Orwell, covered up

Brand new covers for five of George Orwell’s works feature in a new series published today by Penguin and designed by David Pearson. The set includes a remarkable take on Orwell’s most well known novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Brand new covers for five of George Orwell’s works feature in a new series published today by Penguin and designed by David Pearson. The set includes a remarkable take on Orwell’s most well known novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four…

Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia, and Politics and the English Language are also republished today in new ‘Great Orwell’ editions.

Pearson’s adept use of type – as demonstrated in his work on Penguin’s Great Ideas series of short, influential texts – is once again at the fore of each of the designs. And that includes what is perhaps one of Penguin’s most radical covers of recent years, for Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the title and author’s name are almost completely obscured by black foiling.

This brilliant, censorial approach to Orwell’s dystopian classic – referencing the rewriting of history carried out by the novel’s Ministry of Truth – wasn’t easy to achieve.

“It’s obviously the risk-taker of the series,” says Pearson, “and I can be very grateful to Jim Stoddart, Penguin Press’ art director, for safeguarding its progress in-house. It takes a fair bit of confidence to push something like this through and I can only assume that Jim had to deal with the odd wobble.”

Pearson says that the design went through numerous iterations “to establish just the right amount of print obliteration. Eventually we settled on printing and debossing, as per the Great Ideas series [Why I Write shown, above], with the difference being that the title and author name were then blocked out using matt black foil. This had the effect of partially flattening the debossed letters, leaving just enough of a dent for the title to be determined – though I can’t vouch for it’s success on Amazon.”

For the other books in the series, Pearson and his collaborators explored a range of different typefaces and design approaches. The deep foreboding red of the Animal Farm cover evokes the political charge of Orwell’s allegorical novel of 1945 – the type treatment managing to look jauntily cinematic and cartoon-like, and wholly unnerving at the same time.

For the cover of Orwell’s first book (1933), Down and Out in Paris and London, Pearson commissioned printmaker Paul Catherall to create a Vorticist interpretation of the two cities that the author submerged himself in. The final design incorporates Catherall’s screenprint into a Germano Facetti-era cover grid.

The manifesto-like appearance of Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, gave Pearson the opportunity to use an as-yet unreleased typeface front and centre in the design. “I’m extremely lucky in that I get to road test Commercial Type’s latest creations ahead of their release,” he says. “Caslon Great Primer Rounded is one of several forthcoming designs produced in collaboration with the St Bride Print Library and it proved enough to give us ‘Blast‘ off.” (The type is based on the work of Caslon & Catherwood, creators of the ornamental typeface, Italian, in 1821.)

Finally, for Orwell’s account of his experiences in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, Pearson used a repeating line-drawn image of a marching soldier to create an ominous design, complete with shadowed typography.

The Great Orwell series is out today, penguin.co.uk. More of Pearson’s work is at typeasimage.com.

CR in Print
The January issue of Creative Review is all about the Money – well, almost. What do you earn? Is everyone else getting more? Do you charge enough for your work? How much would it cost to set up on your own? Is there a better way of getting paid? These and many more questions are addressed in January’s CR.

But if money’s not your thing, there’s plenty more in the issue: interviews with photographer Alexander James, designer Mirko Borsche and Professor Neville Brody. Plus, Rick Poynor on Anarchy magazine, the influence of the atomic age on comic books, Paul Belford’s art direction column, Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s This Designer’s Life column and Gordon Comstock on the collected memos, letters and assorted writings of legendary adman David Ogilvy.

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