In 1935 Allen Lane’s newly formed publishing company needed a logo and its founder dispatched 21 year-old production editor and designer Edward Young off to London Zoo to find and draw a suitable penguin. Lane hoped to replicate the success of the Hamburg-based Albatross Books and recognised that a symbol was a vital addition to the design of his affordable paperbacks, alongside the familiar stripes and colour coding that would define Penguin books for years to come.
The penguin logo based on Young’s sketch was used until 1949 when Jan Tschichold’s second wave of design revisions for the company saw a reworking of the symbol alongside various typographic tweaks. The German typographer also introduced differing weights of Gill Sans to aid the hierarchy of author name and title on the covers.
As Phil Baines revealed in Penguin By Design, his study of the publisher’s visual history, the logo has gone through a host of slightly different iterations since. Its most recent incarnation was completed in 2003, when it was redrawn by Angus Hyland at Pentagram. Hyland also created a series of detailed guidelines to enable the consistent use of the symbol across Penguin’s international market. His penguin is in fact 15% thinner than its predecessor, it now has feet that sit on a horizon line and it also sports a new and improved beak, neck flash and eyes.
Since 1935 the animal has undergone a slow process of refinement and despite being one of the smallest marks on our list when rendered on its final product (paperback spines can be as narrow as 15mm) it retains a disproportionate sense of power.