22 February 2015

I won't be buying these Penguins

[I was so good about posting regularly in January, but then I got busy and ran out of ideas. Haven't quite snapped out of the rut, but working on it.]

Regular readers know that I am a sucker for a matched Penguin set. In the past I have gone to great lengths and expense to collect them. I bought the English Journeys series, the Great Love series, and most infamously all 100 volumes of the Great Ideas series. And then when push came to shove I got rid of all of them selling them for pennies on the dollar. Still, I can be sorely tempted when I see a nice matching set, which is why I am grateful that Penguin's latest release isn't much of a temptation for me. Even though the design of them hearkens back to the early, uniform, glory days of Penguin, I find them uncompelling--almost ugly.

The main reason I dislike them is the use of the serif font for the titles. I'm not universally opposed to a serif font, and I actually kind of like this one, I just think it looks a bit anemic against all that black. It also doesn't help that the somewhat dainty titles sit below the the bolder sans serif font used for the authors. makes it feel a little top heavy. If the titles had been placed on top I think the serif font would have worked better. Also, without measuring them, it looks as if the white band is centered top to bottom and then both the author's name and the title are centered in their respective parts of the black space. It's oddly discomfiting visually. Again, without measuring them, on the original orange and white covers, it appears that the top orange panel is slightly shorter than the white panel and the lower orange panel. This just feels better I think. The centered-ness of this new set makes it feel oddly out of balance.

If you are like me and can pour over graphic design, good and bad, for hours despite being no expert or having any graphics art training, you should check out this website that compares logo redesigns. If you do a search on "penguin" on their site, you will find more than a few that relate to Penguin logos.


  1. Funny that I'm composing a post right now to say that I do like them and of course want them all. I really admire the equal division on the front and that crisp white band through the middle. And especially appreciate the numbering at the bottom of each volume's cover. My main problem is deciding whether to purchase all now individually or wait until what appears to be a November release date for a boxed set.

  2. I'm guessing they're a set, since they're numbered - and you mention other sets. They look very stark to me, and I don't think I'd go out of my way to buy them.

    1. The numbering is something that would have been a big trigger to purchase for me in the past.

  3. It is not the font that bothers me, it is the dull black and white that I don’t care for. I much prefer the more colorful Penguin editions like the Penguin English Library collection or Penguin Modern Classics or even just the plain old orange Penguins.

    I do love the look of matched sets on a book shelf, but for practical purposes (space, money, alphabetizing) I am not that type of book collector. It really would only work for me if the set were from the same author and then I can place them together. About half the Dickens works I own are in the Penguin paperback Classics editions. The other half are in the Modern Library paperback editions and they both look pretty nice all lined up, I must say.

    Have you ever seen the Penguin Clothbound Classics? I love them and own two. They are all hard cover with a bound ribbon book mark, have a lovely texture to them and are annotated. The spines don’t match but they complement each other I guess.

  4. I find the Penguin Clothbound Classics aesthetically pleasing, but I have no desire to own them. I like my Penguins paperback.


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