The Penguin Random House Student Design Awards: Research

I have decided that as part of my Professional Practice module, that I would like to go back in time and re-visit one of the first illustration competitions that I had taken part in.

The reason I have chosen to take part in the Penguin Random House Student Design Awards contest, is due to its versatility of entries. I would like to experiment with what I have been working on at the moment for my main project for my final year, by taking the same process, but applying it to a different function. Therefore, I will be taking 3D Paper folding, into digital editing, and book sleeve cover design.

Although it sounds odd, it’s a good opportunity for myself, as not only am I able to put myself into the world of an illustrator, but also I am able to see if my current project is able to be somewhat commercial, to see if it can morph into suiting different topics, and different formats.

This year I have decided to design the cover for the Adult Non-Fiction Book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

When you search for previous designs that had been made for this book, they all seem to have the common theme of space, this being due to the fact that this book is primarily about how we got from nothing, to something, going from empty space, to many galaxies, planets, and life forms.

I would like to keep this theme in my cover as it relates to what the book is about, and I would not like to distract the audience from the main contents, which is that of Bill Bryson’s writing.

I have also noticed whilst viewing the past winners of the penguin random house student design competition, that most of the winners’ main similarity is the play with text, as opposed to image. I can recall that in second year, when I entered this contest, I put most of the emphasis on the imagery, seeing that I am an Illustrator, where as this time I will do more research and experimentation with text that I can use on the front cover, to push my chances and skill display as a multi-disciplinary illustrator.


The winners of the Norwegian wood Category from last year.
My Entry from 2019

I can also understand that the winner’s front covers were not too distracting, or saturated, which I can see my cover was, this impairs the viewer from seeing the main text of the book.

This time around I would like to play with photography, in hopes that I step away from using bold colours, and strong weighted black lines.

My idea is to take the paper folds which I have been doing at the moment (such as shown above) and use imagery in the folds that relate to the book, and then use my use of typography to create the rest of the cover.

I want an item of imagery, in central vision, but not distracting from the text and typography explaining and advertising the book.

I believe an interesting way to incorporate the image into text would be if the image was to reference the sun, or a point of rotation/ gravity, and the text was to somewhat wrap/ warp around the image, to reference the planets orbit around the sun. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt the hard way through my studies, is that you should never be afraid of cliches. You can start working on a cliche and make it better than before, or it can branch off and end up as something else. Therefore, I have decided to make this my main reference point, a safe base essentially.

Whilst looking at fonts to use, I had selected 9 that I believe could work well on this book cover:

The reason behind me selecting these fonts, was through referencing the typography used within the examples, both from past winners, and from the cover/ alternative covers that have been made for ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’.

I then went on to pick the fonts that look most similar to that of the current book, to either avoid, or incorporate into my design in some sense.

I have also contemplated making the main words of the title a different font to the rest… or bold/ italic/ different colour to make the purpose of the book pop.

These words are ‘History’, ‘Nearly’, and ‘Everything’.

From these results of me experimenting with the fonts that I liked, I then selected 4 which I found were most effective, and have colour coded them so that when I place them on the cover design, I remember which word belongs to which font.

The sub heading I will experiment with when I have my imagery discovered to ensure that it works with the imagery rather than against it.

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