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Fantastic Design: 20 Years of Penguin Book Covers in an Exhibit

Olivia Snaije By Olivia Snaije Published on December 22, 2017
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Design: Laurent Moreau
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Design: Carson Ellis
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Design: Ben Jones


Intriguing, gorgeous, type-led, metaphoric, elegant or bold, book cover design is vital. How often do you find yourself in a bookshop looking for a book, having forgotten both the title and the author, but remembering exactly what the cover looked like? Chances are the bookseller will be able to find the book from your description of the cover, too.

Book and design lovers will be able to discover some of the most innovative and alluring covers ever, in an exhibition of designs from the Penguin Essentials series. Organized by Penguin Random House UK and the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, one hour south of London, the exhibit highlights 100 favorite covers selected by art director John Hamilton who launched the series in 1998, asking the designers he commissioned to avoid publishing conventions and to be free in their work. His collaborations with creatives such as Tomato, Banksy and Chris Ashworth, for example, resulted in bold and distinctive designs that fit into Penguin’s tradition of making art and design an integral part of a book. 

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Design: Tomato
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Design: Banksy
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Design: Chris Ashworth

For those who wish to learn more about how cover design is an important tradition at Penguin Books, this article gives a good overview of the designers who created iconic covers, including the German typographer Jan Tschichold and designer Elizabeth Friedlander, and the Polish graphic designer Romek Marber, (all three came to the UK fleeing Nazi Germany and World War II).  There is a corresponding exhibit at the Ditchling about Elizabeth Friedlander's work whose graphics were among the best of 20th century design.

"Penguin Essentials: 20 Years / 100 Covers" will run from January 6th to April 29th, 2018. 

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Design: Maria Rivans
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Design: Kyler Martz
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Design: Gray318




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Olivia is a Paris-based journalist and editor.

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