Publishing House Penguin

Anna Filippova, April 2, 2014

It is impossible to say a single word about book illustration no to mention Penguin. It is not only one of the largest publishing house in the world, enviable portfolio for each designer but it is an obvious strong point of European visual culture. Collaboratively with Concord, mini car and polypropylene chair of Robin Dey, the books published by Penguin are officially recognized in Great Britain as a national artifact in design.

British Penguin was established for precisely the same reasons as American publishing house Vintage Books we told about last time. “Making well-designed books is worth the same but they can be sold more expensive” — declared Allen Lane and started to have beautiful pocket books published. Later he would have so many great breakthrough ideas: for example, sell books in automation just like cigarette. 

Penguin book covers in different years


When it became clear that publishing house would be a success, Lane firmly caught the idea of a good design. In order to make a typical maquette, he asked Jan Tschichold on whom students study the basics of typography in all design schools today. Using illustrations was categorically canceled; they stopped a compact grid with horizontal accents and central justification, the kit of Gill Sans and color separation: an orange line — fiction, a green line — detective, a blue line — biography etc. All rules developed by Tschichold special for Penguin you can see in blog of Oliver Thomas.  And, of course, logo was on the cover painted by internee of the publishing house and copied from nature in London Zoo.


After a great German a decade later there was another advent as an art director, Germano Facetti, from Italy. He immediately canceled a number of Tschichold's rules, including a moratorium on the graphic, precisely from that moment it had become an era of amazing book covers with pictures.


Some British historians insisted that exactly Germano Facetti had started the mechanism for strong development of book illustration.

Covers created under the guidance of Germano Facetti


Thanks to illustrators and designers invited by Facetti to the publishing house or grown there, Penguin has had a great art reputation. And due to mentioned above, it has been working up to now. In honor of 75th anniversary of the publishing house, art director of American department played a significant role in the development of illustration in his country, Paul Buckley has written a book about the best book covers during the whole history of Penguin. In his book he remembered illustrations appearing and many of them have already become iconic now. Buckley started the analysis of book covers for his employees as a kind of master class. Everything eventually ended up the whole book as it usually happens in publishing.

The book of Paul Backley dedicated to book covers of Penguin


However looking back on solid archives, it does not prevent Penguin from being closer to something new. They try to monitor new trends in illustration and they always invite young painters and just like their founder Lane take up something experimental. At the request of Penguin, Banksy and Fairey Shepard debuted in a new genre of book covers.


It is excited what an illustrator, Jillian Tamaki, does for the publishing house by stitching her covers.


There are so many examples and, as a result, keeping track of Penguin now is not less interesting than in the days of Tschichold and Facetti.


The Penguin Magnum Collection, all book covers of this series illustrated with archive footage from the famous photo agency:


And last but not least, the creative agency Y&R has been Penguin’s friend and strategic partner all these years, providing Penguin with the advertising prints. It’s not surprising that there has been a wonderful illustration.


One of the largest online archive of Penguin covers

There is another wonderful collection