Bristol Prize

Interview with 2018 cover designer, Valentina Vinci

September 21, 2018   Joe Melia

Each year we run an anthology cover design project with final year Illustration degree students at The University of West England in Bristol. We select one of the designs for our annual anthology, and we are always blown away by the quality and ingenuity of the work submitted by the students.

The design we have chosen for this year’s cover is by Valentina Vinci. Many congratulations to her. Valentina’s cover immediately caught our eye with its professional execution and its suggestion of a broad spectrum of stories.

Many thanks to all the students who submitted designs and to course leaders Chris Hill and Jonathan Ward for making the project so inspiring and rewarding.

We took the opportunity to ask Valentina a few questions about illustration, her design, and her plans for the future.

What did you think when your design was chosen for this year’s BSSP anthology cover?

I was really happy as I think it is a great opportunity for me coming out as a fresh illustrator from university to have my first illustration published. Especially for such an amazing book!

Our volume 11 anthology cover designed by recent UWE Illustration graduate, Valentina Vinci. Published by Tangent Books on October 13th


You’re from Sardinia, what made you choose UWE to study Illustration?

Bristol as a city was chosen at random and fortunately the best one I could have ever taken. Before I moved to England I asked people I knew that had been living there, which city was the best place to live and Bristol was always mentioned in the list. I then searched and discovered that there was an illustration course at UWE and I was told that it was one of the best illustration courses in England, so there was no more doubt about where I should go. It has been an amazing journey in which I have learnt how to transform my biggest passion into a profession and I am ready to work hard to build my career and reach my goals. I feel that it would have never happened if I would have gone somewhere else. I am so glad I chose Bristol and I am so glad I chose UWE.

What do you think of Bristol as a city?

Bristol is my second home, sometimes it weirdly feels as though it is my first one as I feel that I have found my place in there. It opened my eyes to the world as Bristol has such a huge multitude of cultures, it has been a special time there in terms of the people I have met and the experiences I had. It is a constant flow of inspiration and creative stimulus, it is almost overwhelming as you feel you have to run to keep up with what is going on around you, but that is the reason why I always felt pushed to do a lot of things. The music scene is incredible, the city is full of talents that you can spot just by going around to jam sessions or open mics. I love singing as much as I love drawing and I always find the chance to have random jams with people that creatively fill my days up. It is a confirmation of the fact that I have chosen the right place to live.

 What do you think are the key components of a great book cover?

A great book cover has to be ‘sexy’. You have to spot it on the shelf and be drawn to it. It has to make people feel curious about the book before they even hold it in their hands. It has to communicate the feeling of the story it holds inside. I often buy books because I love the cover. A great book cover makes the book more interesting!

With such a broad brief for the anthology, how difficult was the design process?

Around the period we had the brief I was going through a hard time with my practice, I was very confused about what to do, I didn’t have any ideas for new projects and I felt stuck. I am very grateful for this project that had some guidelines but was very broad. It inspired me to start producing brand new work with a line to follow, but with complete freedom as well. I wanted to get my hands dirty with some ink, as I have been doing mainly digital things for a while, so I focused on the type and I did some letterpress, which I then used in the design. It is an anthology of stories so I thought the texture of some old letter stamps might give that feeling of something classic that has to be read. I thoroughly enjoyed designing this cover, with such a broad brief I had the freedom to interpret my view of Bristol and give my creative contribute to a city that gave a lot to me.

Which artists and illustrators have had the biggest influence on you?

The illustrators that have been fundamental during my journey are Shaun Tan, Jon McNaught and Eleonor Shakesphere. I love silent narratives and the way Tan creates atmospheres. The way he builds a real feeling of what is going on in the story is just stunning. Jon McNaught also does silent narratives. Looking at McNaught’s books I have learnt how time can be represented in pictures, how printmaking can be translated in digital obtaining the same result in a short period of time, but also how much hard work it takes to make something handmade that is also that beautiful.

Eleonor came to give a talk to my course around the end of last term. Hearing her experience has been so important to understand what I would like to do in the future and what area of the illustration industry I am interested in, which is editorial. I also started to experiment with digital collage, which is now my main visual language. She is such a huge inspiration for me.

What are you planning to do now that you have graduated?

I have moved back to Sardinia for now, and my goal as illustrator is to start working in the editorial industry, I would love to work for newspapers and magazines. My focus will be on promoting my work and carrying on with personal projects as much as I can while I will be doing an internship in a graphic design studio. I will be moving to Cagliari, which is a city in the south coast of Sardinia, where it is always sunny and beautiful. I feel it is going to be a very nice way to start with a new job in the creative industry, and also it will help me to not miss Bristol too much. Although I will for sure!

More of Valentina’s work can be seen on her website,,   and on Instagram. 

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