Around our house we have a series of framed Penguin book covers on the walls—yes, we are exactly those sorts of people—and I’ve always been interested in their robust, consistent and, well, handsome design.
It turns out that many of them use The Marber Grid. This is a layout for Penguin book covers that was designed by Romek Marber in 1961. It underpins the design of books like this:
Before the grid was used, Penguin books used to employ simple typographic covers. Penguin art director Germano Facetti wanted something with more visual appeal. At the time, Marber was designing covers for The Economist (covers which wouldn’t look too out of place nearly 60 years on):
Facetti commissioned Marber to design covers for two Simeon Potter books, “Language in the Modern World” and “Our Language”. These went well, so he went to work on coming up with a design for Penguin’s crime fiction series.
Greg Neville’s post How the Marber grid was made attempts to reverse engineer Marber’s design process, dividing the book cover into sections and generating lines at the intersections:
Nice, eh? Facetti loved Marber’s grid. It was also used on the blue Pelican books—Penguin’s non-fiction imprint—as well, as beyond crime novels, the broader set of orange Penguin fiction books.
On the topic of iconic book publishers, Ladybird are publishing a new Expert Series, including books like Plato’s “Republic” that have been condensed down to 65 pages.
From the You Might Not Know This dept: the recent ‘adult’ Ladybird books, about things like Brexit and hangovers, were co-written by Jason Hazeley. If the name is even slightly familiar to you, it might be from his writing with Charlie Brooker or for The Framley Examiner, a sort of early ’00s provincial British version of The Onion.
But even further back, he was half of musical duo Ben & Jason. I can’t for the life of me work out why they weren’t more famous at the time, or why they’ve not had a re-appraisal since then—they were very, very good. Ben’s voice and guitar playing is sublime and Jason’s arrangements are superb.
While Jason moved into comedy, Ben’s gone on to play in various bands and write music instruction books. He’s also impossibly handsome and takes a good selfie.
One of their albums was entitled “Emoticons” which I suppose places it in a very particular time period. “Air Guitar” is from that record:
So there we are. I don’t suppose many blogs have posts about paperback book design that ramble off and end up praising lost singer-songwriter duos that at one point collaborated with Martine McCutcheon, but that’s probably why those blogs are successful and this one isn’t.