You are on page 1of 2


When Penguin was founded in 1935 with the radical Before his arrival the design of individual books had appeared cohe-
sive, at least compared to those of rival publishers, but had varied
concept of producing inexpensive paperback editions of
with the views of the editor and printer. A firm believer in typograph-
high quality books, it adopted an equally progressive ap- ic systems, Tschichold designed a template for all Penguin books with
proach to typography and cover design. Under Jan Tsch- designated positions for the title and author’s name with a line be-
tween the two. He unified the design of the front, spine and back
ichold in the 1940s and Germano Facetti in the 1960s, and redrew Edward Young’s endearingly amateurish Penguin symbol
Penguin became an exemplar of book design. in eight variations. Finally he produced a set of Composition Rules
which, he insisted, were to be followed by Penguin’s typographers and
Returning to London from a weekend at the Devon home of the printers to ensure that the same style was always applied.
crime writer Agatha Christie in 1934, the publisher Allen Lane
scoured Exeter Station for something to read. All he could find were Tschichold was equally rigorous in
reprints of 19th century novels and Lane decided to found a publish- the design of special sets of books
ing house to produce good quality paperbacks sold at sixpence each, published by Penguin. These in-
the same price as a packet of cigarettes. cluded Penguin Modern Painters,
introduced in 1944 by the art his-
Lane’s secretary suggested Penguin as a “dignified, but flippant” name torian Sir Kenneth Clark to popu-
for the company and the office junior Edward Young was sent to larise modern art to “the wide pub-
sketch the penguins at London Zoo as its logotype. Young was then lic outside the art galleries”, and the
asked to design the covers of the first set of ten paperbacks to be Penguin Shakespeare Series, which
published in summer 1935 including Ariel and A Farewell to Arms. had the same democratising objec-
Considering illustrated book covers to be trashy, Lane insisted on tive for William Shakespeare’s plays.
his following a simple horizontal grid for Penguin’s jackets in colours Among Tschichold’s innovations was to
that signified the genre of each book: orange for fiction, green for persuade Allen Lane to allow Penguin
crime, and blue for biography. to take advantage of recent advances in
printing by using illustration on the jack-
ets of particular sets of books such as the
Dignified But Flippant Shakespeare Series.

The rigorous application of colour, grid and typography in those early

paperbacks instilled Penguin with a commitment to design from the
start. The company then strengthened its design ethos under the
New Faces
direction of the German typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) In 1949 Tschichold returned to Switzerland after three highly pro-
during the 1940s and the Italian art director Germano ductive years in which he had defined an intellectually rigorous and
Facetti (1926-Present) in the 1960s. The enduring prin- inspiring visual language for Penguin. His successor, the typographer
ciples of Penguin’s design were defined by Allen Lane Hans Schmoller (1916-1985) had a rich knowledge of type and un-
when he founded the company in the mid-1930s, but erring eye for detail, but was less radical in his approach and tend-
Allan Lane it was not until the late 1940s ed to refine Tschichold’s templates rather than inventing his own.
Penguin Founder that it adopted a disciplined Schmoller’s design for the 1950s architectural series, The Buildings
and coherent approach to design under Jan of England written by the historian Nikolaus Pevsner, was modelled
Tschichold. Already established as an emi- closely on Tschichold’s templates. However he did change the Pen-
nent writer on typography and a famous guin grid from horizontal to vertical in 1951. The vertical grid had
practitioner by the time he arrived been devised at Tschichold’s behest by the designer Erik Ellegaard
at Penguin in 1946, Tschich- Frederiksen, but was not adopted until Schmoller had modified it.
old was more assertive at The result was the division of the cover into three vertical stripes,
imposing his design philoso- which allowed enough space for illustration while maintaining the
phy than his predecessors. tri-partite division and the original 1930s colour coding so strongly
associated with Penguin.
By the early 1960s Penguin, once a pioneer in book design, had lost ceeded in establishing consistently high standards of inspiring and
its edge. In 1961 the company appointed the Italian art director Ger- often provocative design in a systematic manner appropriate to a
mano Facetti, who had studied architecture in Milan and worked modern publisher of mass-market books in the 1960s.
for Domus magazine there before moving to London to design for
Olivetti, then renowned for its inventive approach to contemporary Penguin has since revived its design heritage with particular series,
design, as its new head of design. In an era when London’s fledgling notably the mid-1980s King Penguins collection of contemporary fic-
graphic design scene was invigorated by the emergence of talented tion with a cover grid designed by Mike Dempsey and Ken Carroll
Britons like Alan Fletcher, Colin Forbes and Derek Birdsall, and the featuring the work of such illustrators as Andrei Klimowski. In 2004,
arrival of the gifted US designers, such as Robert Brownjohn and Bob Penguin published the Great Ideas series of social, political and philo-
Gill, Facetti was charged with revitalising Penguin’s design tradition. sophical tracts in paperback for £3.99 each. Penguin’s art director
One of his most inspiring projects was the redesign of Penguin Crime. Jim Stoddart asked a junior designer, David Pearson, to develop the
In 1962 Facetti commissioned the Polish-born designer Romek Mar- design identity of the series which he did by dressing each cover in
ber, having admired his covers of The Economist, to redesign the the lettering or typographic style typical of its time in a rigorous pal-
series. Green was retained as the defining colour of Penguin Crime, ette of black and burgundy type on creamy white – from the replica
but Marber refreshed it by choosing a brighter shade. The horizontal of a grimy 18th century theatrical bill for Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a
title band at the top stayed too, as did the hierarchy of information – Tub, to an Arts and Crafts style bookplate for John Ruskin’s discourse
logo, series and price, then title, followed by the author’s name – with On Art and Life.
rules dividing each band. Marber then added a visually compelling im-
age, often a staccato photograph or illustration hinting at the drama When Penguin decided to celebrate its 70th anniversary by publish-
and tensions of the plot. ing a collection of 70 Pocket Penguins paperbacks to sell for £1.50
each, the design was entrusted to art directors John Hamilton and
The redesign was so successful that Facetti adopted variations of it Jim Stoddart. As timing was tight, Hamilton hit upon the idea of invit-
for other Penguin series. For Penguin Classics, he introduced the use ing 70 designers, artists and illustrators to create one cover each.
of an historic painting, invariably reflecting the themes of the book, He and Stoddart then resolved that the covers should be designed
to the covers and for Penguin Modern Poets, he commissioned a within seven days for a flat fee of £70.
series of photograms by Peter Barrett, Roger Mayne and Alan Spain
between 1962 and 1965. One of Facetti’s final projects before leaving All the designers they approached said ‘yes’. In deference to Pen-
Penguin in 1972 was to commission Derek Birdsall to redesign its guin’s heritage, each book was the A-format size of its original 1935
education titles. paperbacks, and some of the cover designers were Penguin veterans,
In just over a decade at Penguin, Facetti succeeded not only in mod- such as Alan Aldridge, Derek Birdsall and Romek Marber. The fin-
ernising its approach to design, but doing so in a coherent way across ished collection of 70 covers acts as a panorama of contemporary
hundreds of titles. At a time when publishers still tended to com- graphic design and illustration: from Peter Saville’s glacial typography
mission design on a title-by-title basis, described by Facetti as “the for Homer and David Shrigley’s sinister drawing for Freud, to the
arty-crafty approach of the single beautiful achievement”, he had suc- elaborate sculpture on Julie Verhoeven’s F. Scott Fitzgerald cover.