Book covers can make or break the deal: Ahlawat Gunjan

New Delhi, March 4 (IANSlife) 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 was recently awarded the sixth Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize.

“Along with it being visually appealing to draw your attention, I believe it also needs to be contextually appropriate and should be able to communicate clearly and effectively,” Ahlawat told IANSlife in an email.

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

The award is given out for brilliance in book design, in an attempt to recognise and encourage the extraordinary work of illustrators, designers and publishers throughout India.

“We commend the dramatic graphics and meticulous attention to detail in the cover image. The genius of the textual narrative finds resonance in the sensuous movement of the snake, slithering as it does across the spine to the back cover. The deep integration of the title and the author’s name into the illustration is thoughtfully rendered. The selected visual appropriately and aesthetically represents the core and movement of the story. The typography aligns seamlessly with the coiled serpent offering a unique and emblematic visual identity to the book,” said the Jury consisting Indian politician, writer and Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, Author, Indian 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 the Oxford Bookstore chain, Priti Paul.

Winning cover design is a basic piece of the achievement of a book and artists assume a key part in helping a book wind up plainly significant and make review.

“I got the cover brief from my editor and we discussed the ideas in detail. I then went on to read the MS and discussed the ideas in further detail with the editor and the author. As I mentioned, the challenge here was my own phobia for reptiles, so a photographic approach was completely out and I decided to go with an illustrative one. I chose to work with Nirupa Roa for the cover art and she wonderfully translated the illustration brief into a spectacular visual. With the illustration, I designed the fill cover and presented it Sales and Marketing team and finally to the author. Everyone really enjoyed the approach and the final outcome. It was later adopted by several international publishers,” said Ahlawat about the process of designing the cover for the bestselling book.

“I feel any appreciation in any form is good for the creator of that work. And in that light, these awards are a great source of recognition for the individuals behind the scenes,” He says about the importance of awards.

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

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at