Post 10 Crystal 1940s

Posted: May 21, 2012 by crystalspencer30 in Uncategorized

Penguin Book Cover Design

Penguin Books is a publisher founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane.  Anecdotally Lane recounted how it was his experience of the poor quality of reading material on offer at Exeter train station that inspired him to create cheap, well designed quality books for the mass market.

Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence.  By March 1936, ten months after the company’s launch on 30 July 1935, one million Penguin books had been printed.

From the outset, design was essential to the success of the Penguin brand. Eschewing the illustrated gaudiness of other paperback publishers, Penguin opted for the simple appearance of three horizontal bands, the upper and lower of which were colour coded according to which series the title belonged to; this is sometimes referred to as the horizontal grid. Lane’s secretary suggested Penguin as a “dignified, but flippant” name for the company and the office junior Edward Young was sent to sketch the penguins at London Zoo as its logotype. Young was then asked to design the covers of the first set of ten paperbacks to be published in summer 1935 including Ariel and A Farewell to Arms. Considering illustrated book covers to be trashy, Lane insisted on his following a simple horizontal grid for Penguin’s jackets in colours that signified the genre of each book: orange for fiction, green for crime, and blue for biography. The rigorous application of colour, grid and typography in those early paperbacks instilled Penguin with a commitment to design from the start. In the central white panel, the author and title were printed in Gill Sans and in the upper band was a cartouche with the legend “Penguin Books”. 

 Ariel by André Maurois, 1935 editionDesign: Edward Young Publisher: Penguin Books.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, 1935 edition Design: Edward Young Publisher: Penguin Books.

The company then strengthened its design ethos under the direction of the German typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) during the 1940s. 

Between 1947 and 1949, the German typographer  redesigned 500 Penguin books, and left Penguin with a set of influential rules of design principles brought together as the Penguin Composition Rules, a four page booklet of typographic instructions for editors and compositors.

The colour schemes included: orange and white for general fiction, green and white for crime fiction, cerise and white for travel and adventure, dark blue and white for biographies, yellow and white for miscellaneous, red and white for drama; and the rarer purple and white for essays and belles lettres and grey and white for world affairs. Lane actively resisted the introduction of cover images for several years.

75th anniversary Penguin Books logo designs, June 2nd 2010. To celebrate Penguin Books 75th anniversary, New York based graphic designer Amy Fleisher has re-vamped their logo design in a series of dedications to Penguins most popular classic books, such as Frankenstein and Dracula, to be more “Penguin-Centric” as she puts it.

Ever since the creation of the first Penguin paperbacks in 1935, their jackets have become a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture and design history.


From early Penguins and Pelicans, to wartime Specials, fiction and reference, Penguin has consistently established its identity through its covers, been influenced by and influenced, the wider development of graphic design and the changing fashions in typography, photography, illustration and printing techniques.

Penguin Books Great Food Series Designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, Inspired by Period Ceramic Designs,,9780713998399,00.html


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