Penguin Books History


Penguin Books is a British publishing house. It was founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane. Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930’s through its inexpensive paperbacks, bringing high-quality paperback fiction and non-fiction to the mass market. Penguin’s success demonstrated that large audiences existed for serious books. Penguin also had a significant impact on public debate in Britain, through its books on British culture, politics, the arts, and science.

This is the current Penguin logo in use today (right). There has been several variations of this logo which have been designed for the company. penguin-logos

The first editions of Penguin books followed a consistent design style. Using a main block background colour which were colour coded: orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime, pink for travel and adventure, red is for plays


As you can see the design and typography used stays the same throughout the issues, with text and little/none imagery used. The hierarchy of the design is interesting; starting with the publisher name, title, author and then publishing logo. This isn’t similar to what would be seen in todays book covers, whereas you’d usually see the authors name, title then the publishers logo.



Penguin Books moved on from this layout and started to include illustrations on their book covers. The orange meaning fiction still appears in these covers. This colour code may be something I want to include in my cover design, but I want to find out first if it is still relevant in modern Penguin Books.

Below is selection of Penguin Books from the crime genre. They also keep the green colour code to represent crime. I also want to cover the use of semiotics in these pieces of visual communication. Iconic signs are used in all of the covers, for example the illustrated revolver would be an iconic sign as it resembles the gun it signifies. These kind of iconic signs show the reader the genre of book without them having to read the title or blurb, which is vital in book cover design.

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