Jan Tschichold’s redesign for Pelican Books 1949


11/10/10 – Two examples of early Pelican titles: (left) Edward Young’s original horizontal grid design of 1937 and (right) Jan Tschichold’s reformed design of 1949.

Edward Young’s design for the Pelican imprint follows, largely, the same design he created for Penguin fiction titles. It features a horizontal tripartite grid (in Pelican’s characteristic light blue), quartic with imprint’s name (this time in Gill Sans), and a rather large and centrally-placed logo at its base.

Pelican Books 1930s

Jan Tschichold’s reform of Young’s design does away with the horizontal grid and introduces a frame containing the imprint’s name, optically letterspaced capitals, a central panel for blurb or image, subtle redrawing of the pelican logo and a consistent use of space.

Tschichold’s design remained in use until 1960.

Pelican Books 1950s

Sources and related information
For more on the design and history of Penguin Books, see Penguin by design: A cover story 1935-2005 and Seven hundred penguins in the bibliography.

Penguin covers on Flickr//

An excellent collection of Pelican covers from Things Magazine: The Pelican project//

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Oliver Tomas

  • Design historian and archivist based in Vancouver, Canada.
  • info[at]olivertomas[dot]com