Penguin Brief 2019

Our starting project back from Christmas break was a small one just to get back into the swing of things. The project being Penguin’s annual student design awards in which we have to create a book cover for 3 different novels. This is the second time I’ve done this project, so I’m feeling much more confident. I also have previous knowledge on what needs should be met for this project so I’m quite looking forward to this quick fun brief.

The 3 novels that have been chosen this year to be redesigned are: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, The Night Manager by John le Carré and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. I have heard of all of these and have some prior knowledge on them, however, I have never read any. Coming from the Penguin website, The Night Manager is a Triller set post cold war. It follows Jonathan Pine the night manager at a luxury hotel who involuntary gets himself involved in a “chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal arms trade”. The author creates a fascinating unpredictable world in which no one can be trusted. Goodnight Mister Tom is a children’s novel set in Second World War, which follows Willie Beech who is evacuated to the countryside. “A sad, deprived Willie slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London.” The author has created a classic that children have loved reading for decades. Finally, A Short History of Nearly Everything is a non-fiction novel in which the author, Bill Bryson, breaks down complex learning about science and attempts to make these accessible to the general public. A Sunday Times Bestseller and multi-award winning book, this is the bestselling popular science book of the twenty-first century.

Considering the basis of the novels and what initially stood out to me I feel as though I would like pick A Short History of Nearly Everything. This novel really stood out to me as I can remember my dad reading Bill Bryson all through my childhood as its one of his favourite authors. I also haven’t designed for a non-fiction novel yet as last year I did the fiction. I find the wide topic fascinating and I think it would be interesting to learn more about the complex world around us. The topic is something quite different for me so I thought it would get me out of my comfort zone and it could be a unique piece for my portfolio. It also means I can pick my dads brain to see what his thoughts and opinions are about the novel.

Before I start the designing I wanted to recap what the judges at Penguin are looking for. This is important if I want to not only meet their needs but also impress them. From the website, the judges talk about looking for a smart but accessible book cover. “It should not look like a textbook you read at school! This is a science book with popular appeal.” They go on to say that is should feel timeless, confident and appeal to a new generation of readers. Other aspects of a winning design including:

  • have an imaginative concept
  • be an original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to the broadest possible audience for the book
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from other books that it will be competing against in the market
  • be able to sit on the shelves of a supermarket or ebook store as easily as it sits on those of more traditional bookshops 

What I have taken from this is that the final book cover needs to be clever and imagination while still being accessible to the general public. I should consider other book covers, for instance previous covers of the novel and other novels in general, when designing in order to make mine stand out again the millions of others on the book store shelves. This will all start with a good understanding of the book which I will be looking at next.


Sources used:

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