Graduate is ‘on the same page’ as leading publisher with award-winning design

Date 12.07.2022

The sky is the limit for one Graphic Communication graduate whose design talent has secured her a six-month mentorship with a leading design agency.

Karla Aryee demonstrated her creative flair by winning first place in Penguin’s annual Cover Design Award, a challenge set to UK and Ireland-based designers and illustrators to create a cover design which encapsulates the key themes of either a fiction, non-fiction or children’s book.

Karla’s winning design for the ‘fiction’ category was chosen from over 1,500 entries by a judging panel 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.

As well as securing a six-month mentorship with a designer at Penguin Random House, Karla has received a design kit package worth over £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.

Taking a more practical approach to her design, Karla explained: “I was excited straightaway at the prospect of physically creating my cover, so I spent hours meticulously cutting images of women into strips, incorporating graphic and fabric images, weaving them across each other.

“The final cover is a scan of this design, which was a concept which came to me pretty quickly. Even though it took me hours to complete, I’m really pleased with the overall look – it achieves exactly what I was hoping to.”

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.

After judging, author of the book, Bernardine Evaristo 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.”

Richard Bravery, Art Director at Penguin General 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.”

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.

“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.“

Find out more about studying Graphic Communication Design BA (Hons) at the University of Northampton.