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Penguin Classics team up with (RED) for typographic covers

Graphic Design, Type / Typography

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 2 March 2010, 11:10    Permalink    Comments (49)

Penguin has collaborated with AIDS awareness fund (RED) and a team of designers to produce new covers for eight Penguin Classics. Each cover replaces the usual black band with red, employing a quote from the text of the book as the visual hit (covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith shown left and Non-Format, right)...

While a repackaging isn't something the Classics series is necessarily crying out for, we particularly like the way that this small run of eight titles has been handled – with the typographic designs occasionally encroaching over the (RED)-inspired band and the link with the organisation brought out in the bracketing of the Penguin Classics identity. Jim Stoddart, art director of Penguin Press plans to use a different typographer for each cover commission and more are planned in the near future.

Three of the eight covers featured here were developed in-house at Penguin Press, with the other covers created by FUEL, Nathan Burton, Studio Frith, Grey318, and Non-Format (whose brilliant take on Bram Stoker's Dracula, in case you have trouble making out the odd word, reads "His eyes were positively blazing. The red light in them was lurid, as if the flames of hell fire blazed behind them." Powerful stuff.

Anna Karenina designed by FUEL

The House of Mirth designed by Nathan Burton

Therese Raquin designed by Jim Stoddart (Penguin Press art director)

Great Expectations designed by Stefanie Posavec (Penguin Press art department)

The Turn of the Screw designed by Studio Frith

Notes From Underground designed by Gray318 (Jon Gray)

Dracula designed by Non-Format

The Secret Agent designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin Press art department)


some of these are amazing, they work well as a set, yet retain their own identities, and more importantly if you saw them on a shelf in the book store, they would catch your attention and pull you in.
2010-03-02 11:41:28

Coralie Bickford-Smith's design for the Conrad title, while handsome, is nicked outright from UK artist Tom Phillips's ongoing book project "A Humument."
Richard Henderson
2010-03-02 11:59:29

Love the way these designs creep out onto the lower banner. Wonderful work as ever from Penguin
2010-03-02 12:00:54

I love them, especially The Dracula cover which avoids the usual gothic imagery. Beautiful!
2010-03-02 12:15:35

Absolutely love these. Very Nice how they haven't let the red banner restrict the design. Well done Penguin
Ben Neale
2010-03-02 12:18:23

Tony Stewart
2010-03-02 13:03:01

therese raquin and the house of mirth... 2 of my favourite books ever and my 2 favourite covers, but they're all fantastic.... good going penguin.
sera hayden
2010-03-02 13:04:31

When can I get my hands on them?! Maybe we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but these are beautiful..
Jenny Newman
2010-03-02 13:08:50

More fantastic stuff from Penguin, always coveted for my bookshelf! I also especially like 'The House of Mirth' and 'Therese Raquin', oh, and 'Great Expectations'...might be rude not to get them all...
2010-03-02 13:29:06

Liking these designs a lot, I must confess. Penguin have nailed it once again. Especially fond of the designs which have the typography overlapping the red title panel at the base.
2010-03-02 13:31:33

The way that the content of these books is sold more via the front cover, using excerpts, is very clever. The font indicates the theme of the book and the design is a nice balance of modern and classic. Alot of thought has been put into these. I would definitely judge these by their covers (Nice link Jenny Newman).
Victoria Archer
2010-03-02 13:36:26

I'm not overly impressed with these covers. Some of the type choices seem inappropriate. i.e. The blocky sans serif matched with organic ink strokes on 'Anna Karenina'. And while the type on the cover of 'Dracula' is cool, it doesn't communicate anything intelligible and doesn't seem to relate to the contents of the book other than looking dark and gothic.

The typographic covers of the UK Penguin group series 'Great Ideas' is much more impressive and the type choices seem much better suited to the contents of each book.
Ryan Cerbus
2010-03-02 14:10:14

WOW! These are great, and it's great to see how two really strong brands can work together.
Alex Tucker
2010-03-02 14:18:25

To Ryan, I strongly agree with the outstanding quality of the Great Ideas series. Those include very interesting use of typography and a more minimal suggestion of the content.

I must say though, that these are extraordinary covers. Very inspiring, emotive and playful. Penguin always gave a lot of freedom to their book cover designers. The result is a fresh approach to cover design, taken by designers from many different backgrounds.

The cover designed by Non-Format includes the quotes "His eyes were positively blazing", "The red light in them was lurid, as if the flames of hell" and "Fire blazed behind them", making total relation to the book and perfectly intelligible. In here the typography mixes the glow of fire, the shape of flames and, as you mentioned, a gothic mood. It is that capability of freely redesign a classic cover with such detachment from previous concepts that makes it so interesting.

I must add, that it this fresh approach that will claim new, and young, readers to buy a classic. Giving a book a new face, attracting the audience to the exact same quality.

Penguin goes (RED) and keeps scoring in the 'old-fashioned' world of print.
Nuno Coelho
2010-03-02 16:37:16

Hmmm.. a mixed bag, but mostly disappointing - the great ideas series was indeed spectacular and set a high standard.

The Dracula cover... not feeling that in the slightest.. in fact, the longer I look at all of them... hmm..
Daniel Diggle
2010-03-02 17:03:09

The Secret Agent one is clever, i don't think much to the rest but what do i know.
2010-03-02 17:35:19

I had an impression that most of them would better work as posters than book covers.
Marina Chaccur
2010-03-02 17:42:54

March of the Penguins
2010-03-02 19:05:02

anyone else thought 'fuckered'?? :)
2010-03-02 19:13:38

"Unatractive"? ...on the notes from underground cover?
Nick Collins
2010-03-02 20:23:48

Stunning. I especially like the way many of the designs overlap and interact with the standard layout and penguin "branding".
2010-03-02 20:59:59

Seems to me that some of the designers haven't read the actual books, opportunity lost with 70% of them :(
Congrats for "Therese Raquin", 'The Secret Agent' and 'Notes From Underground'
2010-03-02 23:14:50

I'm with Ryan on this. I'm Not overly impressed with these, given the usually impressive names involved. (The Non-Format design especially). I think this does have something to do with the high level raised with the 'Great Ideas' designs.
Ricky Burgess
2010-03-03 09:48:04

I think these covers are beautiful. Im going to get them all, not to read, just to keep for their covers. I find them very inspirational as typography is something I find very tough within design. Even though as a lot of you are saying are copies from other designs, but at the end of the day what design isn't a rip off these days!
Richard Zhuk
2010-03-03 12:57:20

I really like this. They're obviously trying to bring new life to some old books and I find most of them incredibly cool. Not sure about Dracula but that Secret Agent cover is awesome.
2010-03-03 16:52:15

The Secret Agent cover is just someone copying the ideas the the graphic designer who did the Humument book series.... They might be trying to give life to new books, but a lot of the covers have no relivance to any of the types of books.... Yeah the Secret Agent one is clever but its copying someone elses original design style and passing it off as their own.

The others are good though, I am liking the Dracula cover
2010-03-03 22:14:26

Sudio Frith's design for The Turn of the Screw is quietly intelligent and beautiful. It's also a damn good read.
2010-03-04 02:36:39

So nice to see some forward-looking Penguin classics. Jan Tschichold was always so modern in his time, it is refreshing to see the Penguin designs moved away from old pastiche typography. For that reason don't like The House of Mirth, but think Turn of the Screw and Dracula are great.
2010-03-04 06:56:16

very nice covers...the only one that doesn't really work for me is the dracula -sorry non format. it just seems wrong - more like a club poster. it would have been interesting to see other high profile designers treatments of these - eg - barnbrook could have done dracula...or open it up to entries from designers and vote....i would like to see more raw or expressive style typography - overall there is some very nice work but not as imaginative or groundbreaking as i would like book design typography to be! the penguin designers do a very good job and those covers feel the most successful visually - i'll buy them ;)
2010-03-05 01:09:12

I think they are beautiful. I have been trying to resist collecting penguin books because of lack of space but I feel these have thrown that out the window. I also agree it may draw attention from new readers which can't be a bad thing. Same as a lot of people I like the ones which overlap the red band the most. I plan to get them all when I see them. . . .
2010-03-05 19:31:00

I think they're beautiful and hopefully will get the set of 8 when they are released in May (UK). But then I'm a fanatically penguin collector and have more than 1000 of them and always picking up more both old and new. The covers keep up with each decade so can't compare new to old, they are new and as someone wrote, if they attract young people to read the classics all the better.
2010-03-06 01:05:30

Exquisite. In a world where Murdochism is slavering at the prospect of turning beauty and culture to shit, this work is so reasuringly pleasing.
Bernard Glazier
2010-03-07 00:42:32

Hmm, I feel as if the designer of Great Expectations didn't read it.... It's a lovely cover and a striking pull quotation about Miss Havisham, but I feel it says the wrong thing about the book.

I'm sad to hear that the Conrad cover is a rip-off; it's my favorite to look at (I haven't read the book).

In response to David above, I also saw "fuckered" in the Zola cover.

Also, it took me several tries to read the Dracula cover. Maybe that's a good thing because I kept looking at the cover (and I'll remember it) but really it's just annoying.
2010-03-12 04:29:00

Great job! i like your different typo-style, it gives every design a special an individual touch!
Agentur Siegen
2010-04-13 08:38:10

Awesome. Good post too!
Mr Christopher
2010-05-04 23:46:14

as always, the covers are lovely.

and as always, everyone has an opinion.

the conrad cover has been given the which, contrary to the beliefs of some commentors, isn't a rip-off but rather a rip-up of the page.
2010-05-20 16:38:01

I'm sad to hear that the Conrad cover is a rip-off; it's my favorite to look at (I haven't read the book).
thomas sabo armbänder
2010-07-23 04:05:17

The font indicates the theme of the book and the design is a nice balance of modern and classic. Alot of thought has been put into these. I would definitely judge these by their covers (Nice link Jenny Newman).
tiffany paloma picasso
2010-07-26 07:33:25

The penguin team usually works on good ideas.
Although I agree with @Jo that the Dracula looks like a club poster but I still think that it is probably the best one. Love the background texture and typography on Dracula.
Web design company
2010-11-03 00:05:22

Kudos to Penguin Classics for getting involved with the RED campaign. It is a great cause. As for the book covers, I am in love with some of them, and others. . .ehhh. I suppose that is the way it is with any form of art. Especially any commercial form. I really like the Anna Karenina cover. Good book, but a great cover. Simple. Well executed. Intriguing. These covers are a nice updated look for some timeless classics.
2011-01-04 18:18:45

Excellent covers that will provide the incentive and basis for my works. I wonder if I can mention the article as a bibliographic reference in my work. Thanks!
2011-03-14 12:58:59

These are very impressive typographic covers. Love the designs.
Eric Graham The Conversion Doctor
2011-03-22 12:18:00

Nice typographic covers.Especially "The Great Expectation".
2011-05-20 07:58:53

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.
tax attorney | seo specialist
2011-05-24 21:03:33

I like The Turn of the Screw designed by Studio Frith .
2011-05-27 05:56:11

These covers are very beautiful. I loved the design. It is a source of inspiration.
baixar jogos para pc
2011-06-27 23:09:46

That Dracula cover is just straight-up awesome. I own a bunch of Penguin Classics as I had to buy them for a literature class in college back in the day, found out that there is a reason that great books are "great" and have buying/reading them off and one ever since.

I do have to admit that I get bored with the cookie-cutter soft covers though, so these new layouts are fantastic in my opinion.

David @ LA Fitness
David Petzal
2011-07-15 22:34:30

I think they are beautiful. I have been trying to resist collecting penguin books because of lack of space but I feel these have thrown that out the window. I also agree it may draw attention from new readers which can't be a bad thing. Same as a lot of people I like the ones which overlap the red band the most. I plan to get them all when I see them. . . .
2011-12-18 12:15:25

@ Richard Henderson, Genii and anyone else with a limited background in cryptography:

The Secret Agent cover is BY NO MEANS a 'rip-off' of Tom Phillips' design. Both Phillip's work and the design presented here are based on an antique (and very limited) variant of the grille cipher, in which an overlay (such as a sheet of paper with holes in specific places) is placed over a printed page to reveal a hidden message. The example presented here is, frankly, rather more successful than most of those present in Phillips' work.

This technique is covered by numerous 'secret agent' books for children and was first described by Girolamo Cardano in 1550. Your accusations of plagiarism are outrageous and completely unfounded.
Charles King
2012-01-11 18:45:16

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