Penguin Monarchs book covers by Penguin Random House

This project has been selected in the Design – Print category in The Annual 2019, CR’s award scheme celebrating the best in commercial creativity

Penguin’s Monarchs series is a comprehensive overview of 1,000 years of British monarchy – a collection of 45 books, each dedicated to a different ruler, from Athelstan (920) to Elizabeth II (1952). The hardbacks, while still popular, are quite expensive, says the publishing house.

To make the series more accessible and to reach new audiences, Penguin tasked designer Matthew Young with designing covers as inexpensively as possible. With no budget for art, illustration or photography, Young came up with an elegant type-only design that belies the constraints under which it was created. “With a lot of trial and error, I found a way to connect all the covers,” he says.

The design not only emphasises the royal line of succession but also enhances the collectability of the series. “I loved the idea of including dates on the covers so you could line them up to form a timeline. The dates would feature on the spines too, so they’d work when lined up on a shelf,” he explains.

The colours also tell a story: muted gold for the House of Stuart, pale blue for the current monarchy to reference the Queen’s penchant for the hue. There’s just one orphaned black book, for Cromwell.

Penguin Monarchs.Designer: Matthew Young. Art Director: Jim Stoddart.