Pick up a Penguin?

When you think of “iconic” cover designs, what comes to mind?

How about Penguin Classics?

You’ve probably seen them, bold block coloured book covers, but how much do we know about them?

The story goes that Allen Lane (already involved in publishing) ended up on a journey at Exeter train station only to find he had nothing to read. He came up with the idea of paperback books that would be good quality literature but cheap enough for the public to buy. He even had a book vending machine called the ‘penguincubator’ installed outside Henderson’s bookshop in Charing Cross Road. There were concerns that there would be no profit in the venture but when Woolworths put in a bulk order that covered the cost of the whole project Allen’s idea was secured.

Penguin was established as it’s own publishing house in 1935 and has been regularly printing their bright and affordable books ever since.

What is it about Penguin books, though, that gives them lasting appeal?

The front cover; Simple, sleek, bright and eye catching. Colour coded for ease of picking the genre you like. Affordable. Comprehensive.

Three bands of colour, top and bottom matching, with cream in the middle featuring the title and the unmissable logo of the penguin itself.

The colours we know best are the white and bright orange of fiction, but did you know that green covers stand for Crime novels? Dark blue is for biographies and red for drama. It’s a great way to instantly see what genre a novel might be and whether you fancy picking it up.

So what do you think? Do you prefer a simple design like the Penguin classics or do you like your front cover to give you a hint of what might be happening inside?

And of course… we know some things never change!