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Penguin Books – Cover designs that inspired a world of readers

Penguin Books

For this blog, we take a peek into the wonderful world of Penguin – a true British brand that has managed to sustain its roots and integrity over years of success. It revolutionised the world of publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through retailer brands such as Woolworths as well as independent high store stores.


Penguin’s success demonstrated that a large audience existed for serious books. Books that caused debate throughout Britain, on subjects that at the time weren’t widely talked or heard about via the radio or earlier television broadcasts. This gave the reader exposure to a wealth of knowledge, reading upon subjects such as politics, law, the arts & science.

During the post war era, Penguin expanded its brand with the birth of sister publications such as ‘Pelican’ & ‘Puffin’, and with this shift in brand architecture came a new set of cover designs. Between 1947 & 1949, the German typographer ‘Jan Tschichold’ redesigned 500 Penguin books, and left Penguin with a set of influential rules of design principles brought together as the ‘Penguin Composition Rules’, a four page booklet of typographic instructions for editors and compositors to ashore to. Over years gone by, many designers and illustrators have found their worked commissioned and published via Penguin book covers, which has given light to many independent artists and created a mini worldwide canvas for writers and designers a like.


Below we have listed a few of our personal favourite covers; designs that helped shift the Penguin brand or simply inspire us from a design point of view…

Left: One of the original and highly collectable paperback cover designs.James M. Cain ‘The postman always rings twice’. Great example of simple composition and great typography.

Right: Peter Branscombe, ‘Heine’.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Anthony Burgess, ‘A clockwork orange’.

A Clockwork Orange

Shepard Fairey recreates a classic…


George Orwell, ’1984′.


Also worth checking out, after celebrating over 75 years of Penguin books, they’ve released a box set containing 100 postcards dedicated to some of the most inspiring book covers. We can highly recommend this, so go check it out

Postcards from Penguin



For further reading, check out the following online articles:

We hope you enjoyed this read, please feel free to share you views & leave a comment below and head over to see some of the work we have produced for Rough Guides (Penguin Books), via our website

Until next time, ciao for now!


For this blog, we take a peek into the wonderful world of ‘Penguin’ – a true British brand, that has managed to sustain its roots and integrity over years of success.

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