D&AD Archive: P is for Penguin

As a little girl, Rosamund Derry had humble ambitions – to write, live in a sea-side cottage and marry a prince.

She now has the cottage, writes for a living and is working on finding the prince. You’ll find her either as WWFP’s financial writer, or fan fiction enthusiast lily moonlight, depending on the time of day.

The Archive Dive is written by members of 26.

Penguins are great. Where would we be without them? Certainly with fewer biscuits in our tins, and what would be worse, far fewer books on our shelves to read while enjoying a chocolate coated treat.

Penguins are everywhere, not just in the Southern Hemisphere. Enter any bookshop in the UK, or indeed any shop selling books, and you’re guaranteed to find at least one. Penguins (in their paper-backed form) first appeared in 1935 and have proliferated ever since. Although there’ve been a few grumbling voices and naysayers, their march has continued largely unchecked. There is something very appealing about the flightless bird, a little ungainly on land, but glorious in the water. And even more magnificent on paper.

Graphic Design / Catalogues & Brochures, The Book of Penguin, Radley Yeldar, 2009, In book

With that distinctive silhouette, they’re instantly recognisable. Especially on a bookshelf. Managing somehow to be both discreet and proudly prominent at the same time, the Penguin and his outer wrappings are hard to miss. Maybe they are the exception to the rule of not judging a book by its covers.

Surrounded by an oval lozenge, positioned at the bottom of the spine and present both front and back of the book, the ‘dignified but flippant’ Penguin Books penguin draws you closer, beckoning you with his flipper almost. Look at me, he says, come closer, step forward, open my pages, read me.

Graphic Design / Catalogues & Brochures, The Book of Penguin, Radley Yeldar, 2009, In book

A glance at the shelves of any bibliophile will surely show you at least one, and most likely more, Penguin paperbacks. There’s something very pleasing, too, about the alliteration: paperbacks, penguins, puffins and pelicans. Even more pleasing is to pick up the Penguin paperback, to smooth the covers, turn the book over, run your thumb along the edge of the pages and look again at the colours, the images, the design.

Colour-coded – orange for fiction, green for crime, blue for biography. As soon as you see them, you know them. Instant, visual. They make you look, make you stare. Make you wonder, make you read. They are bright, simple, colourful, complicated. All at once. They draw you outwards and inwards. They draw you to the story. Long may the Penguin reign on our shelves.

Read an interview with book designer Derek Birdsall.

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