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Penguin exhibits at the Ditchling Museum

A design by the artist Elizabeth Friedlander - Courtesy Ditchling Museum

Following contributions from the Hiscox Collection and Fleming Wyfold Foundation at our “Art, Investment and Cities” Forum, we spoke to the Managing Director of Penguin General, Joanna Prior, about her passion for artworks based around typography and the publisher’s championing of outstanding young design talent.

Joanna curates Penguin’s special collection of pictures and limited edition prints which include works by Tom Phillips and Sir Peter Blake, and these are hung so they can be enjoyed by all the workforce in the Strand, London.

Since Penguin was founded by Allen Lane and his brothers in 1935 the books have spread ideas, education, literature and culture throughout the western world and beyond, and the covers have evolved from a limited palette of colours and type-faces to a platform for ingenious design by the best designers.

Banksy design for Penguin Essentials (Courtesy Design Week)

Penguin runs an annual design competition across the UK’s art schools to find outstanding young artists with the opportunity to work for the in-house design team. Listen to Joanna describe how the internet and the coming of the Kindle has created both challenges and opportunities for the publisher in its use of design and art work to promote its writers - see the video below.

Some 50 miles due South from London in Sussex, the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft is hosting an exhibition of the renowned designer of Penguin book covers from the 1950s, Elizabeth Friedlander, who escaped form Nazi Germany and worked in a British black propaganda unit during World War Two.

Also, at Ditchling visitors can enjoy a more contemporary take on Penguin’s design history. John Hamilton was hired by Penguin to breathe new life into a body of book covers 20 years ago with a brand called “Penguin Essentials”. The aim was to redesign the covers to convey contemporary relevance for a new audience for classics like “Room with a View”, “Clockwork Orange” and “Dubliners”. John did this by asking creative agencies from the record industry to design covers with memorable results, including a Banksy cover to Nick Cave’s “And the ass saw the angel”.

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