As a frequenter of bookshops in general and secondhand bookshops in particular I’m fond of the Penguin paperback. There’s something reassuring about the familiarity and solidity of row upon row of orange spines in the fiction or a small bookcase of blue spines in non-fiction. That same uniformity, however, causes my eye to slide over the spines without really registering the identity of the individual volume, failing to spot an author I’ve been seeking out or to notice and interesting title. It’s the massed effect that I found powerful.
When a friend recently introduced us to Phil Baines’ book Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 I was surprised both that anyone would be inspired to compile a whole book on the subject and how interesting a book it turned out to be.
Today (via Graphicology) I discovered that things magazine has a gallery of Pelican covers arranged by decade. This fascinating array shows very clearly the overall visual unity of the series and the changing design principles from decade to decade. Here’s a sample from each of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s: