Penguin design guru Richard Bravery talks about the unique approach to designing the Penguin Essentials
Classic (backlist) books generally take the cover approach of marrying the period of the book with the aesthetic of the age. So a 1920's book is generally twinned with Deco styling/artists. But with the Essentials we wanted, where possible, to break away from that approach, and package the books as if they were new texts, using contemporary artists to appeal to a new generation of readers.
We wanted to use a core of international artists and designers who hadn’t worked in publishing in the traditional sense before; from tattoo and graffiti artists, to paper sculptors and gig poster designers, as we wanted the designs to feel fresh, different and unexpected.
Like most things when you try something new, you fail as much as you succeed. It’s a delicate balance, to move something on but not stretch too thinly the link (be it cultural or aesthetic) between the book and the design, after all, what’s the use of a great looking contemporary package if it alienates the very people you were hoping would read the book? So it was really important to us that the artists themselves were as enthusiastic about the project as we were, as most of the books took time, patience and commitment to get to the finished design.
It was a joy to work with such a varied group of artists, constantly bouncing ideas around and developing the designs, some of my personal highlights were keeping my fingers crossed one anxious night whilst RIPO went hunting for a suitable piece of Barcelona on which to daub the Steppenwolf painting. Working with Anders Nilsen and Parra and watching them bringing two very difficult books to life. And the sheer delight of seeing Kristian Hammerstad’s ideas for A Clockwork Orange for the first time.