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Lauren and Dorrina catch the eye of publishing giant’s design award judges

Date 2.07.2021

Two Graphic Communication students from the University of Northampton have given a couple of Penguin paperback books a brand new look.

Dorrina Efah, pictured above left, and Lauren Avery were shortlisted by the judging panel after submitting their work to the 2021 Penguin Random House Student Design Award.

The annual award challenges creative students to come up with completely new cover designs for selected books from the world-renowned publishing house.

Dorrina was shortlisted for the Adult Fiction Cover Award, after producing a cover for Meera Syal’s novel, Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee.

Dorrina’s cover design.

Dorrina’s cover design.

Syal’s book is about friendship, marriage and betrayal, focusing on the difficult choices contemporary women have to make, whether or not they happen to have been raised in the South Asian community.

Dorrina said: “From the first chapter of the book, I had noticed that there was a subtle highlight on diaspora and the issues around identity being a member of a diaspora can bring.

“For example, the book’s character Tania comes across as someone who completely rejects what is expected of her being a South Asian woman, from doing small things such as smoking which is looked down upon, to bigger cultural critiques such as being unmarried, and more career orientated.

“Another character, Sunita, is trying to revive her youthful self by going out and coming home late, wearing a red mini dress and experimenting with hair, colours in later chapters.

“This sparked the concept for my cover, particularly the red mini dress. Clothes are known to express identity, and so I made letters from some old denim, suits, ties, that is, western clothing, and some from saree remnants to make the type for the title, representing the clash of both cultures and identity. The back cover alludes to the red mini dress Sunita wears along with a stain from her dying her hair whilst the burn is from Tania’s cigarette to represent tension.”

Lauren’s cover design.

Lauren’s cover design.

Lauren, meanwhile, was shortlisted for the Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award after designing a cover for The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace-Wells.

The book provides a devastating overview of where we are in terms of climate crisis and ecological destruction, and what the future will hold if we keep on going down the same path.

Lauren said: “My concept plays on the idea of the book being an urgent warning to humanity about our future, in regards to the disregarded danger of climate change and the ecological destruction it brings.

“The book is a call to action, so I aimed to bring that to life by emulating the cover as a real-life warning sign, using realistic textures and imagery to attach a sense of realism and demand attention with its bright warning colours. Warning signs often use iconography to visually inform, and I used this idea to visually communicate the negative consequences of climate change.”

Graphic Communication Programme Leader, Trevor Brown, said: “As in previous years, students on the BA Graphic Communication course have been shortlisted for the Penguin Design Awards and this year was no exception with two of our 3rd years, making the shortlist. Although sadly they didn’t win this year’s competition, just getting shortlisted is a huge achievement with over 6,000 designs being submitted from art colleges and universities from around the UK every year. Both should be immensely proud of being shortlisted and we wish them all the best as they graduate and start their professional careers.”