Illustration - MA student, Ailsa Johnson, has won the Penguin Random House Design Award 2016, Children's Cover, for Emil and the Detectives.

Tasked with designing a cover for Erich Kastner’s classic twentieth century novel for children, Ailsa delivered what the judges described as an example of “fantastic storytelling in the design”, “very clever and very funny”, and “our stand-out winner - a very accomplished illustration, with fabulous detail”.

With a record-breaking 1,639 entries, 2016 marks the ten year anniversary of the Design Award, which provides winners in three categories with a work placement within the Penguin Random House UK design studios, and a £1,000 cash prize.

This is Ailsa’s third consecutive success in children’s book cover competitions. Last year, as an Illustration - BA (Hons) student, she was Highly Commended in the Macmillan Prize 2015 alongside Leilei Huang. She was also Highly Commended in the same competition in 2014.

Creative Review | Talent Spotting

Ailsa’s previous children’s picture book illustrations include Rain, The Rougarou and the highly personal One Summer’s Day.

Having caught the attention of Creative Review, these led to her inclusion in the magazine’s Talent Spotting 2015 programme to showcase recent graduates’ work on JC Decaux billboards across the UK (including, in Ailsa’s case, in St Pancras International Station).

In an interview with Creative Review, Ailsa described her approach to book illustration, saying…

“I would describe my work as somewhere between hand made and digital, and I want to make something other people can resonate with. Things that evoke memories or moments. I think what I love most about making picture books is crafting the word and image together”.

She says of her approach to the Penguin Random House brief…

“When thinking about the book, I considered the setting of 1930’s Germany, and the sharp contrast between town life and the lights of Berlin. The train scene is quite tense. I wanted to use [it] because it’s where the story really kicks off, but it doesn’t give much away to the reader, either.”

Are you interested in studying Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA)?

Ailsa is a graduate of our Illustration - BA (Hons) programme and is currently studying on our Illustration - MFA/MA programme on which you are encouraged to collaborate with writers, designers and publishers and work on competition briefs delivered by D&AD, Penguin, Macmillan Publishing and the V&A.