Designer of the Year

Introduction

New for 2021, this award celebrates the people whose work often goes unheralded but who are pivotal to publishing success. A mix of in-house designers and freelancers, they fused their creative flair and commercial sensibilities to produce some of the most visually striking and successful books of last year. In this category at least, you definitely can judge a book by its cover.

Winner

Jane Buckley

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster Children’s art director Jane Buckley is the first winner of a new Nibbies category that proved to be brimming with design talent. After more than 20 years in the industry, Buckley knows how to get the very best out of S&S’ stable of picture book illustrators, and crafts cover designs that combine creativity with strong instincts for what will sell. Her attention to detail on colours, fonts, papers and much more is drawn from a deep understanding of what the youngest readers and their parents like.

Standout work included bestselling World Book Day title, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet’s Supertato: Books are Rubbish!; the year’s topselling picture book début, Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley’s The Littlest Yak; and Smriti Halls and Steve Small’s international hit I’m Sticking with You. Her eye for fresh talent also pulled in new artists from beyond the world of publishing, and she was a champion and mentor of underrepresented illustrators, including through the Pathways Into Children’s Publishing Programme.

Buckley is clearly revered by illustrators, writers and colleagues—”she’s played a critical role in turning lots of little people into book lovers”, said one testimonial—and judges admired her collaboration and vision. “She’s at the top of her game,” they said. “There’s a particular skill in designing picture books, and her work is always clean, crisp and bold, and pulls you right in.”

HIGHLY COMMENDED in this category is Stuart Wilson. Pan Macmillan’s design manager produced the cover of Douglas Stuart’s Bookerwinning novel Shuggie Bain, as well as striking monochrome designs for John Cooper Clarke and Don DeLillo in 2020. “Stuart knocks it out the park… his jacket for Shuggie Bain was truly iconic,” said the judges.

The Shortlist

  • Luke Bird
    Freelance
    Formerly of Faber and Canongate, Bird has been in demand since going freelance in 2017. His bold, clean covers include Brandon Taylor’s Real Life, Andrew O’Hagan’s Mayflies and Earthlings by Sayaka Murata.
  • Jane Buckley
    Simon & Schuster
    Simon & Schuster’s children’s division art director has been a crucial collaborator on its most successful picture books—sometimes a tricky area of design with competing creative visions. “Picture books are theatre, and Jane directs with creativity and flair,” said one colleague.
  • Yeti Lambregts
    Headline Publishing Group
    Lambregts started out in publishing on work experience at Bloomsbury, and has risen via roles at Penguin and HarperCollins to deputy art director at Headline, where she steered the illuminated design of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet. “Wonderful imagination and intuition,” said one colleague.
  • Steve Marking
    Orion
    Orion’s art director was the design force behind the unex- pectedly high sales of Naoise Dolan’s début, Exciting Times, as well as books from Clare Chambers, Cathy Sweeney and Philippe Sands. They were characterised by distinctive typography and clever visual cues from the books.
  • Anna Morrison
    Freelance
    A freelancer with experience at Random House, Fourth Estate, Puffin and independent Pushkin Press, last year Morrison created the vivid silhouetted covers of Vintage’s Feminist Fairytales series. “Stunning designs... stylish and striking,” said one of her commissioners.
  • Holly Ovenden
    Freelance
    Another in-house designer turned freelance, Ovenden has worked on Puffin’s new Modern Classics series as well as covers for authors including Avni Doshi, Anbara Salam, Frances Cha and Sophie Mackintosh; all show her flair for photographic composition, collage and hand lettering.
  • David Pearson
    Freelance
    Freelancer David Pearson was named one of Britain’s top 50 designers by the Guardian, as well as one of publishing’s most influential people by The Bookseller. His colourful, striking covers have brought fresh style to Penguin’s back- list. “Smart and witty retro designs,” said one critic.
  • Ben Prior
    Head of Zeus
    Head of Zeus’ cover designer produced eye-catching fronts for authors including David Gilman and Sebastian Fitzek in 2020. Like all of these shortlisted designers, his work goes far beyond covers though, creating impactful marketing collateral and brand and series identities too.
  • Emma Wells
    Nic & Lous
    Emma Wells of Studio Nic & Lou created the striking, distinctive identity of the most successful publishing brand of the last few years: Pinch of Nom. Wells also freshened up the Joe Wicks brand for Bluebird in 2020, and designed Fearne Cotton’s Your Mood Journal for Puffin.
  • Stuart Wilson
    Pan Macmillan
    Pan Mac’s design manager has brought his music industry experience to bear on book covers, and was the creative behind Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning Shuggie Bain. His covers for John Cooper Clarke and Don DeLillo took a similarly distinctive monochrome approach.