In 2015, Publishers Weekly, in partnership with Frankfurter Buchmesse, launched the PW Star Watch program with the goal of highlighting and celebrating publishing professionals in the U.S. and expanding their network internationally. The top honoree in the program’s first year was Helen Yentus, art director at Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Yentus’s name and achievements were announced at the awards event in New York, and she received a sponsored trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair to share her experience and expertise with her peers from around the world.
Madeline McIntosh, PRH CEO but who was president of the Penguin Publishing Group in 2015 and who nominated Yentus, said at the time: “Helen Yentus, award-winning art director of Riverhead Books, is a star magician of the very first order. She is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of physical design. Far from working in the lone-artist model, Helen brings collaborative and inspiring energy to the entire Riverhead art team and to collaborations with external talents.”
Today, Yentus continues as the art director at Riverhead, and asserts she’s “still doing the same thing” she was doing four years ago— which means she is still pushing the limits of design and creativity to engage readers. From new ways to launch their books, such as the block catalog, or connect to readers, such as the Reading Room balloon installation at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and in creative cover designs, such as the velvet book cover for the ARC for Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Yentus continues to come up with interesting ways to further the Riverhead brand.
In 2016, PW reported on Riverhead Design Labs, an interdepartmental operation helmed by Yentus and made up of the art department, publicists, marketers, editors, and the publisher, illustrating how collaborative design has become and how Riverhead is using “experimentation in art to ‘tell a greater story.’” Last October, Yentus and Riverhead associate publisher Jynne Dilling Martin were invited to an art and design conference in Milan by the Italian cultural foundation Mondadori, in a partnership with Mimaster Illustrations, where they spoke to professional illustrators, designers, editors and publishers about the Riverhead’s unique approach to design.
“I do think my being nominated for Star Watch was unusual because I was an art director,” Yentus noted. “What it did was propel and continue the idea that the art department is an essential part of the publishing process. We are part of the solution.”
To nominate someone for Star Watch 2019, go to publishersweekly.com/StarWatch19.