Orion Art and Design Student Competition

All of the details



In 2013 Orion set a design competition resulting in the winner repackaging the Dylan Thomas backlist and a special edition hardback. In 2014 we teamed up with one of London’s premier illustration agencies, Illustration Ltd, to launch the Orion illustration competition. This proved to be a huge success – not only for the winner who saw her cover design printed on an special anniversary print run of the international best seller Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder – but gave Orion exposure to lots of emerging talent throughout the UK to commercial commissioners.

This year Orion is launching a competition which will be our most ambitious by far. It will be open to all UK students at degree level or above. Entries can be submitted in any medium the student chooses to use: photography, illustration, graphic design or multimedia. We are looking for clever, innovative and beautiful images that have been well thought through and are based on the brief outlined below.

The winner will have the opportunity to work with the award-winning Art Department at Orion Books and we will be sharing the most exciting entrants on our website. All entries should be sent no later then 11 April 2016. The competition winner will be announced at the end of April 2016.


The Versions of Us is a beautiful, vibrant, uplifting literary novel, published to much critical acclaim.  Central to the story is a painting (described below), which we would like you to interpret in any way you want. You could turn this image into a film, painting, campaign or book cover. The possibilities are endless!



What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge University, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.

What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.

We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.

The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow.

What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?



In the studio, the heater is breathing out the warm smell of burning dust. Marcel is sprawled in front of it on the old rag-rug, belly up. ‘Hello, boy.’ Jim leans down, tickles him under the chin, and the cat preens, shifts. ‘We’ll have some music, shall we?’

He slides Blood on the Tracks into the cassette player (his gift, last Christmas, from Sinclair and his mother), presses play. He tugs the sheet from his easel – an old habit, never broken, though Helena rarely comes in here any more; she has taken to throwing her own “sculptures” on Iris’s wheel – reaches into his pocket for his rolling tobacco, papers. Early one morning, the sun was shining, I was lying in bed . . . He sings along, pinching the tobacco, laying it along the shaft of the paper, narrowing his eyes at the canvas. Wondering if she’s changed at all, if her hair was still red . . .

The woman’s hair is not red: it’s a deep, dark brown, with a conker’s lustre. She is turning away, looking towards the man who sits behind her, on their living-room sofa: he is facing her, and the viewer; with an expression that Jim wishes to be unreadable. At the moment, his main fear is that the man – who is both him and not him, just as the woman is both Helena and Eva Katz, and any of the women he has ever met – looks too miserable. 

This is the third panel of the triptych. The other two, standing sheet-wrapped against the studio wall, are almost the same, but for minor variations: in the first, it is the woman seated on the sofa, and the man standing; in the second, they are both sitting. He has changed small details about the room, too: the position of the clock on the wall behind the sofa; the cards and photographs on the mantelpiece; the colour of the cat stretched out on the armchair (only one is black and white, in homage to Marcel).

‘Like a Spot the Difference,’ Helena said when he first outlined the idea to her: she was joking, but he felt the sting. His aspirations for the triptych are much grander. The painting is about the many roads not taken, the many lives not lived. He has called it The Versions of Us.



The winner will have the opportunity to work with the award-winning Art Department at Orion Books and have their design appear on a book. They will also win a 12 month mentoring course from Illustration Ltd, who will provide support with your portfolio so it’s ready for graduation, and you can visit the agency in London who will option your work for future representation.


The judges for the 2015 competition will be:

- Lucie Stericker (Creative Director, Orion Publishing Group)
- Steve Marking (Art Director, Orion Publishing Group)
- Sara Griffin (Art Buyer, Orion Publishing Group)
- Kirsty Dunseath (Publishing Director, Orion Publishing Group)
- Laura Barnett (Author, The Versions of Us)



Zigmund Lapsa


Kate Akley



The Orion Publishing Group was founded in 1991. Soon after, Orion acquired Weidenfeld & Nicolson, which established its reputation by publishing controversial bestsellers such as Nabokov’s Lolita, and over the years it has continued to publish high quality, prize-winning fiction and non-fiction across a range of genres. Recent and current authors include Michael Palin, Antonia Fraser, Edna O’Brien, H.G. Wells and Pope John Paul II. Orion Books’ design team have produced many iconic covers, including the global bestseller Gone Girl, and Antony Beevor’s The Second World War.


Founded in 1929, Illustration Ltd is a leading international agency with offices in London, New York, Hamburg, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney and Mumbai. Representing over 150 of the world's leading illustrators, artists and animators, we work with clients spanning publishing, advertising, design, retail, fashion, packaging, editorial and motion graphics.



Can I send in more than one entry?
Each applicant may only send in one entry per title.

Where can I find out more about Orion Books?

Would it be a good idea to read the books?
Of course; it would be greatly beneficial to familiarise yourself with the book but it is not essential, we have provided enough information.



The closing date for entries is Monday 11 April 2016.

Entries must be supplied in the following format:

A3 PDF with image/s and description of your idea, 1 page preferred but no more than 3 please. 

If you have created a website or animation please send a link along with your PDF.

Maximum file size 7 MB

All entries must be submitted digitally to designcompetition@orionbooks.co.uk.  Entries submitted in any other way, either by hard copy or email, will not be accepted.


1.    Deadline for Entries
The closing date for entries is Monday 11 April 2016.
Orion will accept submissions from Friday 29 January 2016.

2.    Eligibility
To be eligible for the competition you must be a student in  a degree or above, studying in the UK.   
There can be only one named entrant per entry.

3.    Submissions
Submissions must be emailed to designcompetition@orionbooks.co.uk. Any entries submitted in any other way will not be accepted. Any work sent to the offices of Orion Publishing cannot be returned. Orion cannot be held responsible for any original artwork delivered in person to the offices.

4.    Terms and Conditions of Entry
•    The closing date for receipt of all entries is Monday 11 April 2016.
•    No purchase necessary to enter this competition.
•    This competition is open to students on an arts degree course in the UK. This competition is not open to students on a Foundation Course – any Orion staff member or their families.
•    No responsibility can be accepted for incorrectly uploading entries. Submissions by agents or third parties are invalid.
•    All correctly submitted entries will be forwarded to the judging panel.
•    Entries will not be returned to entrants and Orion accepts no responsibility for loss of or damage of work.
•    The winner of the competition will be announced on the Orion website on 29 April 2016 and the winner notified by telephone and or email beforehand.
•    The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered to the winner.
•    If at the sole discretion of the judges, none of the entries reach the high standard expected, no prize will be awarded.
•    The decision of the judges is final and correspondence will be entered into only at the absolute discretion of Orion.
•    All entrants hereby licence Orion Publishing the use of their entry for display on any Hachette-owned website and media partners. Appropriate credits will be given when possible.
•    Orion Publishing will use any data submitted by entrants only for the purposes of running the completion, unless otherwise stated.  By entering the completion all entrants consent to the use of their personal data by Orion for the purposes of administration of this completion.
•    By submitting an entry, each entrant agrees to these Terms and Conditions.


The Versions of Us

By Laura Barnett


What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.

The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?

Laura's Barnett's new book GREATEST HITS is available for pre-order now.

Summer Reading choice: an intriguing debutSummer Reading recommendation: the beautiful love child of David Nicholl's One Day and Kate Atkinson's Life After LifeSummer Reading recommendation: I am 20 pages in and already hooked on Laura Barnett's counterfactual THE VERSIONS OF US, which is a kind of literary Sliding Doorsa triumphant debut.. a thoughtful, measured book about the interplay of chance and destiny in our lives.Its very scope is a joy, the technical achievement seamlessly done, and the ending - all the endings - suitably affectingBarnett renders an irresistible concept in sweet, cool prose - a bit like a choose-your-own adventure book in which you don't have to choose.The Versions of Us is well written, deftly crafted and constantly surprising, in the way that chaotic real life is surprising; through the technical exercise might sound a tad mechanical, Laura Barnett uses it with verve to tell an utterly convincing love story about two people destined to be together somehow, no matter what.Like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or the film Sliding Doors, The Versions of Us, a fine debut by Laura Barnett, offers multiple "what ifs"... involving and poignant.Maeve Binchy's death left a gap in the market for stories simply told with no literary affectation. Barnett's promising first novel reads like early Binchy.. the tantalising 'what if?' theme keeps all three stories going at a cracking pace.An affecting and thought-provoking work, The Versions of Us will keep you gripped until the tear-jerking conclusion.We reckon that you'll see a few other people by the pool with their heads in this book as it's a classic summer read. One day meets Mad Men in this tale of the different ways a couple's relationship could have played out from the late 1950s to the present.an amazing piece of British literature - this book should definitely be on your reading list this summer if you enjoy contemporary romance and books that really make you thinkTruly enthralling... I simply adored this wonderful novelI absolutely loved [The Versions of Us]. It's so elegantly and beautifully written... I was equally enthralled by each of the three versions...a really wonderful book.both brilliant and astonishingly goodskilfully doneunique, complex and playful.. Barnett suspends our disbelief like a conjurorEveryone's talking about The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Eva and Jim's first meeting has three possible outcomes. Barnett interweaves the resulting love stories with their beautifully drawn characters into an elegant, touching tapestry.One Day meets Sliding DoorsA clever, romantic debut.. Barnett tells three outcomes of the same affair, a simple, effective metaphor for the paths love itself can take you on, before winding up smartly in the present.One to watch: we meet two characters, then time splits and follows three different versions of their lives. Each strand is distinct - and equally captivating.a fascinating debut novel that could well be this year's One Day.All the highs and lows of love are portrayed in this thought-provoking and moving read.We follow (Eva and Jim) as their lives spin out in three different ways and so, inevitably, Sliding Doors comparisons kick in. But this is its own book; deep, sensitive and without a hint of commercial compromise.. Just lovely.It's annoying when a book won't let you give it up. You put it to one side and think "maybe I will read that later" because you have more important things to do. And there it is the next day, in your hands, wide open, pulling you back in, just not letting you go... As a first novel this is quite an accomplishment.It's hard to believe this is Laura Barnett's debut novel. It's so sophisticated and well put-together - I'm completely in awe of how Barnett managed to write not just one story, but three, and make them all work perfectly together.I recommend this book without reservation... This is a wonderful, exceptional book by Laura Barnett. I loved it.glorious... a book that I think will do incredibly well come its releaseWorth every tear rolling down my cheeks. It's a 2015 must-read!Each version had its own moments that made me laugh and cry and I did find myself thinking about what my own different versions would be like.In pieces having just finished Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us. Brilliant.Comparisons have been made with David Nicholls' One Day and yes, it can be compared favourably with his masterpiece. This is a work of great mastery and deserves to be read and re-read for its own merits.Clever but not showy, romantic but not schmaltzy, it's clear that the buzz around this book is justified.In Laura Barnett's first novel, a good idea is cleverly executed . . . The Versions of Us is a confident debut.A hugely engrossing and, ultimately, deeply moving book about connections, possibilities, regret and the complicated nature of love.written with intelligence and warmthThe story of Eva and Jim twists and turns over many decades in this thought-provoking love story. Great read.Already a bestseller, this debut opens with a chance meeting between students Eva and Jim in 1958. As romance hangs in the air the novel splinters into three different directions with three outcomes, each following the couple over 60 years.well-written and constantly surprising, in the way that real life is surprising.This bestselling alternative universe romance could be described as Sliding Doors, except with three stories instead of two, or Life After Life, without all the messy deaths.Like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or the film Sliding Doors, Barnett's fine debut offers multiple "what ifs"an impressive debutA clever, touching and unforgettable book'One Day meets Sliding Doors' (Elle).

Laura Barnett was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London.

As a freelance arts journalist, features writer and theatre critic, Laura has worked for the GUARDIAN, the OBSERVER, the DAILY TELEGRAPH and other national newspapers and magazines. Her first non-fiction book, ADVICE FROM THE PLAYERS - a compendium of advice for actors - was published in 2014 by Nick Hern Books.

THE VERSIONS OF US, her debut novel, was a number one bestseller and has been translated into 23 languages. TV rights have been optioned by Trademark Films. Her second novel, GREATEST HITS, was published in 2017, along with an accompanying soundtrack by Kathryn Williams.

@laura_jbarnett www.laura-barnett.co.uk www.versionsofus.com

The biggest fiction debut of 2015.The hardback went straight into the bestseller chart in its first week and stayed there, rising to number 4. We have already sold over 26K hardbacks, 11K tpbs and over 25K ebooksHuge support across all bookselling chains.Blanket coverage across the media ('A triumphant debut' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH; 'Its very scope is a joy' GUARDIAN; 'reads like early Binchy' DAILY MAIL; 'Everyone's talking VERSIONS OF US' WOMAN AND HOME) and terrific praise on social media.Paperback supported by W&N Fiction's biggest marketing and publicity campaign of the year, including pb proofs and major advertising campaign.