Cognella Textbook Covers Receive National Recognition from GDUSA for Seventh Consecutive Year

Cognella Textbook Covers Receive National Recognition from GDUSA for Seventh Consecutive Year

Two Cognella textbooks honored with 2021 GDUSA American Inhouse Design Awards 

San Diego, CA – August 12, 2021 – For the seventh consecutive year, Cognella textbook cover designs have earned Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) American Inhouse Design Awards.

The GDUSA American Inhouse Design Awards are the original and premier showcase for outstanding work by inhouse graphic designers and creative professionals. It represents a unique opportunity for inhouse designers at corporations, publishing houses, nonprofits, universities, and government agencies to be recognized for their creativity, the special challenges they face, and the value they bring to the table.

This is the 58th anniversary of the award program, and this year saw the largest number of entries to date with 6,800 entries received from organizations across the country. Only the top 10% of entries receive awards, and this year, two Cognella cover designs have been recognized by GDUSA.

The award-winning Cognella book covers, designed by Senior Graphic Designers Emely Villavicencio and Jess Estrella, reflect the excellence and ingenuity Cognella strives to deliver to academic partners each and every day.

Cover designed by Senior Graphic Designer Emely Villavicencio

Cover designed by Senior Graphic Designer Jess Estrella

To create the cover for Making Black Lives Matter: Confronting Anti-Black Racism, Emely Villavicencio first consulted with the book’s editor, Kevin Cokley, Ph.D., to learn about his vision for the imagery.

“He wanted to convey that Black people are valuable and beautiful and at the same time, to show their resilience and resistance,” Emely said. “I started working on the illustration thinking of the Barack Obama Hope poster as my main inspiration. I decided to create duotone images of people using only black and white to focus on the beauty of African Americans and how their faces capture light. This was a unique approach, because typically, so many colors—purples, reds, greens, and yellows—are used in combination to create skin tones. The second important element was the conveyance of emotion, which was crucial for this cover. This design allowed me to expand my expertise in so many ways, from using only black and white for the people on the cover, to creating a digital painting that not only looks real but also conveys emotion, to incorporating my own photography from local BLM protests in the background. I’m really happy with how it came out.”

When creating the cover for Native American History and Culture: An Anthology, Jess Estrella had the difficult task of designing imagery that was inclusive of a wide range of Indigenous peoples.

“So much of the imagery readily available for Indigenous peoples is hyperbolic, costumey, or leans into stereotypes, many of which can be harmful,” Jess said. “Additionally, there is a lot of symbolism to consider within Native American culture. For example, a red feather can mean different things to different tribes—wounded in battle, a victory, connection to the Creator—to name only a few. Thus, color choice and imagery were extremely important for this cover. It needed to be accurate, inclusive, and still evocative. In the end, I worked with the editor, Stacey L. Moore, to create a less literal and more abstract concept. You can’t tell if the pictured individual is male, female, or two-spirit. The clothing and adornment is less specific than what you’d see from tribe to tribe. The anthology explores the complexity and diversity of Native American heritage, so the cover is a great representation of the content of the book, while also being respectful and beautiful.”

“The covers for Making Black Lives Matter and Native American History and Culture showcase our incredible graphic designers, Emely and Jess, at the pinnacle of their skill,” said Cognella founder and CEO Bassim Hamadeh. “The creation of these designs required ingenuity and creativity, as well as cultural empathy and understanding. We couldn’t be prouder that our authors trust us to create covers that well represent their texts and their professional expertise. A hearty congratulations is due to both the authors of these award-winning textbooks and our graphic designers, who worked together to bring these concepts to life.”

Visit the title pages for Making Black Lives Matter and Native American History and Culture to learn more about each book:

Making Black Lives Matter:

Native American History and Culture:


About Cognella®

Cognella® is redefining academic publishing by creating teacher-driven, student-centric higher education course materials in print and digital formats under three imprints: Cognella® Academic Publishing, Cognella® Custom, and Cognella® Active Learning. Cognella also publishes engaging nonfiction titles featuring modern perspectives as Cognella® Press. Learn more at 

For media inquiries please contact:
Natalie Piccotti
Director of Marketing, Cognella, Inc.
858-552-1120 x532


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