Penguin Book Covers

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
There's an excellent book out at the moment:"Penguin By Design". I think it's to sync up with their 70th anniversary. I know these covers are the pet love of a few people who post here, but I hadn't really taken on board how distinctive and wonderful their design was. Simon has mentioned to me that the Penguin ethos was informed by a wish to make knowledge widely available and cheap, made possible by the paperback format. So I guess for a long time they were engaged in some kind of cultural project. It must be that the covers were imbued with this lofty intent, so consistent and thoroughly well concieved do they appear.

Things do seem to tail off in the mid nineties, but I'm not sure that this doesnt actually signal the way in which these objects are charged with their own era, that they gain a power from "oozing zeit", though there is a sense, post MM Kaye's 'Far Pavilions' (1979) that the company needed to pander to the market a bit and strive for profitably, though having said that there's some fantastic covers after that date. Roald Dahl's 'Switch Bitch' for instance is a monster, I can really recall the menace his adult books exuded to one as a child.
 

jenks

thread death
WOEBOT said:
T. Simon has mentioned to me that the Penguin ethos was informed by a wish to make knowledge widely available and cheap, made possible by the paperback format. So I guess for a long time they were engaged in some kind of cultural project. .
i seem to remember that the original penguin idea was to sell cheap paperbacks at places like wh smiths at train stations. along with the original everyman series these books probably did more for the rise of reading in the 20th C than anything.

apropos the new penguins, am i only one who thinks the newish b+w spined penguins are a vast improvement on the green spined publications of the 90s? (just read the musa translation of dante with fantastic blakes on each of the covers)

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_0140444424,00.html

although reproduction is a bit unclear
 

blissblogger

Active member
not being a design head i had never really noticed how amazing the cover design of penguins/pelicans/peregines etc was until Matt and Julian House (whose Ghost Box designs are influenced by the classic penguin look along with university course books and the like) started banging on about it. looking at the things matt has scanned , or the stuff in the recent articles on penguin's 70th, i can only conclude i must be visually impaired or something -- they are so arresting looking, so covetable.

the thing that did click with me was that sort of utilitarian/uniformity thing of the color-coded spines, especially the classic blue ones -- the Reithian sobriety -- it triggers a real sort of memory-rush of a time when the pursuit of knowledge was intensely libidinized for me as a youth-- the buzz of foraging through second hand book stores, jumble sales and the like.


[there's similar associations with the Picador Stand which most bookshops had when i was growing up, a rotary stand full of things like Burroughs books and Ian McEwan and Arthur Koestler... Paladin was another one i think -- something about the P words]

Ian MacDonald (on "paperback writer" in Revolution in the Head) and Fred Vermorel in the memoristic midsection of his Vivien Westwood book both have great stuff on the paperback revolution
 
D

droid

Guest
Theres an excellent feature in the current issue of creative review (which happens to be the Annual this month.) It covers Penguin's 70th anniversary project, in which they commisioned 70 designers to redesign 70 classic book covers in 7 days for 70 pounds, and features all of the new designs... Theres also an article on Penguin's 'great ideas' book covers.

Big thick square magazine, bright red cover with a huge silver A on the front. You cant miss it.
 

ambrose

New member
theres an exhibition running at the moment on this, er........ive totally faiel to find out how i knew that, or indedd where it is. im sure i read an artciel about the book and the exhibition, was it in time out?
 

owen

New member
god, how i long for a scanner- i've had to use google for the ones below, and i couldn't find the one for 'malone dies', grrr. and 'conversations with stalin' by milovan djilas.....

this is one thing britain has going for it, really. budget stuff elsewhere, like reclam in germany (neubauten ripped these off, forget for which album) is all very elegant but a bit ponderous...

anyway, in defence of the green spines- this is absolutely perfect
 

owen

New member
it was an awful shame when the continuum impacts and penguin great ideas came out in the same month- as the former had a great selection and looked incredibly ugly, and the penguins were drearily predictable but looked excellent, viz-
 

David Pearson

New member
Design geeks of the world unite and take over

I'd just like to confirm that there is indeed no money in book design. The publishers know that there are so many people that want to 'work with books' and this keeps wages artificially low and makes promotions very scarce.
It's a great job to have mind ...
Seeing these pictures takes me back to the dusty archive I lived in when I was researching the design book.
I can't tell you how hard it was to limit the number of book covers to 547! It's reassuring to see some of my favourites reproduced here though - thank you.

One of the reasons covers tend to drop in quality during the eighties was the rise in importance of marketing departments. Never again were covers designed and quality controlled by the designers themselves and covers suddenly defaulted to full-bleed photographic, sticker and quote-ridden extravaganzas.
In truth, this has never really changed - but art and marketing departments do swap around in importance every few years which signals brief changes in trends.

However, I regret to say the days of 'Switch Bitch' are gone but I would like to share it's designer's thoughts with you (taken from a recent e-mail):

"I'm sure it's still done today. What you do
is show something that is totally out of order and
maintain that you are mad about it. 'Over our dead
body,' they cry. So you drag out your second choice
which is still pretty tacky and they say...
'Welllll...' and tug their bottom lip. 'Then there's
this, my third choice,' I say, producing my first
choice. They are so relieved to see an image which is
diagramatic and not actually pornographic that they
fall upon it, nodding and smiling at each other and
saying 'Oh yes. Yes. That's far more like it.'

When they eventually twigged that I was employing such
tactics (there were many others) the cover meetings
became wonderfully challenging with everybody second
guessing almost everything that was said. People
looked forward to these skirmishes hugely and often
told me so. And through it all (with an understanding
glint in his eye which told me that he at least - and
often he alone - knew exactly what was going on) was
the inscrutable Hans Schmoller, who was very kind and
very supportive. I understand that Hans was also very
good at chess."

That was David Pelham or 'God' for us design junkies out there (he also designed 'A Clockwork Orange'.

I've attached one of the forthcoming Great Ideas Vol. 2 cover designs (released 25/08/05) - I hope you like it ...
 

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
David Pearson said:
I've attached one of the forthcoming Great Ideas Vol. 2 cover designs (released 25/08/05) - I hope you like it ...
Thats lovely.
 

jed_

New member
jenks said:
apropos the new penguins, am i only one who thinks the newish b+w spined penguins are a vast improvement on the green spined publications of the 90s? (just read the musa translation of dante with fantastic blakes on each of the covers)
They are a vast improvement on what was there before for that imprint but they are a superior variation on the black and white covers and spines that already existed. The minty green spines were for Penguin Modern Classics (so there would never have been a green spined Dante, for example). The Penguin Moderns are now silver (replacing the green) which i think is actually inferior. Whether you Love of hate the mint green Penguins you must admit they did leap out at you in the bookshops. silver grey is so dully "tasteful".
 
"70 years of Penguin Design" is currently exhibited at the V&A. Just one room really but lots of good stuff in it.

Sorry i'm a bit slow.
 

owen

New member
more cold, inhuman modernism

the pics in yesterday's guardian were quite, quite beautiful. more-









 
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