s) for the Penguin Random House Competition Student Awards. There are three choices to go with: Adult Fiction Award, Adult Non-Fiction Award and the Children’s Award, or we can submit one cover for all three, which is what I would like to do if time permits.

All entries must be submitted digitally via the submissions site. Entries submitted in any other way, including by email or hard-copy, will not be accepted. (Further Submission Details).

Entries must supplied in the following format:

  • PDF
  • 300dpi
  • CMYK
  • 5mm bleed
  • Ideally colour managed to ISO Coated 39 or ISO Uncoated 29 (optional)
  • Trim and crop marks to be included
  • Maximum file size 5 MB
  • TEXT
    Please include the front cover only on the first page of your PDF and a full cover spread (front, spine and back cover) on the second page of your PDF.

    Please use the design template and cover copy supplied on the main competition pages. (These are separate PDF’s for each Award – these can be found under the Choice section).

    The winning design will need to:

  • have an imaginative concept and original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to a contemporary readership
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from the many other book covers it is competing against
  • TEXT
    Terms & Conditions

    Unfortunately, due to my circumstances, I missed the deadline. However, for this project it has given me the chance to see what the judges selected out of 2,000 entries: Student Design Shortlist Announced / Shortlist, these images are below under the Choice section.

    Something to keep an eye on for the future is Careers at Penguin under Design and Production.



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    To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    For the Adult Fiction Award, the cover design is for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. My first step was to look at previous cover designs, these are as follows:


    To Kill A Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece of modern literature and was voted the most loved book of the last sixty years by The Times readers in October 2009. It has been translated into more than forty languages and has sold over thirty million copies worldwide. So no pressure.

    We would like you to design a new and classic cover for this book. The trick here will be to come at it from a fresh perspective and to avoid repeating the obvious iconography from the many previous editions in print. If you can get your hands on a copy of the book in order to get a sense of the beautiful writing, this will only help to inspire your design. The cover should feel timeless and confident, and appeal to a whole new generation of readers.

    Your cover design needs to include all the Cover Copy supplied and be designed to the specified Design Template – B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine width 20 mm, incorporating the ARROW branding and all additional elements such as the barcode.


    ‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

    A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

    ‘Someone rare has written this very fine novel, a writer with the liveliest sense of life and the warmest, most authentic humour. A touching book; and so funny, so likeable.’ Truman Capote

    ‘No one ever forgets this book’ Independent

    Interpretation of Mockingbirds in the book

    Similar Books:

  • Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  • The Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • The Help – Kathryn Stocket
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • TEXT

    Purpose, Audience & Context:


    The book is a reflection of how we treat the ‘other’, seen through Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. It is about showing kindness to people. It shows courage in standing up for what it right, while also showing compassion for those around us.


    Harper Lee aimed To Kill a Mockingbird at young adults, however it is not limited to that audience. The book was written over 50 years ago and is still relevant to its modern readers. It is studied in schools throughout the world because of its cultural and moral significance.


    It was published in 1962 and set in Alabama from 1933-35. Keep in mind that this was during the time of slavery in the US. The Great Depression was also happening. Racism, power, sexism and inequity were all very real issues that the people of the time and place struggled with.


    I have read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and seen the film, however it has been a while since doing both, therefore, I looked at SparkNotes to refresh my memory of the storyline by reading through the Synopsis.


    If I would like to pursue a typographical approach I think looking at Quotes from Goodreads was highly beneficial, my favourite quotes are as follows:

    You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

    People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.

    It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

    Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

    It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.

    Things are always better in the morning.

    To Kill a Mockingbird: Adult Fiction Award Shortlist:

    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ – Sue Townsend

    For the Children’s Cover Award, the cover design is for ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾’ – Sue Townsend. My first step was to look at previous cover designs, these are as follows:


    You are invited to design a cover look for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole to bring this much-loved classic to a new generation of readers. The design should ensure that this original and hilariously funny book remains a must-read for every child.

    Your cover design needs to include all the Cover Copy supplied and be designed to the specified Design Template (B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine width 16.6mm), incorporating the PUFFIN branding and all additional elements such as the barcode.


    ‘Saturday January 25th

    10 a.m. I am ill with all the worry, too weak to write much. Nobody has noticed I haven’t eaten any breakfast.

    2 p.m. . . . Perhaps when I’m famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13¾-year-old undiscovered intellectual.’

    Adrian Mole’s painfully honest diary is a hilarious spots-and-all glimpse into the troubled life of a teenager. First published in 1982, it quickly became a best-seller and has since been adapted for radio, television and theatre.

    Similar Books:

  • The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – Terry Pratchett
  • Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1) – Louise Rennison
  • The Hitchikers’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  • The Princes Bride – William Goldman
  • TEXT

    Purpose, Audience & Context:

    Purpose & Audience

    The thing is, she (Sue Townsend) says, the book wasn’t even aimed at teenagers: “It was written for parents, that was the intended audience. It was for the mothers of teenage boys.” That seems obvious now. Reading it as a 40-year-old father, I recognise it as a book clearly written by one of my own: Mole is simultaneously lovable and completely exasperating, and as anyone who has had kids will tell you, love and complete exasperation are pretty much the defining emotions of parenthood.
    (From an article in the Guardian by Alexis Petridis)


    The story is set in 1981 and 1982, and in the background it refers to some of the historic world events of the time, such as the Falklands War and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana as well as the birth of Prince William. Mole is also a fierce critic of prime minister Margaret Thatcher, listing her as one of his worst enemies.


    Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to read ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾’ before creating the cover, however I looked into the story via a Synopsis from a website called ‘Bookrags”. I would really love to read it after as it sounds very amusing.


    I also looked at some amusing Quotes from the book that might grab people’s attention to portray adrian mole perfectly. It would also help if I decided to go with something typographical. Below is a list of some of my favourites:

    There’s only one thing more boring than listening to other people’s dreams, and that’s listening to their problems.

    I have a problem. I am an intellectual, but at the same time I am not very clever.

    Measured my ‘thing’. It was eleven centimetres.

    Just measured my thing. It has grown one centimetre. I might be needing it soon.

    My skin is dead good. I think it must be a combination of being in love and Lucozade.

    (On Easter) “…Poor Jesus, it must have been dead awful for him. I wouldn’t have the guts to do it myself.”

    Best Quotes of Adrian Mole

    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾: Children’s Award Shortlist:

    In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

    For the Adult Non-Fiction Award, the cover design is for ‘In Cold Blood’ – Truman Capote. My first step was to look at previous cover designs, these are as follows:


    We are looking for a cover design which breaks boundaries in the same way that the book did. It should be bold, maybe even shocking, yet remain true to the book, reflecting both its literary merit and its chilling content.

    Your cover design needs to include all the Cover Copy supplied and be designed to the specified Deisgn Template
    – B format, 198mm high x 129mm wide, spine width 20mm, incorporating all the PENGUIN branding and all additional elements such as the bar code.


    In Cold Blood is regarded by many critics as the pioneering work in the true crime genre. It is a startling, true account of a gruesome crime and a skilfully researched piece of journalism – it is a literary masterpiece brilliantly imagined which reads like the most gripping of thrillers.

    Similar Books:

  • A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
  • Silent Spring – Rachel Carlson
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • TEXT

    Purpose, Audience & Context:


    The motivating factor in my choice of material–that is, choosing to write a true account of an actual murder case–was altogether literary. The decision was based on a theory I’ve harbored since I first began to write professionally, which is well over 20 years ago. It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the “nonfiction novel,” as I thought of it. Several admirable reporters–Rebecca West for one, and Joseph Mitchell and Lillian Ross–have shown the possibilities of narrative reportage; and Miss Ross, in her brilliant “Picture,” achieved at least a nonfiction novella. Still, on the whole, journalism is the most underestimated, the least explored of literary mediums.


    Capote believed he was starting a new literary form, the “non-fiction novel”, which would combine the materials of journalism with the techniques of naturalistic fiction. So he imagined his readers would be people who kept up with contemporary trends in literature, like readers of The New Yorker magazine (where he once worked), not just people who liked to read about gruesome murders.


    In 1959, Capote noticed a small newspaper item describing the mysterious murder of a Kansas ranch family of four. He decided that this might be the perfect story for him to write about. Five years of intense research followed, during which time Capote became very close to the two murderers, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. He talked to the townspeople of Holcomb, where the murders were committed, and nearby Garden City. He followed the police investigation and the eventual appeals process until the execution of Hickock and Smith in 1965. During interviews he never took notes or used a tape recorder; instead he was able to transcribe the interviews from memory, a skill he had been practicing for years.


    Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to read In Cold Blood before creating the cover, however I looked into the story with an in depth Synopsis from Cliffs Notes. I will definitely be reading it after as it sounds like an interesting read.


    For ideas I also looked at Quotes from the book that might create an interesting and eye-catching cover, if I decide to go with something typographical. The ones I felt that might catch peoples attention are as follows:

    There’s got to be something wrong with us. To do what we did.

    They shared a doom against which virtue was no defence.

    The walls of the cell fell away, the sky came down, I saw the big yellow bird.

    Imagination, of course, can open any door—turn the key and let terror walk right in.

    I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.

    In Cold Blood: Adult Non-Fiction Award Shortlist:



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    To begin my process I had a look at good cover designs, I had a look at the following:
    Notable YA covers of 2017
    Along with my research on the 3 covers I would design, this gave me an idea of what covers stood out. I also had a look at the best colours for book covers and what they represented.

    To progress further I found a really good article on the development of creating and adapting a book cover: Cover Story: ‘How to Fall in Love with Anyone’

    Next I had a look at how to make my own book covers:
    Brilliant book cover master explains
    Designing brilliant book covers

    I had a vague idea of what media I might use for my cover designs, one of them was via papercutting, therefore I compiled a Pinterest board on papercut book covers the link for this is here.

    I also had a look at how to Paper Cut to refresh the process:
    Guide to Papercutting

    I also knew that typography would be a prominent feature in all of my cover designs, as it’s something that (I believe) is vital to cover designs. Both of the following links are boards I made on Pinterest to get a good idea of what works:
    Typographical book covers
    Indic Typefaces

    I also looked further at one of the judges as her typography is inspirational:
    Sarah Hyndman’s Instagram.

    As I want to get better at typography I also looked at the following article to further inform my process:
    How to get really good at typography
    This article was fantastic, thoroughly informative it gave information like:

  • X-height: The height of a lowercase x, or the height of any lowercase letter excluding the ascender and descender.
  • Baseline: The imaginary line that a set of characters sit on to help create uniformity and legibility.
  • Ascender: The part of a letter that extends above the x-height.
  • Descender: The part of a letter that descends below the baseline.
  • Counter: The enclosed spaces within letters.
  • It also lead me on to further links such as:
    Crash course in typography
    Typography tutorial This was a fantastic tutorial on typography with the lyrics of the Eye of the Tiger which was amusing and informative.
    Understanding the difference between type and lettering



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    Philip Pascuzzo

    Pascuzzo’s stunningly vibrant colours draws your attention to his fantastically illustrated book cover designs. I love the way he has used texture in his designs, especially with his covers for Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I would really like to try this out with vector images but using watercolours or monoprints to make my illustrations more eye-catching and less ‘flat’.

    Jason Booher

    Boohers designs may be simple but highly effective and in my opinion simply beautiful! I love how he has used a simple background for each of his designs, especially the newspaper clippings for ‘News of the world’ cover design – Brilliant!

    Lizzy Stewart

    Stewart’s beautiful illustrations are elegantly accompanied by her handmade lettering. Her use of colour really draws you in. I love how simple some of her designs are but still really beautifully compiled.

    Lisa Rockall

    Rockall’s papercut images are filled with depth as they have been physically made and photographed, adding shadows adding a more 3D feel. The papercut font stands out, it’s something i’ve always been drawn to, I think this would be a great way to approach my cover designs.

    Coralie Bickford-Smith

    Bickford-Smith is a desiner i’ve closely watched for a long time, I love how decorative and simple her book covers are. Her fitting images compliment each book beautifully and have even been photographed in a fantastic way to highlight how beautiful her designs are.

    Levente Szabó

    Szabó’s simple but appropriate images are beautifully thought through, where his silhouettes are filled with further images, for example, where his tiger’s stripes in ‘The boy with the tiger heart’ is formed with trees. The tigers eye is also the sun shining through the trees. I also love how he has used type with textures and gradients inside them.



    Documentation of working process

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    To Kill a Mockingbird:

    In Cold Blood:

    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾:


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