As they say a good designer has room for development and flexibility, and so here I am. My recent feedback from my tutor included a line which has made me chuckle a bit as well as think about how an idea I’d shelved could be developed. Here the comment:
‘…a sassy hen with sophisticated confidence.’
Now who am I to deny the world a sassy hen? So a return to the shelved idea and an attempt to create a hen with sophisticated confidence. Folk, before you laugh it is possible to do. I merely developed the idea, and thought about sassy, strutting your stuff, and a little bit of Pinterest research gave me the shot of inspiration I needed.
The logo wording was added above this time and I used Thirsty Script Extrabold and placed it on a curved text line above the chicken.
Now the final mock up of the new design, which I have to admit I rather like.
The first time I visited Vernacular Typography I was limited in my outlook, this was rightly pointed out by my tutor. This had me vexed, what had I missed? Had I been too technical in my outlook, or merely restricted? This has been in the back of my mind for a while now as to what I’d missed out. The key element was the art of Sign writing, something which is unforgivable to ignore. It’s prevalence in our lives up until the advent of vinyl printing and large scale decals was so common it merged into the background.
The issue with this sort of typography, for me at least, is that I have my prejudices, insofar as when we talk about type I automatically think print or paint. I forget the flourishes that exist, the art of the sign writer but most importantly of all the craft of the Mason. From Sumerian clay impressions, to ancient Greek markings, to contemporary grave markers, this form of Typography, like the traditional sign writer, is overlooked. Here the form takes on commonality restricted by type, leaving a 2000 year old record of commonality.
For me all of this leads to sign writing, which is the ultimate expression in vernacular typography. It was soon copied by Victorian print makers and in this age of DTP is enjoying a renaissance at the hands of modern typographers such as Letterhead Fonts. The decorative curls and broad expanses lend themselves to both contemporary businesses to help deisgn logos, promote the business as well as become established as part of a new 21st Century sub-culture, Hipsters.
The flows and strokes of the range of types and font available are definitely of interest to any Graphic Designer, if not historically, most definitely as a basis for future work and adaption. After all DTP can do anything nowadays.
The first thing that leapt out at me with this assignment among the myriad of detail was colour. Its colour, and its combinations, which acts as a cue to remembering details, just think of how often red and yellow are used for example. The obvious choices are McDonalds and Shell petrol, but what about Lipton Tea, DHL or the Soviet Hammer and Sickle? Here the predominant colour is red, chosen not for so much for its value as symbolising danger but for passion.
New Design Group in their essay The Psychology of Colour in Advertising state that;
‘Red is associated with passion and love but its strong intensity also signifies excitement, determination and courage.’
And of yellow that;
‘Yellow is bright, reminiscent of the sun and full of energy. It also signifies playfulness, amusement, curiosity and happiness…’
It’s easy to see why these two colours are often combined in logo’s especially fast foods.
The issue with colour is that once you start looking you soon start seeing patterns, and very few companies go beyond the three colour palette. The other factor to consider is that any logo or brand must be simple in shape for it to be effective, for it serves three purposes;
1. Identifies the brand and all that it is – Rolls Royce and NASA are two classic examples.
2. It’s easily identifiable and stands out from the crowd – Pam Am hit the nail on the head with Ivan Chermayeff’s iconic design as have Levi jeans.
3. Its simple in design and colour palette – remember the rainbow Apple logo? It stayed with the company for 21yrs (1977 -1998) before being replaced with a simpler design.
In the Ambrose and Harris’s The Fundamentals of Graphic Design branding is described as:
‘The creation of a visual identity [that] seeks to take key behavioural characteristics of an organisation & use them to build an image that can be presented to target customers, other stakeholders and the world at large’.
This is something that big company’s have done throughout the years and done well; IBM, Paramount, John Deere and Land Rover are examples of emotive branding, targeting the consumer as well as present innovative companies to the prospective investor.
IBM, or International Business Machines is a great example of this, starting out making food slicers and time card punching machines at the turn of the Twentieth Century to being leaders of AI in the Twenty First. Yet its logo has remained pretty much the same, signifying stability, which is what both consumer and investor like.
No where else do we see such staunch use of branding as in the field of engineering, be it agricultural or motor. John Deere has built up quite the reputation in the field of agriculture. Their green tractors are as synonymous with quality to the farmer and farming to the casual observer. The same can be said for the Land Rover ellipse, and the JCB rectangle.
Ultimately brands and logos are the result of careful study by the marketing teams who factor in such as aspects as corporate identity, products and brands, company values, consumer perceptions and preferences, competition, quality and trust. Then a designer is approached and had the unenviable task of designing a suitable logo.
For some the results are iconic, the Nike Swoosh, Coca Cola, IKEA are good examples. However there are always the not so good, and even the greatest design houses can have an off-day, Wolff Olins 2012 London Olympic Games logo is case in point. Proof that a logo has to have mass appeal to be successful, and to have mass appeal it must be readily recognisable. As Olins himself said on logos’:
‘[Logo’s] serve the same purpose as religious symbols… they encapsulate and make vivid a collective sense of belonging and purpose’.
Sadly if they’re too abstract, as the 2012 London Olympic Games logo was seen to be, then they fail in achieving the first hurdle of their brief.
For me, the factors that make a logo stick in my mind are those that are easy to recall and associate with a particular colour; red – Coca Cola, green – John Deere, blue – Ford and yellow – Shell.
There there’s physical design, the simpler the shape the easier it is to recognise; Chanel, Nike and Levi and Channel Four are great examples.
So it would appear that logo’s that are the simplest in design are those that tend to stick in our minds the most. Thought there will always be the one that stick out for the wrong reasons.
The one thing this course does is open your mind to new ideas and concepts, and whilst the way in which visual information is relayed to us. Be it official announcement or marketing and promotion purposes, the poster remains that bridge between the informative elements of Graphic Design and illustration. The Victorians and Edwardians were great one for providing wonderfully illustrated posters that were almost artworks in themselves, often featuring fantastical motifs and themes. Alluding that the properties of products were somehow magical, patriotic in some cases, but always superior by virtue of the standard of artwork commissioned. By the start of the Great War these posters had morphed into celebrations of nationalistic pride, of women urging men to advance into the crucible of the Western Front.
The post-war world had changed beyond all recognition and by the 1920’s the artistic freedom that many designers were experiencing in the new world of post imperial Russia and Germany were influencing the work of artists in Great Britain and USA. Palette colours were simplified and styles from the Bauhaus and Art Deco Schools were making themselves felt in popular advertising. This was now torn between connecting the consumers personal preferences to a product and new ways of radical thinking and governance, such as communism and fascism, rather than chasing the nationalistic ideals of Exceptionalism and turning goods into a celebration of Empire.
As the period progressed there was a drive to place the consumer at the heart of the image; famers, families, men, and women. There was also a return to selling the ideal, but not as an extension of the body politic (outside of Central and Eastern Europe aside), but as a means to introduce the consumer to the world. The age of the holiday was upon the masses, given rise by cheaper transportation, and an ever increasing globalisation of information. The use of photography, which first appeared mainly in post war political posters, was becoming more popular with advertisers and manufacturers, especially the automotive industry. Though illustrations were still being used, it was more simplistic and suited to cheaper mass and rapid turn over printing rather than the more expensive and complex painterly styles.
The onset of war and mass propaganda introduced once again more complex and dynamic use of colour, composition and theme. Posters followed the same formulas of personal engagement with the viewer seen with contemporary advertising, promoting personal responsibility and collective aims.
Post war adverting and poster production was miles away from the still rigid forms of the inter war years. Many of the designers returned from fighting eager to experiment and use their post war education credits to gain the necessary qualifications in design and illustration. New theories from Switzerland, especially those penned by Müller – Brockmann and Tschichold, introduced a new form and visual direction to the poster, which was easier to fulfil with the development of print technolgy. There was also the chance to completely tear-up the rule book and introduce more informal form in their work. The seriousness of wartime messaging was now replaced with a looser, freer form of expression where comedy and whimsicality was welcomed, especially in film and travel posters.
For me this was the golden era of the poster, from holidays to military recruitment, clothing to cars this period not only helped to sell ideas, good and experiences, but also, for a fleeting moment, showed that all was still good with the world. Colours and artistic flare worked together to give the viewer an experience and insight in what was out there, a welcoming splash of colour and life for all to enjoy.
All the while Type and Font has developed with posters, becoming more sophisticated and less decorative whilst improving accessibility. Though it has to be noted that as the decades progressed the decorative fonts were used, but often sparingly, as part of logos for example, and often in Black or Bold styles.
This is an interesting little task involving the design of a simple Birthday Reminder Calendar for family and friends. As opposed to a spider chart style mind map I looked at the key themes of the exercise and used these as a starting point for what the exercise was attempting to do. I then considered the brief from my perspective as a disabled person who struggles with communication. What did I want/need? Clarity above all else.
The actual list is based on a simple sheet of A3 separated into 12 square grid, which was going to originally be orientated as landscape, but I decided to move it to a portrait orientation. Each square would represent a month, with no individual dates, instead there would two simple types of symbol, circles for family and squares for friends. I was inspired by Eastern European birthday calendars that are wall hung which use similar approached for different birthdays.
For the actual methods of communication I did think about symbols, however some are easily confused visually so opted for colour coding which makes the task that bit easier.
For the main List background I chose a pale yellow with a pale blue banner with the words Birthday List in a simple Black San Serif Type, Candal. This was then given a light shadow effect. For the Background I initially intended to use a coloured background to help contrast with the colour coded disks, so came up with this:
I’ll be honest, after literally sleeping on it these first drafts look hideous. So a review of White Space is in order with resign adding a faint background image being more in keeping. The arrangement of the grid is also off so I’ll address that too as well as sorting out the type, its size (30Pts) and colour (60% grey). I used a generic back image as I wanted the poster to have a family appeal too, especially for the younger members.
I made all my changes and realised I hadn’t left room for the key which used Arial for the lettering as this is easy to use and read at a distance. This was then added to the bottom of the calendar. The final task was to populate the calendar using family and friends details.
One the things I tried was to curve the name of a family member inside the circle, whilst easy enough to do in the Affinity package in terms of legibility and accessibility it’s a no-go. So back to my original idea of simple flat line text.
As I populated the details list and colours I realised that my colour choice wasn’t the best and most suitable. The shades were simply too similar, so a quick change was in order.
The next and final task to populate the calendar with the list, unfortunately I had an issue with the lasso selection tool so had to move a few of the markers, however a quick shift around gave me a great representation of the finished Birthday List.
Overall the hardest element of this task was not the design but drawing the practical elements together. That said I learned a lot including maintaining design flexibility.
As this bit of research runs with the next exercise I won’t bamboozle you dear reader, but it was an opportunity for me to make some notes on what I thought constitutes a table or form and how these are presented and in what manner.
I then set to doing an image search on Pinterest use keys words form my mind map. I had a bit of a field day and the results can be found here:
The first part of this exercise is some research, which is always fun, the first task was to look at Bus Timetables. Here the first thing that struck me was that they were all arranged to a grid pattern. Not obvious when it’s an everyday item, but when the pattern is looked at with a designer’s eye it’s obvious. The samples below were sources from a simple Google search.
Not only doe the use of grid mean that there’s universality about the timetables, but that they can be understood by anyone anywhere.
City maps on the other hand can be quite different, with a range of styles used, from the standard grid based map system to the decorative style, with pictorial representation of key land marks and only key routes marked. Pictorial maps aren’t new and are perhaps some of the easiest to use. Whilst they are correct to a point, they lack the accuracy of the grid based map, which in turn lack the fun of the pictorial map.
Statistical data can be represented in many ways from the established and straight forward to read charts.
However with the advent of more sophisticated DTP software, a steady switch to paperless offices and a desires to use space and present information in ever more creative ways the information presented by Statistical Data graphics can seen alien at times, yet in some respect they still mimic the traditional methodologies.
Maps are combined with regional medical data to supply important health information, something that has been used extensively during the Corona virus outbreak of 2019/2020 and beyond. Known as Geovisualisations these charts used in a myriad to convey geographic data in a meaningful and instantly understandable way.
Other methodologies used to share data incorporate all manner of the above as a single piece of information. These items are arranges on a grid to help retain familiarity with chart layout and help with ease of reading.
The more adventurous statistical data representations involve not only complex Vector graphics, where the subject is pictorially represented thought the clever use of arrangement and design, but on occasions they have become the data.
The next stage was to mind map the concept and what it meant to me, followed by what I was going to create.
I decided to make a map of my wardrobe, though to spare embarrassment we shall pretend it’s perfectly arranged and in good order. I used an Ordnance Survey (OS) map to refresh my memory on how a map is laid and to give me inspiration in the overall construction of a map. A quick internet search helped me find the font style used in Maps, Arial, as well as providing a handy link to OS raster styles.
The next stage was to sketch out my idea before committing myself to the finally design. I tried to replicate a maps finish as best as possible.
The next stage was to sketch out my idea before committing myself to the finally design. I tried to replicate a maps finish as best as possible. Northing’s and Easting’s were added, this were double checked with the OS map to make sure they were in the correct place. Labels were added to the clothes using standard sized 10pts Arial, whilst key details were labelled with 20pts and in 30% gray to echo the Civil Parish markings. Labelling of the clothing was arranged to be as precise as possible and carry a sense of uniformity. I had to add a little accuracy to the map and include a Stuff that been chucked in pile.
I used the OS approach and make my map as self explanatory as possible. Hopefully I’ve succeeded. A great little exercise and fun, made me wish though I was a good illustrator, but that will come.
a visual representation of information or data, e.g. as a chart or diagram.
“a good infographic is worth a thousand words”
We’re surrounded by Information Graphics (Infographic’s hereafter), and in the digital age they are becoming more widespread. The earliest Infographics were found on the walls of caves, showing how to hunt wild animals. These were then followed by shamanic and religious glyphs including stain glass, and fresco’s of the Stations of the Cross to inform a largely illiterate or disinterested population. Some of the most breathtaking of these were the Nazca Lines in Peru and Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel paintings.
As humanity grew and expanded its horizons some of the earliest secular Infographics were maps and charts; from the Dunhuang Star Chart AD650 to the Templers map of Jerusalem circa 1535-1590. In more contemporary times the underground maps of Harry Beck are some of the finest infograph’s about, bringing order to chaos as it were.
By the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first the info graphic had come of age. The proliferation of mobile devices, more sophisticated DTP and faster soft and hardware means the Infogrpahics is currently enjoying a golden age.
The next stage is to experiment; I’ve been using Affinity Designer a great deal as it’s relatively straightforward to get my head around. However no one got experience by driving in a straight line so a quick play with the pen tool in making a simple box network followed a quick scan of Chelius and Schwartz’ book Learn Adobe Illustrator CC.
This was a great moment to have a play with the various aspects of the program including shape tools. At this stage my work looks more like an experimental art piece than serious investigation. However that’s how you learn.
Typography in information graphics
As the research point here is to look at how Type is physically arranged, I found some interesting example of type in use and the idea is Keep it Simple Stupid. Each approach was subtly different, and one very interesting approach was to use the shapes used in the infographic to also spell out the location the information was about, Cape Town.
Chelius C and Schwartz R, (2019, Learn Adobe Illustrator CC, 2nd Edn, Adobe Press.
For this exercise I’m using Guy Sajer’s war time autobiography The Forgotten Soldier. The book is set on the Eastern Front during World War Two and charts Sajer progress from driver to infantryman in the Großdeutschland Division. The book itself is a sobering read for anyone and when initially released was considered in 1965 during the wave of popular books written by Dane Sven Hassle. The two authors were poles apart in terms of style and subject. Where Sajer was considerate, almost contrite, Hassle was brash and obscene. The Forgotten Soldier brought the reader closer to the effects and experience of war than any of Hassle’s Pulp Books and with that came an opportunity for the graphic design to create an iconic cover.
Understandably nearly all but one of the covers I’ve found featured a lone soldier, the single non illustrated cover uses the White Space exceptionally well. Of the illustrated covers, only one actually features an illustration, drawn by Sci-Fi artist Richard Clifton-Dey, whose work for the New English Library publishing house was varied, imaginative and very much of its time. The illustration is raw, showing the physical and emotional effects of battle exceptionally well, and it’s fair to say it would be exceptionally hard to replicate such an illustration as well as Clifton-Dey.
The other titles used established and sometimes clichéd portraits of individual German soldiers, sometimes to great effect, to show the loneliness that one can experience as a soldier. It’s interesting that only one cover features a portrait of a young Sajer as a soldier prior to being an infantier.
The cover that intrigues and appeals to me the most is the illustrated one by French publishing house Robert Lafontt, with shades of work by Joe Colquhoun, a British comic illustrator famous for his World War One work. This add an air of intimacy, is a more personal connection to the story and a line of design I’m keen to follow.
The use of a plain type cover is something rarely seen on popular war books, and while the illustrated books use a range of different types and fonts, the use of a utilised White Space is rarely seen on the cover of military histories, so to see it was intriguing as well as food for thought.
The first stage of my design process was to create a mind map centring on the books title.
The main theme was the title of Sajer’s story, what it meant for him as individual, a soldier and the child of a French/German marriage. The themes were further developed and then a commonality identified; the military. Here the symbology was sought to be unique to show he was a German solider, and there’s nothing more unique than the German wartime helmet. A draft of three possible arrangements was designed, along with how the text only cover would appear.
The first task is to create the basic design for the front page using Affinity Designer utilising the Großdeutschland’s divisional insignia as the centre piece. The helmets were then arranged as if on parade with space for text above and below. The second test cover featured the same image, but with a helmet removed, signifying Sajer, as the forgotten solder. I then coloured a helmet with the French tricolour, to symbolise Sajer’s nationality to see how that would fit. Another experiment features the Großdeutschland’s divisional insignia over the tricolour. However it seemed a little contrived, so won’t be pursued.
Yet as a motif the helmet certainly sticks out, and when placed with copies of the original insignia it makes for an interesting juxtaposition; indentifying Sajer as both a German soldier by the shape of the helmet and as a Frenchman by the Tricolour. This theme also recurs at the end of the book when Sajer takes part in the French Victory parade as a French soldier and his thoughts runaway to where his friend, Hals, is. This alluring to that his connection was stronger with the German army than the French. As one of the 130,000 Frenchmen Alsace and Moselle forced to fight for the Germans because of their births, and the post-war desire by the French authorities to not talk about it Sajer become one of the Malgrd-nous or Despite us/against our will. This theme again confirms the forgotten soldier status of Sajer, and indeed he told in a post capture de-brief to ‘Get yourself home, and try to forget all this as fast as you can’.
I was able to find a book cover tutorial for InDesign, but struggled with it a little so reverted to Affinity Publisher for the design process. For the Font I wanted to use a Black style, but nothing too contrived. For the spine I chose a dark green from a custom palette which I also used for the font colour. The background was coloured a pale yellow green. The Spine font is left justified Georgia 20Pts and rear text is Justified Georgia.
For the front cover I used the Sans-serif Haettenschweiler font (80pts) designed by Walter Haettenschweiler in 1954. This font was designed to be eye catching as given its Black font style suits the cover well. The authors name sits below this Georgia (25pts). The helmets had their opacity reduced to 80%. I then created three differing backgrounds to see how they compared.
Whilst I was happy with the back and spine the front lacked the visual impact I wanted, so I decided upon finding a suitable photograph of German solders marching, one that would allow me to split the page into third and experiment with font placement and type. I appreciate this was a complete departure from form, and I expect this is how themes are developed, but all of a sudden the cover, for me at least, snapped into place. The top of the photo was erased at 50% flow, hardness and opacity to help it merge with the white space, whilst the text was brought in from the edge to helped to define and deliver the final cover. I added the line underneath the title to see how physically and aesthetically the cover would look if separated the title from the author’s name. I found it didn’t sit quite right visually with the text right justified, but pulled away from the edge slightly gave it a more calming appearance.
The green spine details were kept as a tool for theme colour coding by the publishers, echoing the 1930’s classic Penguin covers with their range of colour’s, whilst the back cover information was left as it.
With the illustrated cover complete I was now ready to look at using just font work for the front. The back over and spine achieve the aim of clarity I was after. A quick search of various Text only covers showed how text was used effectively. I was aiming to use three vertical columns, with the central one clear, allowing the side one to be used for information.
The first draft looked ideal, and I chose to include the finally two paragraphs of the book to join the text as they were powerful. As they were mounted there lay along side the vertically set text of the title and the author I decided to highlight the authors name in red and enlarging it to 16pts against the 15pts of the main quote text, which has been skewed to 20°. The title was stretch by 43% which improved the impact of the Haettenschweiler type. Using the White Space wisely I set the vertical aspect of the font deliberately to replicate the erect nature of a soldier standing to attention. A final idea was to split the page into two columns, the title sparing the space with an edited quote, which is the final line in the book, with Sajer’s name highlighted in red.
So comparing the two book covers my favourite has to be the one featuring the photo graph. The text only cover has an appeal, but given the market would be predominantly male (though my daughter has read this book twice now), the photo style follows previously successful approaches, but uses the idea of even belonging to a group one can still be lonely. Of the two I’d say the photo-cover, which was used after my illustrated cover felt a little flat, is more eye-catching and in terms of fulfilling the design brief is more successful on this occasion.
Screen shots of exercise development:
Sajer, G, (1997, The Forgotten Soldier, Third Impression, Orion, London.
‘Books used to be made, today they are designed’ – August Heckscher, 1966.
The thing about book covers is that there are many versions of the same titles. Orwell’s 1984 is a great example of this variety of approach, interpretation of a theme and how publishers, aesthetic taste and contemporary styles shape cover design. The post war period saw a positive bloom of creative designers; Paul Rand, Paul Bacon, Edward Gorey, Elaine Lustig Cohen, and Andy Warhol. It also saw Publishers such Penguin build a contact list of designers to help deliver beguiling, visual stunning yet often simple and abstract covers that were clearly of their period. And that is a great part of thier appeal.
The one thing we tend to look past as researchers is where we find our inspiration. We are almost anchored to the twentieth and twenty first century’s and even more so to the work of culturally familiar writers, works and publishers. A great example of a creative approach is Kolomon Moser’s 1897 book cover design for Ewart Felicie Jugendschatz. This shows creative use of the whole cover and that inspiration and innovation are not a modern approach and deserve to be considered as more art than design. The surface of the book has become a canvas to be utilised by the designer to produce a stunning cover that is more artwork than mere book cover.
This then leads on to looking at work produced by non-English speaking countries, if only for balance and reflection. The creativity is just as wide as America or Great Britain. I chose examples from France and the USSR just to show a visual difference and similarity to how the cover is arranged by artists.
This then brings me to house styles and how each one differs from the other, even during the same time period. As I’m a great fan of Mid-Twentieth century design. Looking at designs its clear to see how certain publishing houses developed their own style. One that springs instantly to mind is Penguin. The colour coded Classics range was initially designed by Edward Young, and developed further by Jan Tschichold, used striking Tyography to introduce and sell the book. The original 1930’s classic covers were split into three horizontal lines, using the white space of the centre line to show off eye catching type as well as book details. The coloured band was the preserve of the brand, with a monogrammed logo at the head and the flightless Penguin, again designed by Young.
Jan Tschichold developed the stripe theme further, inverting them to the horizontal and introducing basic imagery to support the books title and give the potential buyer an insight into the story’s plot. The use of line drawing echoed contemporary illustrative trends, and made excellent use of the central stripes white space. Its also interesting that Tschichold also started to change the font styles at this stage and using it as part of the cover design working with the illustrations.
Of course time stand still for no-man and the covers continued to develop to embrace photography and contemporary illustration styles. By the early 1960’s the coloured stripes slowly began to disappear, slowly replaced by a simple horizontal series of blocks featuring a smaller logo, followed by the title and finally the authors name. The accompanying illustrations had become the key features and the illustrations were visually more powerful and seemingly more important than the author.
This new style continued to develop and soon covers designed by David Gentleman started to appear. The headers were simplified and Gentleman’s series of illustrations for the New Penguin Shakespeare series featured slashed of colour and took on the appearance of wood block carvings. These were intricate, enticing and in some instance, such as Richard III, echoed contemporary paintings with a naivety of touch and lack of perspective.
By the 60’s and 70’s the general style had changed once more and with titling centralised and incorporated into the white space of the cover and engravings continued to dominate. The work of Diane Bloomfield and Bruce Robertson was as challenging as it was enticing. The days of the image reflecting the book were gone, and experimentation was the new game. Here the use of computer generated designs and pseudo science fiction imagery added a touch of modernity.
No where was the use of such stunning and challenging graphs as prevalent as the Pelican series of books. Established as the non-fiction branch of Penguin the covers were always interesting and are worth considerations as they were influenced by the work of Robertson in particular. What is interesting is the use of montage as well as props, which shows a further development of the genre of cover design. The use of symmetrical and abstract themes also help to confirm the type of publications the book is; serious, challenging, no nonsense.
The late 1970’s and 19801’s also saw further developed to include a full CMYK palette and this was used to great effect, providing colourful and enticing covers, often not afraid of raising eyebrows. A Clockwork Orange. Designed and illustrated by David Pelham in 1985 is a notable example of this new found confidence in colour to be found in the library of Penguin books.
Photo Covers were slowly introduced by Penguin featuring the world of designers such as John Sewell. These often featured montages and collages, which as time past featured unique and one-off font designs. The influence of popular culture was clear to see and visual experimentation was not shied away from.
As Steven Heller wrote in his essay Type as agent of Power¹ ‘…the marriage of type and word (and image too) determines tone, tenor, and weight of expression’. Type rarely changed for Penguin in the twentieth century. Whilst instantly recognisable in its varying forms of Gill Sans, as demanded by Tschichold, it was rarely incorporated into the book cover design as a leading element. However, the spread of work by the popular illustrator Ronald Searle in the 1950’s and 1960’s, soon had Tschichold’s policies on Type yielding under his light hand.
However it was in the children Puffin range of books that the fonts stepped away from the rigidity of Tschichold’s edicts and became more playful. They featured often beautifully illustrated covers designed to grab the attention of the young reader, but also featured decorative text. Combined with the smiling Puffin logo the font was often integrated into the cover as in the case of The Jungle Book. These decorative fonts often mimicked children writing, making the title accessible and fun, and event the earlier books, whilst still very rigid in their use of a Serif font, Tarka the Otter for example, they still stood out as something, not adult.
The final set of covers that were used were those featuring elements and close-ups of famous arts works by artists such as Frantisek Kupka (left) N.C. Kierkegaard (centre) and Hans Old (right). The use of such work added a weight of formality to the book, lending them an air of drawing room seriousness that perhaps illustration and photography would miss. In using established and famous artists work not only was there an attempt to provide visual provenance but also an opportunity to expand the readers knowledge of the visual arts. Notice how the details are worked into the overall master designs used during that particular period of publication.
If anything this little foray into the world of book cover design has led me down the proverbial rabbit hole, and whilst I have deliberately chosen to predominantly look at the work of the Penguin House in the mid-twentieth century their twenty-first century output continues to engage the potential buyer through the use of traditional approaches as well as engaging in more contemporary DTP and computer based illustrations. Fonts and type are explored and used to good effect and montage is an increasing staple of visual communication. It will be interesting to see what the future bring the reader.
¹Heller, S, (2014, Design Literacy, Understanding Graphic Design, Allworth Press, New York
Inglis T, (2019), Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design, Batsford, Pavilion Books, London