Penguin’s horizontal grid design and Tschichold’s reforms

Penguin Books: 1938 & 1958

31/08/10 – Two examples of early Penguin paperback covers: Edward Young’s horizontal grid of the 1930s and Jan Tschichold’s reformed design of the 1950s.

Penguin books cover 1930s

Edward Young’s original 1935 design features a horizontal tripartite grid, quartic with publisher’s name in Bodoni Ultra Bold, penguin logo and thematic colour coding (orange for fiction).

Penguin Books cover for 'Death comes as the end' (1958)

Young’s design was reformed by Jan Tschichold in the late 1940s. Tschichold introduced the use of Gill Sans for the publisher’s name, optically letterspaced capitals, a thin rule between title and author, a redrawn penguin logo and the consistent use of space.

Penguin retained the horizontal grid for its (green) crime titles well into the early 1960s.

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 and more on Flickr//

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Oliver Tomas

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