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a brief history of penguin design


a brief history of penguin publishing

Content and Layout Design // by Mollie Ennis


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round the middle of the 20th century came the advent of a new type of publishing company, dedicated to the concept of affordable and attractive reprints of classic texts. Conceived of by Allen Lane, this nuanced approach to the industry of literary publication was financially risky. In order to sell on the shelves next to contemporary texts Lane realized that they must have a distinctive cover appeal. At first they were

only able to attain ten titles and publication of materials was met with caution. It was widely assumed within the industry that Penguin’s campaign would be completely unsuccessful, but Allen Lane, along with his brothers, decided to back their emerging company with their own money. A matter of months after the first Penguin titles were released into the market, any lingering reservation was dismissed. Paperback classics were printed

over and over again, launching Penguin Publishing to the forefront of the publication industry. By the time ten years had passed, the name Penguin had become virtually synonymous

HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED with the term “paperback.” Oddly enough, the name of the company only came by way of an intern’s sketches after numerous other proposals had been rejected.

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THROUGH THE DECADES CONSISTENCY AND VARIATION

THE PENGUIN SHAKESPEARE

THE ABRAM GAMES COVER EXPERIMENT

COVERS AS POSTERS: ALAN ALDRIDGE

1938-1951

1957-1958

1965

The first Penguin Shakespeare titles appearing in 1938 were compositionally and typographically undistinguished. It was not until the series was resumed by Jan Tschihold two decades later that their appearance was restored. Tschichold himself did the typographic engraving to frame a commissioned portrait of Shakespeare in the same woodblock

In the face of growing competition, Penguin carried out their first experimentation with full-color covers. Director of this project was Abram Games, who devised a new grid system and was responsible for the commissioning of his cover artists.

In order to compete successfully, the Art Directors of Penguin were always aware that they could not rely on their brand’s reputation alone, constantly trying to assure their books were given prime display location in bookshops. The objective of Aldridge’s youthful sense of enthusiasm was to bring life to the title of the book, rather than the Penguin brand.

Unfortunately advertisement was poor and the books were not recognized as penguins and sales did not offset the expense of color printing.

THE MARBER GRID In 1961, the current Penguin Art Director, German Facetti, commissioned Romek Marber to devise a new cover grid that would allow space for the emerging desire for graphic imagery in cover design. While Marber recognized the importance of maintaining consistency within Penguin’s historic typographic family, the decision for variation in font was ultimately made to compliment his new covers. Britain’s recent preoccupation with Helvetica–combined with the nature of his Swiss roots–Intertype Standard(a version of Berthold’s Akzidenz Grotesk) was ultimately chosen for the genre, title, and author on the covers.


Penguin Genre

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PROGRESSION OF THE PENGUIN LOGO


EVOLUTION OF AN ICON / 1935-2005


THE CREATION OF THE CLASSIC COVER

1. Layout overview Developed by Edward Young in 1935, the basic horizontal tripartite division of the cover became the first image of a Penguin Classic 3. Color Coding A system of color Coding was developed to help readers differentiate paperback novels at a glance. At the beginning, Orange was for 5. Logo The Penguin logo was redrawn several times in the first twelve years, evolving as editions altered and tastes changed.

2. Trade differences In the early part of the 20th century, there was still not a distinct separation between art director, designer, and printer, instead the

JAN TSCHICHOLD

GERMANO FACETTI

1947-1949

1961-1972

Responsible for the advancement of standards and consistency in typesetting, famously known as the Penguin Composition Rules.

fiction, green for crime, dark blue for biography, cerise for travel and adventure, and red for plays.

6. Penguin Specials The tripartite division gave way to a more aggressively striped layout, reflecting the pressing immediacy of the journalism within.

Known for the flexible modernity of his design sensibility, initiated a series of daring variations to Penguin’s core material.

Referred to as the horizontal grid: pioneered by Edward Young and later championed by Jan Tschichold, Germano Facetti, Richard Hollis, and many more.

Production Manager would be responsible for all these jobs. Despite apparent unity of appearance, slight variations were very common in the beginning. 4. Typeface Two weights of the new typeface Gill Sans (having been designed 7-8 years before), became the trademark look for Penguin Classic covers 7. Illustrated Editions Illustrations appeared on a few titles, often awkward and unsuccessful when design decisions by individual printers were made.

PROMINENT DESIGNERS OF THE PENGUIN TEAM


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Experimental layout by Jan Tschichold, 1948


L I F E A F T E R L A N E

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R E I N V E N T LANE’S DEATH I N G T H E MARKED THE END B R A N D OF AN ERA And changing priorities within the industry, combined with the financial instability of the 1970’s initiated numerous mergers and acquisitions that have altered the brand we know today.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FOR REFERENCED MATERIALS

BIBLIOGRAPHY // OF PRINT MATERIAL PENGUIN BY DESIGN

PHIL BAINES

New York: Penguin, 2010.

PUFFIN BY DESIGN

PHIL BAINES

New York: Penguin, 2010.

PENGUIN 75

PAUL BUCKLEY

New York: Penguin, 2010.

TITLES ORGANIZED BY AUTHOR’S LAST NAME

PHIL BAINES

Penguin by Design Of the multiple sources I was lucky enough to find, Phil Baines’ work stands out as the most extensively researched and skillfully compiled resource on the history of the Penguin Publishing Company.

Author of the text above, is able to boast an extensive educational background in the arts, as well as an impressive history as a designer; having worked with major figures in the contemporary field of graphic design.


Designed and written by Mollie Ennis Composed in Gill Sans and Didot typefaces, designed by Eric Gill in 1926 and Firmin Didot in 1783 respectively. Printed from a Canon Image Runner Copyright Š 2014 Mollie Ennis, Portland, Maine, Maine College of Art.

Penguin Publishing  

GD 102: Typography Final MECA–Maine College of Art