Publishers and design style – Penguin non-fiction

Book frontcoversBook backcoversPenguins and Pelicans Pre-1980 traditional smaller Penguins (George Orwell, Tony Benn, Eric Newby) and a Pelican (Mao Tse-tung).  Also, a couple of later, larger Pelicans (Nigel Harris, Gwyn Williams). Some strong branding – Eric Newby is solidly colour-coded with orange spine and back cover, and very clearly states ‘Penguin Book’ on the front cover.  Likewise the ‘Mao’ book is a blue spine and backed Pelican.  Note both of these don’t centre their backpage text.  Lots of bold headers, chunky text and photo illustration.  The use of the logo front and back is the main branding > note especially George Orwell. Strong blue and orange colours used on the spines and backs for the older books.  The birds on the logos always face into the centre of the book.  Interesting how Penguin gradually sheds its orange over the years.

Book frontcoversBook backcoversA later (90s) set. You know these are Penguins because of the orange spine and the Penguin logos on front and back covers. Also the paper. Otherwise they are individually designed, apart from the functional strip on the base of the back cover.  It’s interesting to see the relationship between the title and the author’s name, in terms of size, style and weight of font – reflecting what is judged to be the element that will be most eye-catching. Back covers have a bit of visual interest but basically stick to the centred text style.

Book frontcoversBook backcoversSusan George: It’s difficult to tell what was different about the Pelican imprint from the cover designs. (Apart from the blue/orange and the different bird of course.) Here’s an example of an author who got re-categorised and how they dealt with it while maintaining the visual continuity between her books. This is an author who would sell books on her name, so it’s the strongest visual element. Interesting to see how the border carries the design onto the back cover, and how the functional details like barcodes and prices are part of the design, not sticking-plastered over the top.

Finally, 3 Penguin India books published and printed in Delhi. Quality paperbacks, subtle differences in inks, papers used and careful full-cover designs with use of 3-way proportion and some imaginative arrangement of text boxes on the back cover – note the alignment for ‘Chasing the Monsoon’. Also note the Penguin logo on the back cover of ‘Falling off the map’ breaks the rule – it’s facing outwards!  The differences are subtle, but the texture of these books is different, they feel much more different (to UK Penguins) than they look.

Book frontcoversBook backcovers


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