By Jennifer Farley

RED Cover Re-Design For Penguin

By Jennifer Farley

Penguin books have long been renowned for their unique book cover designs. I loved the covers when I was child and years later, now as a designer, I have more of an appreciation of the genius that is the grid layout on many of the Penguin book covers, In 1946 German typographer Jan Tschichold was appointed head of design and devised rigorous design templates for all Penguin’s books and also accepted illustrated covers for some books.

These templates were used for years on Penguin book covers.

PenguinGridLayout TheBoyInTheBush

In recent times, Penguin has collaborated RED, the AIDS awareness fund and a new team of designers to produce eight new covers for Penguin Classics. The new covers feature a large red band at the bottom along with the familiar Penguin logo centered between the words “Penguin Classics”. Above the red band each book has a quote from the book in a unique typographic style. On some of the books the typography spills over the logo onto the red band. Three of the original eight re-designs were created in-house by Penguin designers Jim Stoddart, Coralie Bickford-Smith and Stefanie Posavec, with each of the remaining covers were designed by five different designers or studios.

Here’s the first eight covers:


Anna Karenina designed by Fuel


Dracula designed by Non Format


Great Expectations designed by Stefanie Posavec


House Of Mirth designed by Nathan Burton


Notes From The Underground designed by Gray318


Therese Raquin designed by Jim Stoddart


The Secret Agent designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith


The Turn Of The Screw designed By Studio Frith

The next book to be re-issued under the Penguin Classics RED banner is Wuthering Heights which was chosen by Penguin Readers, no previews yet. You can read more about the philosophy behind the RED and Penguin collaboration here.

What do you think about the new designs?

  • zenracer

    The redesign in nice. What I don’t like is the art & type are running through their logo. Around it fine, but running it through the logo denigrates the branding and branding is key to book publishing.

  • I think it’s typical of the new form over function art mentality that’s destroying damned near every industry.

    The title of the book being the smallest element on the page at the bottom in italics?!? Giant text on some of them that looks more like the book title than the actual title? I’d end up thinking that “house of mirth” was titled “pretty well dressed”

    Doesn’t help that the giant text on a lot of them are illegible artsy messes… Precursor to why I’m not exactly wild about the idea of ‘designers’ being able to use any font they want on websites and already have a user CSS file to force everything to Arial?

  • I’m not really convinced by these designs. Most of them want to break into the brand’s space for no obvious reason. I like the designs for “Notes from Underground” and “The Secret Agent”, since they’re not over-the-top and fit the subject. It seems to me that the design for “Thérèse Raquin” does not fit Zola’s writing voice, while the one for “House Of Mirth” looks like an exercise in meaningless typography.

  • timan

    Love them.

    Brand is not the key to book publishing. Content is the key to book publishing. Most buyers wouldn’t be able to tell you the imprint of any given book they read.

    Here is the content, brought to the front cover, important enough to outweigh the brand. Fantastic of Penguin to do it, and I can only hope they follow through and give their current Australian authors, especially those starting out, the support they need.

  • Anonymous

    The front cover redesign of “Dracula designed by Non Format'” is …i like concept is fine.

  • LargoLobo

    As an author, book covers to me are a sensitive element in trying to entice a reader. One to spend time perfecting before a book is released. These covers are in a league of their own. First, they are classics, so they don’t need to ‘sell’ the author or the title, but what they have done is very much how wine is sold these days – very catchy artwork. But there is also the clever connection to the RED campaign with the red box. My first impression was excitement. I recognized the story and author and then went back to the artwork – very clever on many levels. I can see the point that the art is overdone, manipulative, and in your face for a book cover. It doesn’t announce, it shouts, but that’s its brilliance. I say bravo Penguin.

  • What a train wreck. Penguin has established itself for decades as an instantly recognizable brand, with the design style, typography, and everything else letting the discerning reader know at a glance that they were getting a high-quality piece of Penguin literature. Now, it looks as if some 20-something, rave-attending, ecstasy-dropping art students from SoHo have taken over the design department. I agree that the old designs were a bit stodgy and could use some new life breathed into them, but damn, these are way beyond anything they should have done. My first reaction to these covers was, “Has the artist read this book at all? There is no connection whatsoever between the book and the cover art.” The Conrad book looks like random refrigerator magnets over a random page of text with random Spirograph drawings. In fact, the whole design aesthetic screams “Random!” and, to my mind, random isn’t particularly good.

  • Web Design

    Re-design article is really cool.
    Thanks for sharing it.

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