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Champions of Design

Champions of Design is a paperback book and free-to-download PDF published in December 2011 by Jones Knowles Ritchie (jkr).

“In this book we celebrate twenty-five great works of design, the people who created them and the clients who bought them.”

Here’s an excerpt, featuring on one of the 25 brands.

Old Penguin logo

Penguin

Given its beloved status as a British institution to rival the BBC, it’s worth remembering what a revolutionary idea Penguin originally was. The company’s cheap but well-made, well-designed books found a new audience of working and middle-class readers that few believed existed. The future really was orange.

If the point of a brand mark is to guarantee quality, then Penguin excels. My father, a lifelong devotee, describes it as ‘my university’. Many share his trust and appreciation. Like holding a Guinness at the bar, one feels part of a select band when reading a Penguin on the Tube or beach. Generations of investment in great design has helped earn this status.

Penguin book covers stripes
Photo source: James Muspratt (not in Champions of Design book)

The original (Tube map inspired?) system of distinctive coloured stripes met the business strategy; they would have been cheap to produce, compared with myriad cover designs and illustrations. However, we don’t want cheap brands. We want great brands cheap. Penguin used good paper, quality binding and typography that allowed the words to breathe. They were designs of hardback quality in soft covers.

This flightless bird has adapted beautifully over the years, radically changing its design approach in response to market forces and trends, from the graphical covers of the 60s, to the commercial designs of today. Penguin achieved coherent change mostly from having a strong in-house design culture. This ethos was not elitist. Edward Young was a 21-year-old office junior when he drew the logo and devised the colour-coding system. A secretary came up with the name.

Luck also plays a part in great brand design. Penguin was still young as World War II erupted, and its format just so happened to prove the perfect fit for a battledress pocket. On such quirks are great brands built.

Written by Silas Amos, a founder designer at jkr in 1990.

Each of the 25 case studies includes a brand timeline and “Did you know?” page.

Did you know that in 1989, following Penguin’s publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, bombs were planted in a Penguin bookshop in York and in Liberty’s in London where the company also had a concession?

Champions of Design

Download your free copy of the PDF here on the jkr website.

Somewhat related: Penguin logo evolution.

My second book on Amazon

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12 comments about “Champions of Design”

  1. David, thanks for the heads up on Champions of Design. I’ve downloaded it to the laptop and plan to explore it starting today.

  2. I did a quick count and it turns out that I recognized 64% or 16/25 brand objects showcased on the cover. Just wondering if that’s good or bad, or if I should brush up on my ‘brand skills’.

  3. Baseline (the magazine) did a great piece on Tschichold’s time at Penguin and his resulting influence on book design. I urge you to read it–I believe it was issue 48 or 49.

    http://www.baselinemagazine.com/

  4. Back to work so soon David…tsk tsk.

    Nice post, I also recognised quite a few like Slava, but some were a mystery.

  5. Thanks very much for posting this information – I’m looking forward to reading the book in a spare few moments :)

  6. David, thanks for posting this (I love Mini, although this Champion of Design’s maintenance costs me a lot!)

  7. Thanks David for the heads up on this. Having had a quick glance it looks a great book.

  8. And now there’s an interesting boxed set called The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design. It’s 1,000 pages and, tho’ I haven’t received my copy of it yet, looks impressively produced. I’m going to work my way through it–it’s said to include book work, magazines, posters, and more–and review it on my blog. I’m very excited about this one.

  9. I saw the video of Armin opening that one, Stephen. Looks like a strange set.

  10. Well, David, there’s an off-the-beaten-track presentation, as it’s not a book in the usual, bound sense. But then I imagine the way it appears to be done, on individual sheets (tho’ I believe more than one print, up to six, are on each sheet) might better lend itself to fine prints. Then, too, there’s variety in the different sorts of pieces. I can’t wait to unpack and see it all for myself, especially after the video you linked to. Should be material for an interesting review, for readers, as well as for me to write.

  11. Hi David,

    Saw this post right now. Is it possible to send me the pdf of this book ‘Champions of design’.

    Thanks in advance.

  12. Hi Sandeep, you’ll need to contact jkr. I didn’t know they changed moved/removed the PDF.

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