Tim Lane on helping Penguin think beyond print

Since joining Penguin Random House in 2019, creative director Tim Lane has formed a department set on enhancing the publishing company’s online presence. He talks to us about the changes he has implemented and why

“What we suffered with I think when I joined was we reverted to nostalgia a lot,” says Tim Lane, creative director at Penguin Random House. “When we had banners on social media, on YouTube or Twitter or whatever, it would be old books on a shelf and a photograph of that.”

It was perhaps understandable that a publisher with such a long and storied heritage would lean into just that; the word ‘classics’ almost rolls off the tongue. However, Lane highlights there were other parts of the company’s legacy worth highlighting: “Great design is part of our DNA,” he says. “There was just a desire to up our quality and make our online offering as design rich, if you like, as some of our book covers are, which are always celebrated for being ground-breaking and beautiful.”

Lane was brought in three years ago to evolve the website and make it a more “editorial destination” geared towards a narrower audience. He joined at the same time as penguin.co.uk editor-in-chief Sam Parker. Before that, “they were trying to appeal to all readers, which is that classic thing: you try and please everyone, you end up pleasing no one,” Lane says. “So I think there was a decision at that point to focus on what we call the ‘advocate cluster’,” meaning the ardent book lovers who are passionate about the gamut of fiction and non-fiction. “When we tried to appeal to that person, suddenly a lot of the design choices were quite obvious then.”