CR Blog

Penguin on Design

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 18 November 2008, 12:51    Permalink    Comments (7)

Four seminal visual arts texts by Bruno Munari, Marshall McLuhan, Susan Sontag and
John Berger have been republished as part of Penguin’s ongoing project to honour its
design heritage.

The books, reissued as part of the Penguin on Design series, include Munari’s 1965 book, Design As Art; McLuhan’s 1967 classic, The Medium is the Massage; Berger’s seminal Ways Of Seeing from 1972; and Sontag’s 1977 essay, On Photography.

Penguin Press art director Jim Stoddart explains the thinking behind the re-releases: “Part of Penguin’s creative publishing direction includes refreshing some classic creative texts that still sell many thousands of copies each year, despite their tired covers and designs that haven’t been touched for decades.

"I approached Yes Design to work on unifying these four books into a timeless and dignified series, while also taking much care to complement the integrity of the original texts.”

For Ways of Seeing, Yes attempted to reassert the book’s unconventional format (originally designed in 1972 by Richard Hollis) including his famous cover that featured the first half-page of the book’s text.

“It was originally the intention that the inside text would follow seamlessly from the cover,” explains Stoddart, “but the publishing conventions at the time resulted in the text starting again after the usual copyright and title pages. In this new edition we’ve at last made this possible, while retaining the fundamentals of Hollis’s original design.”

With McLuhan's book, Penguin have also honoured the famous spelling mistake on the cover. According to, when the author saw the typesetter's error ("message" as "massage"), he exclaimed, "Leave it alone! It's great, and right on target!".

All four are available now: more visual arts titles are promised for the future.

More info at


Damn it. I bought that edition of Design as Art the other day … didn't realise they were producing more in the same style … can't resist … must … complete … set …

I like that On Photography cover, but it isn't the one shown on the Penguin site (or Amazon for that matter) – are they publishing it with different covers?
2008-11-18 13:08:47


Yes, it's a bit confusing as the final cover (above) was only approved a few days before it was printed (so a mock-up appears on Amazon etc). According to Stoddart, Don McCullen gave his blessing for the photograph that was used in the end, making a new print up himself in his studio
CR Mark Sinclair
2008-11-18 13:13:51

Fantastic – that cover is really striking. I think I already own a dog-eared copy of On Photography, but it wouldn't hurt to but a second copy, would it?
2008-11-18 13:30:00

Call me retro, but I love these - simple and refreshing even if they do look as if they were done 30 years ago...
Derek Stewart
2008-11-19 09:17:50

Beautiful, understated, but nonetheless, pastiche.
honest joe
2008-11-19 13:14:41

hmm yes seductively simple but witnessing 'Ways of Seeing' set in Akkurat is almost absurd. How is it an improvement?
Rodney Price
2008-11-21 22:57:24

Ways of Seeing is frankly an ugly cover. looks it was done on MS Word.

they all would have benefited with keeping in the simple line style of bruno's cover (a book I'm proud to been seen holding if only by it's cover). So a nice drawing of a retro camera for the photography book, an amusing illustration of an eye for the ways of seeing, and for medium is massage same cover but drawn would have been a lot better. even the same image in newspaper print halftone would have been better.

Apart from the Helvetica title these covers are playing it too safe, and look well suited to being seen on with a big red 'sale' sticker on the top. cos people do judge books by their covers. at least designers will...
graham cross
2009-08-06 11:54:05

Tell us what you think

What happens with my feedback?

We no longer require you to register and have a password in order to comment, simply fill in the form below. All comments are moderated so you may experience a short delay before your comment appears. CR encourages comments to be short and to the point. As a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.

Get the RSS Feed