Northampton university graduate wows author with book cover design and lands mentorship with leading publisher

“It’s a book cover, a poster and a work of art - all three,” says awestruck author of ‘Girl, Woman, Other,’ Bernadine Evaristo

Thursday, 14th July 2022, 10:15 am

The sky is the limit for one graphic communication graduate in Northampton, whose talent has secured her a six-month mentorship with a leading publisher.

Karla Aryee demonstrated her creative flair by winning first place in Penguin’s annual Cover Design Award - a challenge set to UK based designers and illustrators to design a cover for a fiction, non-fiction or children’s book.

Karla’s winning design for the fictional novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo, was chosen from more than 1,500 entries.

Karla holding her winning book cover at the University of Northampton's Degree Show.

On winning first place, Karla said: “It is such an amazing opportunity that I never imagined would happen. It’s honestly a privilege to have something like this to get stuck into straight after finishing university.

“I’m really excited about the mentorship and all the valuable skills and experience I will be gaining from it, as well as the personal and professional connections I’ll build with other people in the industry.”

As well as securing a six-month mentorship with a designer at Penguin Random House, Karla has received a design kit package worth more than £1,000 to help expand her creative skillset.

Karla took a fresh approach to her cover design of Anglo-Nigerian author Evaristo’s novel, which follows the interconnected lives and struggles of twelve black British women and openly explores aspects of the African diaspora.

Karla's final book cover design.

The graduate spent hours meticulously cutting images of women into strips, incorporating graphic and fabric images and weaving them across each other. The final cover is a scan of this design, which Kayla said was a concept that came to her very quickly and one she is very pleased with.

Karla continued: “I’m really happy with my final cover design as I feel it reflects me as a designer, and the whole design process really encouraged me to push boundaries.

“I have managed to secure a design internship with a marketing and advertising agency in London, which means I’ve got more than one option lined up now, and can’t wait to make the most of both experiences.“

The judging panel was made up of managing directors and art directors from across Penguin Random House UK, as well as guest judges from the design and publishing industry, including Anna-Maria Nabirye, a multi-disciplinary artist who read the audiobook for Girl, Woman, Other.

Author of the book Bernardine Evarista said: "Karla’s design is stunning, creative, surprising and bold while also being multi-referential and complex with an imaginative use of the Ghanaian Adinkra symbols.

“It’s a book cover, a poster and a work of art - all three."

Art director at Penguin Richard Bravery added: "I was immediately floored by the spirit of this cover, it has so much energy and colour and identity. The woven elements marry so well to the woven narrative of the story."

Karla’s winning design was placed proudly on display at an exhibition of the winning designs at D&Ad in London last weekend, as well as at this year’s University of Northampton Graduate Degree Show.