Behind the design of the new Pan 70 book covers

To mark Pan’s 70th birthday the publishing house recently released a set of 20 backlist titles complete with covers that reference the original editions and form a striking, Swiss-style set

Homepage image by @CityBooksinHove, also shown as tweeted below

Over the last few weeks, bookshops and their customers alike have been sharing images of the new Pan 70 sets on social media. With simple, pared-back graphics on the covers – and patterned spines – the 20 new editions were chosen to celebrate publishing house Pan’s 70th birthday.

Macmillan Collector’s Library publisher Harriet Sanders explains that as the first Pan Book was Ten Stories by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1947, this became the starting point for a new set of 20. “Looking through the years I identified a number of books, most of them now out of copyright, that were bestsellers then and are still considered classics today,” she says.

These include The 39 Steps by John Buchan, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lady Vanishes by Ethel Lina White and The Time Machine by HG Wells – and titles by more contemporary writers such as Colin Dexter, Douglas Adams and Peter James.

Justine Anweiler, one of the designers at Pan Macmillan, worked on the covers for the series with Art Director James Annal and Design Manager Stuart Wilson. Unusually, she explains, the brief for the project was very open ended.

“Before coming up with ideas we brainstormed as a team the different visual styles we thought we ought to cover and decided to execute the style that inspired each individual designer,” says Anweiler.

“We all went about our sets with the mindset of what we would want on the cover of that book, a book that has had countless covers and enough fan art to crash Google, that would make us pick it up.”

Anweiler says that she opted for a highly graphic approach since “I naturally gravitate towards clean lines, bold colours, and love a good bit of design history. Knowing that Helvetica (which in my mind) is overused, I chose it because I wanted the type to play second fiddle to the hopefully (fingers crossed on this one) clever composition.”

“To everyone’s surprise my adaption of the Swiss style was chosen and I was left to my own devices,” she continues, “which is always the best-case scenario for a designer. I knew I was very lucky and that Stuart Wilson – the designer next to me who is the best at pushing back when needs be – would be needed to complete the set.”

One of the motivating factors behind the series design came from Anweiler’s decision to not pretend these were new books but to acknowledge that these were, by and large titles, that most people have heard of (“and if they hadn’t, then they should have,” she adds).

“For this reason, I was able to keep the title and author names to a lesser importance and hit the ground running creating simplified, (hopefully) iconic covers, using strict parameters established by the Swiss.”

From this starting point, Anweiler says that the art department’s Design Manager Wilson then created a grid for the series.

“[He] is the master of grids and templates so he took the approved covers and went about creating a custom grid for the series and from there the brief was narrowed,” says Anweiler.

“Some covers were really straight-forward and immediately worked, while others took ages to get right. Regardless, we explored a lot of options through constant dialogue [with the team]. Within a few weeks the set was complete.”

While the front covers employ simple shapes and bold colours, the spines have defiantly more detail and pattern in them.

“This series is a celebration of Pan having published great books over the span of 70 years, so I wanted them to be just that,” says the designer. “Although the covers were simple and striking, I wanted the spines to be unexpected and a nod to all of us who know that the spine ‘brass’ is as important as the cover.”

“When you think about it, the covers are why we buy them (well most of us – or at least I like to think so) and the spines are how we keep them since they spend most of their life lying beautifully on a shelf, spine-out,” says Anweiler.

“Everything from the faux quarter bound spine wraparound on the back cover to the basic barcode was intentionally designed to be eye candy for those of us who consume books like they’re a food group.”

The full set of 20 books is available now from Pan Macmillan. See The Pan Macmillan art department tweet via @panmacartdept

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