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First year student shortlisted for prestigious Penguin Books award

Published: 22 May 2024

  •   Featured
  •   Students
Student James Gregory with his book cover design

York St John University student James Gregory has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Penguin Books’ Cover Design Awards 2024. 
James, who is currently in the first year of his Graphic Design BA Hons course, has been shortlisted in the Adult Non-Fiction category. 
Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world for 75 years and is famous for its iconic cover art. These Awards are aimed at all UK-based designers and illustrators who haven’t yet had significant experience in a paid creative role, by giving artists the chance to work with real briefs. 
There are three categories – Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction and Children’s - to design covers for, and there were over 1,800 entries to this year’s competition. James provided a unique design for the international bestseller Atomic Habits by James Clear, a book about transforming your life with tiny changes in behaviour.  
The brief from Penguin Books for the Adult Non-Fiction category was to encapsulate the essence or key themes of the book in an imaginative, instant and engaging way.  
Feedback received from the Penguin judges on James’s design said: “This is a really effective design, playfully subverting what at first glance feels like a very conventional non-fiction cover. It’s a great use of humour and photomontage.” 
Responding to the nomination, James said: “The book is like a manual on how to improve your life by making tiny changes, so I started looking at the covers of old manuals, but I felt something new was needed to capture the fresh ideas of the book. 

“I wanted to create something that would catch the viewer’s eye and I wanted my design to capture the juxtapositions between good and bad habits in a comedic way.  
“I was over the moon when I heard I’d been shortlisted and being at York St John University has really reignited my love for design and to get better at it.” 
Andrew Byrom, lecturer in Graphic Design at York St John University, said: “It can often be very difficult to come up with an idea for a cover that’s visually expressive for the non-fiction market because there is no narrative to follow. It is more about concepts and themes.  
“Book jacket designs are one of the oldest forms of graphic design and the fact that James is in his first year of studies at York St John University, and that his design was selected from 1,800 entries, is hugely significant. The Design Department faculty are rightly proud of his achievement.” 
The winners will be announced on Thursday 27 June with the first prize winner of each category receiving a six-month-long mentorship programme with a member of the Penguin Art Department.  
James’s nomination follows on the heels of former York St John University student Alissa Morgan, who won third prize in the 2020 Adult Fiction Cover Award. 
More information on the Penguin Books 2024 Cover Design Award.  
Find out more about our Graphic Design BA (Hons) course at York St John.

In the National Student Survey 2023 d
esign students responded with a 95% positivity score for how much they had the chance to explore ideas and concepts in depth. They also responded with a 98% positivity score for how well teaching staff supported their learning.

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