Book Covers Can Make Or Break The Deal: Ahlawat Gunjan


New Delhi: A book cover is a reader’s very first interaction with the book, and can make or break the deal, says well-known graphic designer Ahlawat Gunjan, who recently received the sixth Oxford Bookstore Book Cover award.

“Besides being visually appealing to grab your attention, I think it also needs to be context-appropriate and needs to be able to communicate clearly and effectively,” Ahlawat told IANSlife in an email.

The 2021 award was presented to the Jaipur BookMark of Jaipur Literature Festival in Ahlawat for the cover of ‘Gun Island’ by Amitav Ghosh, which is published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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The award is given for excellence in book design, with the aim of recognizing and encouraging the extraordinary work of illustrators, designers and publishers across India.

“We applaud the spectacular graphics and meticulous attention to detail in the cover image. The genius of the textual narrative finds resonance in the sensual movement of the serpent, sliding as it does through the spine to the back cover. The deep integration of the title and the name of the author in the illustration is judiciously rendered. The selected visual appropriately and aesthetically represents the heart and movement of the story. The typography aligns perfectly with the coiled snake providing a unique and iconic visual identity to the book, ”said the jury made up of Indian politician, writer and Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, Indian author, columnist and novelist, Shobhaa De, well-known author, Kunal Basu, author, publisher and festival director, Namita Gokhale, director, Apeejay Surrendra Group and the creative force behind Oxford bookstore chain, Priti Paul.

The design of the winning cover is a fundamental part of a book’s success, and artists play a key role in helping a book become clearly meaningful and subject to review.

“I received the cover kit from my publisher and we discussed the ideas in detail. I then read the MS and discussed the ideas in more detail with the editor and author. As I mentioned, the challenge here was my own phobia of reptiles, so a photographic approach was completely ruled out and I decided to go with an illustrative one. I chose to work with Nirupa Roa for the cover art and she beautifully translated the illustration brief into a spectacular visual. Along with the illustration, I designed the filler cover and presented it to the Sales and Marketing team and finally to the author. Everyone really enjoyed the approach and the end result. It was then adopted by several international publishers, ”Ahlawat said of the successful book cover design process.

“I think any appreciation in any form is good for the creator of this work. And with that in mind, these awards are a great source of recognition for the individuals behind the scenes, ”he says of the importance of the awards.

The jury also made special mention to Pinaki De’s evocative cover for ‘Moom’ by Bani Basu, translated by Arunava Sinha and published by BEE Books.


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