Winner Toby scoops national award for anti-establishment book cover design

Date 21.06.2019

Talented Toby Clarke has beaten hundreds of fellow designers to win a prestigious national prize.

The University of Northampton Graphic Communications student was named winner of the Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award at the Penguin Random House Design Awards 2019. He was chosen as the winner by judges who were impressed with his inspired new cover design for Owen Jones’ bestseller, The Establishment and How They Get Away With It.

The book from the left-wing political activist lifts the lid on a network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process, and sees Jones argue that they are the biggest threat to democracy in the UK.

Toby, who comes from Wolverton, Milton Keynes, produced a cover in the style of an official 10 Downing Street letter, with heavy blocks of redacted text. He’s also doctored a coat of arms at the top of the cover to include the words ‘Money’, ‘Greed’ and ‘Power’.

He said: “My design is inspired by the censorship Jones talks about in his book, and I deliberately made the redacted text resemble a brick wall, to signify the barriers the establishment put up to protect their interests. The coat of arms is pretty self-explanatory.”

Owen Jones said of Toby’s design: “An incredible cover. Really gets the sense of what I was trying to do with The Establishment which was to convey that sense that those with power wish to hide from us the truth, the reality about what’s happening in our society.”

Toby Clarke with his winning design.

Toby’s winning cover.

Toby’s cover features a doctored coat of arms.

The original cover of The Establishment.

His prize for winning includes a work placement within the Penguin Random House Design Studios as well as £1,000 cash.

Speaking after his win, Toby said: “Winning first place is unbelievable, just being one of the last 10  shortlised and being able to attend the ceremony was a win for me. I did not expect to come out with anything more and I would not have been gutted if I didn’t. The competition is a great opportunity to not only create effective designs and concepts, but to work in demonstrating effective print work to get it mocked up onto books, and so on.”

Toby’s coursemate, Femke Smits, was also shortlisted for the Non-Fiction Cover Award, making it a double celebration for the University of Northampton.

This year’s competition attracted a record-breaking 2,310 entries from students across three categories.

Trevor Brown, Programme Leader for Graphic Communication at the University, said: “Toby’s design was instantly believable and visually impactful from his early concepts back in December, and it was always going to be a strong contender to win.

“The category was very competitive, including our student Femke Smits’ entry, but Toby’s succinct and well-conceived idea was professionally executed and embraced multiple themes within the book.

“His attention to detail was excellent and he thoroughly deserves the win and will gain valuable experience from the work experience opportunity that also comes with the winning first place.”

Trevor added: “Northampton have a habit of doing this, with three outright wins over the last five years, and double figures being shortlisted. We’re looking forward to more success at next year’s competition.”