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Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  773 ratings  ·  48 reviews
"Ever-since the creation of the first Penguin paperbacks in 1935, their jackets have become a constantly evolving part of Britain's culture and design history." By looking back at seventy years of Penguin paperbacks, Phil Baines charts the development of British publishing, book-cover design and the role of artists and designers in creating and defining the Penguin look. C ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published May 31st 2005)
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  773 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now I know what you’re thinking – “the old idiot has finally lost his marbles, he’s already reviewed this book, and only last month too, what a shame. He’ll be carted off to the Home for Gaga Reviewers soon”.

No, that was a different one.

Also not to be confused with this one

so there are three books published by Penguin celebrating the sheer effusive penguinity of their lovely covers! Well, why not. It’s their rules, they paid for all this, they can do what they like.

Here are a few random favou
This is a gorgeous book… as a bookbinder, I try not to enthuse too much about cover-art since I know it’s the least relevant part of the book to most people (isn’t there some sort of saying…) but if ever there was a book to bring up the subject of looks, this is it. I don’t know if it was available in hardback, but the paperback cover version is lovely, with mock dust-cover flaps, striking, (there’s something about that ‘penguin orange’) and everything about it makes me want to pick it up and re ...more
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-books
Phil Baines concisely outlines Penguin's history from its founding by Allen Lane in 1935, to the Great Ideas series of 2004. From Edward Young's horizontal grid design, the introduction of the Pelican line (educational nonfiction for the masses), the beautiful Illustrated Classics with their woodcut covers -

King Penguins, Penguin Specials, Puffin Picture Books for children, the short-lived American Penguin, Penguin Modern Painters, the first Classic introduced in 1946, the designers Jan Tschicho
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Awesome, awesome book about the history and development of Penguin Books, with specific focus on its evolving design aesthetic. The images of the old covers are to die for: several times, I think, I had to wipe away the drool. The later chapters are a little depressing, however, like seeing an aging actor and thinking, “Damn! He’s really let himself go!” Penguin Books: the Mickey Rourke of publishers.

Fortunately, as with Mr. Rourke, all is not lost: despite letting the general look of its overal
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've been looking for this for years and finally found a secondhand copy. Elegantly designed book that combines literature, history, art, and marketing. The author is very opinionated about Penguin's book designs, especially the bad ones. My plan was to make collages out of this after reading it, but there's no way I can cut up a book that's this beautiful.
Amy C.
Dec 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: book nerds
It's purty. Actually it's interesting, too. Penguin's had some of the best cover design in the world, and that's the part I remember; this book reminds me they've also had plenty of awful, tawdry covers. Illustration has not been Penguin's friend. The 70s were deeply unkind to Penguin -- even those paperbacks that should've looked classy, like the white-field type-only Graham Greene novels, just look cheap and...well, Brighton Rock suits them, and so do Muriel Spark's novels of corruption. Plain ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
You know what they say: "Never judge a book by it's cover."
But since we all do it anyway, here's a book of nothing but covers! This book is beautifully put together and gives you a nice look at how the covers of Penguin books have evolved over time. It was interesting and I liked being able to flip back and forth to look at all the changes.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
As a long time fan of the Penguin brand this visually rich account of Penguin design left me wondering why I hadn’t picked it up sooner. Although the book is now 14 years old, the impact of the full-colour-throughout covers has not diminished. I am now much better acquainted with the Penguin catalogue and will be seeking out less common imprints in my local second-hand bookshop.

Later chapters telling the ‘story’ of Penguin could be interpreted as ‘pandering to the execs.’ After all Phil Baines
Mauricio Villamayor
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
A good book when it comes to the history of Penguin as a company and all the changes and context that led it to become one of the most important publishers in the world. Nevertheless, as a book that centres on cover designs and their process, book pictures are rather small in some cases.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it!
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A celebration of those orange books with the cute little bird logo. Lovely.
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A pretty coffee table book covering the history of Penguin Books' cover designs. Penguin has a strong artistic tradition regarding its covers. The orange spines that adorn the covers of this book are readily recognizable to any reader. Over the years Penguin produced many gorgeous covers and a few clunkers, and author Phil Baines curates a collection that includes both.

The original three-panel Penguin covers and the subsequent minor variations are beautiful examples of design. Everything looks
Phil Brett
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Of course digital is great; for starters it means not having to double the weight of your suitcase to take away those holiday reads; the trouble is, you do miss the feel of the book...and the cover.

This is a great book which looks at the fantastic covers of Penguin books from 1935-2005. There's plenty here to interest those who want to delve into the finer points of graphic design and the mysteries of typeface. Or like me, you can just sit enjoying the art covered here (yeah, awful pun intended
Jun 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Graphic design enthusiasts
Shelves: books-on-books
When I was thirteen I picked up a thin Puffin YA novel called That Summer and proceeded to fall madly in love with it. It was a perfect storm, combining the writing of Sarah Dessen and the featherlight, delightfully soft pages of the Puffin edition. Almost ten years later, the pages are yellowed and stained with Cheetos (I have the bad habit of reading books while eating them, it is HORRIBLE), and I still profess a love for the book.

This has everything to do with Penguin By Design, even though
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"Started by Allen Lane in mid-’30s England, Penguin was the first publishing house to bring affordable and handy paperbacks to the masses. Phil Baines’ text forms a too dry yet serviceable history, but the real star of this book are the covers themselves — arranged chronologically and grouped by series (classics, poetry, contemporary affairs, etc.). Paging through the book, one gets a sense that from the very beginning quality was Penguin’s main m.o. It’s interesting to note that many of these c ...more
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Even as a kid, I noticed how Penguin Books had a unified design across all their book jackets, which was something I always appreciated:

Examples of Penguin book covers

It must have made an impression on others too, because today you can find a ton of "Penguin classics"-style fan designs of movies, modern books, albums, and the like!

Penguin by Design is an exhaustive overview of the evolution of Penguin's book cover designs, from the start of the company to the modern day. The introduction claims it has the largest assembled c
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book. Penguins are a huge part of my life - we painted a chimney breast in our spare bedroom to look like a giant Penguin Book. This book is all about the design of the books, not the content or the typography, it's about the covers: from the horizontal orange and cream bands of the 1930s through the vertical orange and cream bands of the 50s (my favourite) and all those wonderful Pelicans, Modern Classics, Classics, Specials and Reference books. It doesn't cover the Puffins childr ...more
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Brilliant not only as a concise history of the Penguin brand, but also as a more general commentary on how corporate identity can evolve over a 75 year period. While it's easy to think in vague terms about how much a company values its own identity over the aesthetic independence of its products, the some 500 book covers reproduced in this book are visual absolutes, giving concrete proof to the vague notion of identity struggle. The only possible flaw I can see with the book is that it is alread ...more
Ali Rowan
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think my favourite part of this book is all the politely derisive descriptions of the designs that came out of some of Penguin's more unfortunate years. I'm frankly a little surprised the phrase "The Dark Ages" never came into play.

Hilarity aside, this was a great overview of the history of Penguin's design, with a good balance between image and information. A slightly stricter chronological treatment could have made the progression a little clearer, but I think it serves well as both an intr
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's a treasure trove of book cover design that also analyzes and details the history of Penguin--the people, events and trends that have shaped the company and the covers of the books they produced. The commentary is intermittent but well-written and gives insight into the reasoning behind the titles they published. The covers, needless to say, are truly beautiful.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm doing research on certain Penguin covers of Victorian novels, which is why I read this book. It proved to be much more interesting than I initially thought, analysing the rise of Penguin and explaining the aesthetic changes going with that. I really liked the material approach this book takes on covers, and the author uses very funny anecdotes, which makes the reading quite enjoyable.
Jan 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
first of all, this book is full of all the beautiful covers you can't find on this website without adding them manually. But it's also a fantastic history of the relationship between the company's design and subject matter and the British economy in war and peace, etc. I would bet a lot of money that Ray Davies looks at this on the toilet everyday or however often.
Shallowreader VaVeros
This is an excellent book on cover design. The explorations of the minuitiae of design decisions over time and the evolvement in understanding cover appeal and marketing importance in the book industry is evident throughout this whole book. I highly recommend it.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you grew up spending hours sifting through old pocketbooks at shitty used bookstores like I did, this may have some resonance for you. Otherwise, if you like classic design and branding, it's worth spending some time with.
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A glorious book! Wonderful for anyone with an interest in book design, typography, publishing or a deep affection for Penguin books. Well written, informative and packed with illustrations (500 colour book covers). Perfect.
O Babs
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
How many objects that are the size of a paperback have such distinctive design that you can tell the brand from across a large room? This book celebrates the design of Penguins, the ur-paperback. A book to return to over and over for a reminder of what good design can accomplish.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
An excellent companion to read whilst browsing through Seven Hundred Penguins.
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Less enthralling than expected, but nice history of the book fodder.
Mike Ward
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blogged
beautiful images, interesting story - full review here
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting!
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