Tuesday 19 August 2008

Popular Penguins

Penguin Australia are about to release a series of 50 books they're calling 'Popular Penguins', all of which use a modified version of the original Penguin design from 1935--the famous 'horizontal grid' devised by Edward Young.

Unfortunately, as you can see here, they're making them all orange (the colour originally used just for fiction), rather than using the various other colours to denote genre (such as green for crime, maroon for travel, blue for non-fiction, etc).

You get the idea. This latest series of Penguins means that they have up to five different editions of some books, like Pride and Prejudice, out simultaneously (and even more if you count their subsidary companies like Signet and Dorling-Kindersley). Even throwaway fluff like Donna Tartt's The Secret History is available in three editions now. Bizarre.

The best retro use of that horizontal grid, though, has to be the cover of Penguin by Design, Phil Baines' fascinating 2005 history of Penguin covers. This cover was designed by the great David Pearson.

Here's the full cover: front, back, spine and flaps. It's clever and beautiful (and printed on really nice paper stock, too). Click for a bigger version.

And, just for the hell of it, here's a double-page spread from inside the book, showing a bunch of Penguin crime novels, many designed by Romek Marber. Again, click!


Readymade said...

Eh? Penguin's already done this before with their Celebrations series.


Was mildly annoyed that they used Futura for the text instead of Gill Sans Bold. Looks like the Aussies are gonna do it properly this time.

"Penguin By Design" is a fantastic book.

JRSM said...

Yes--I assume this was inspired by the Celebrations taking off. I hadn't noticed the font, but you're right. If only they could get the font AND the colours right.

Anonymous said...

what a great cover (Penguin by design).Evokes childhood bookshelves. Must get it.
Romek M. was also a figure from childhood. A sweet attentive man and a great friend of Germano, the Italian uncle. Everybody seemed to live in Camden Town , North West London. His wife Sheila had horrible rheumatoid arthritis and became progressively more and more disabled. Romek took loving care of her.One of my first exposures to the unfairness of life. I imagine they are no longer around.
I did a few cover photos for Penguin UK. Not terribly good one's
Most memorable one was a very explicit sex ed book for teenagers called "Make it Happy". Certainly explicit for the time (early 80's I think).
I seem to remember it was banned or nearly banned. The News of the World found it truly shocking. Assholes. Cover was a very straightforward picture of a young couple laughing and back cover, the author - also laughing . All shot against an uncompromising bright yellow background. Can't remember her name. Definitely a woman. A journalist I think.
Penguin also brought out a pop-up sex ed book. Guess what the centerpage pop-up was? Yes- a mighty cock rampant. Brilliant.
There was also a cover that was nixed within the company. Some kind of violent crime book which involved initials carved on the body of a naked woman. A very tight crop and therefore headless. Much angry comment from women and it was pulled. However I have the proofs somewhere. Several years ago, I took out the carved initials in Photoshop and gave the pic to Photonica. The model was a woman photographer friend called Jane.
There have been a few occasions when "volunteers" to model nude for jackets were women who worked in the design department and in one case the ART DIRECTOR herself. Wowee!

JRSM said...

I wish I'd had the chance to meet Romek Marber: he's one of this site's heroes.

"Make It Happy" by Jane Cousins? The only cover I've seen is yellow, with four small photos on it, and some scribbly text. I haven't seen that pop-up book, but when I worked in a bookshop one of the most played with (but never bought) books was the pop-up Kama Sutra--customners fiddled with it so much that the various mobile genitals started falling off.

That carved-body cover seems like the sort of thing you see tonnes of now in the shops: people have obviously become much more comfortable with mutilated bodies on their serial killer fiction!

Anonymous said...

yes - Jane Cousins.
Maybe they changed the cover? Who knows. However
the yellow was .....memorable.

Do you know if Romek still lives?

It seems that being fiddled with and falling to bits is the destiny of pop-up books. Too much engineering involved.

JRSM said...

I was going to say something along the lines of "Much like genitals themselves!", but perhaps that's sharing too much.

As far as I know, Marber is fortunately still alive. He had an exhibition of his work in 2005, and gave a speech in the same year to a design conference. I can't trace any movement since, but there are no obituaries either, so that's a good sign.

Anonymous said...

That's good. I'll track him down. Must be in his 80's.

Re genital engineering.
Yes- God's joke.

OK - now the search for Romek begins.

JRSM said...

Let us know if you succeed!