The 1960s is regarded as one of the golden eras for cover design in Penguin’s history. This was largely due to the talents and vision of one man: Italian graphic designer Germano Facetti (1026-2009), head of design from 1962 to 1971. He was given the challenge of modernising Penguin covers to make them more attractive to a younger generation without alienating the existing audience. To help him achieve this, he wanted to define a unified visual identity as he believed it was: “much more important that Penguin established a high standard throughout, rather than swinging from good to bad, cover to cover, as almost all other publishers do.”
One of Facetti’s crowning achievements was the radical overhaul of the Penguin Classics series. Facetti introduced a new black cover design, as he believed it was a more effective colour for selling books. Also, instead of using commissioned woodcut illustrations; he selected images that normally belonged to the period of the book’s first publication. In so doing, he wanted the book covers to communicate something beyond what the story itself was about: so it expressed its historical context and author. In his own words, he was aiming to create: “pictures for construction of a sequence of understanding which leads beyond the text.”
The idea of a black cover was not initially universally embraced by Penguin. However, Facetti was so strong in his conviction he staked a magnum of Champagne to prove his point. He won the wager when a test display in Blackwell’s bookshop, Oxford, led to an impressive increase in the shop’s sales of Penguin Classics.
The books in the photographs are two examples of his work from 1964 and 1965.
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