Today I finally had my lecture from book designer David Pearson, I posted about it a few weeks back but it got postponed. Was a brilliant lecture, easily the best so far and will take some beating. His work is amazing, he was really passionate about it and book design in general, past and present.
He spoke for a long time about working at penguin and its history, he was actually behind the book “Penguin By Design” , he proposed the whole concept of the book and designed it as well as commissioning his ex-tutor and typography expert Phil Baines to write it. As research for the book he looked through the Penguin archives (this x20 I think he said), looking at every single one in chronological order. He did a very funny slideshow of the covers that came after Penguin dropped its traditional grid and suddenly there were circles everywhere for no apparent reason (e.g. this, this, this and this), bit of a bad patch if you ask me. But I hate pointless modernist circles.
He was also in charge of the design of the Penguin Great Ideas series, which is a series of 20 short books that have changed the world. The first series sold so well that a further 4 series were commissioned, meaning a total of 100 books with each series of 20 having there own colour scheme. He wanted to create a series that felt more collectible, the 100 spines together create a pattern, the idea of books being collectible and tactile objects is something constantly in his work.
The covers of the great ideas series are all strongly typographic, referencing and copying styles relevant to the subject or period of the book. He made a point of showing covers he had designed next to the pieces that had inspired them, often they were very similar and he explained that copying a style is sometimes the right thing to do rather than a crime against design. He was given a lot of freedom by Penguin, not needing the logo or publisher on the cover (a later German version of the series demanded the publishers name on and are less visually pleasing subsequently), and apparently designing books by dead authors is easier as they cant object! Every book in the series has a false letterpress effect with the text and details indented, giving them a better physical feel. Each cover is very different and overall I really love his great ideas series.
The success of ‘Great Ideas’ made Pearson’s name, and eventually he left penguin to start his own studio (although I believe he shares space with We Made this). Penguin still came to him with projects and involved him in all the remaining Great Ideas series as well as Great Loves, Great Journeys (apparently in publishing if one thing goes well they will do it to death), Pocket Penguins (the spines seen above) and Popular Classics (these were at first nice colours but penguin feared they would be more popular than the expensive versions so he made them a bright yellowy green to make them less appealing).
Apart from penguin he has designed 2 series of patterned covers for french publishers Zulma, a re-issue of books by Cormac McCarthy and also tried his hand at publishing books himself as White’s Books.
Anyway he’s a brilliant designer and it was a very inspirational lecture, il be posting any book covers I can find by him which I can give extra insight to from hearing him talk today, and maybe a little bit about the process behind them that he revealed also. You can see more of his work here on his flickr (as well as some of his vintage design collection)
(If you just read all that thankyou! Sure iv missed out lots but I didn’t make many notes at the time)