In the mid-1930s Joan Coles, a secretary working at London publishing house The Bodley Head, came up with the idea of ‘penguin’ as a name for a new line of affordable paperbacks. Edward Young, an office junior at the time, was promptly sent off to London Zoo to sketch the creatures in real life. These drawings would later become the famous logo of the books. But he didn’t just create that: he was also responsible for the iconic tripartite cover design. Bold and colourful, the books were immediately eye-catching and marked the arrival of a whole new way of reading.
The panel’s verdict: ‘Today the Penguin paperback identity is an icon of popular culture, displayed on everything from mugs to tea towels to deckchairs. However, it would be a crime not to acknowledge the era-defining graphic design that came after. Since Edward Young, Penguin has had many great leaders in design directing its creations, such as typography master Jan Tschichold and graphic designer Romek Marber – whose new grid for the Penguin crime series in 1961 established a timeless, modernist identity for text and image on book covers. Stick that on a deckchair. Please.’
Mark Neil, art director, Time Out London