The Penguin is no longer Random

With the recent unveiling of Penguin Random House’s new wordmark, Victoria Love offers her thoughts on the new design and what this means for the ubiquitous Penguin brand.

Throughout my studies, the merger of Penguin and Random House has been one of the headline stories that has kept re-emerging. It was with a heavy heart that I read of the merger, believing that the quirky little penguin that everyone knows and loves will become eclipsed by the House of Randomness, much in the way the Wicked Witch of the East found her relationship with Dorothy’s house to be a little overbearing.

Neither can I say I was particularly pleased with the temporary logo that had an air of “Oh my God, we forgot about the logo!” about it when it was released at the same time; a frankly unimaginative merger of the two icons with little coherence.

 

Temporary Penguin Random House Logo

Temporary Penguin Random House Logo

The heavy, sans-serif typeface left me full of confusion. I guess it was an approximation of Tschichold’s infamous use of ‘Gill Sans’ on the classic Penguin covers, but this face has subtle differences and without the use of colour to graphically link it with the iconic colour bands, it loses its association with the original covers.

Not to mention that it just seems a little haphazard (dare I say lazy?) to just place the two logos next to each other in an obvious graphical representation of the name. So imagine my relief when PRH recently revealed their redesigned, global wordmark.

Out With The Old

At first, I will admit, I feared for the fate of our feathered friend, but when reading the reasoning behind the design and seeing how it works alongside individual imprint colophons, I felt it was an overall success.

The ‘wordmark’ reflects the new stage in PRH’s development and it makes sense to forge a new global identity. After all, Penguin Random House is a new company, so it requires its own logo, yet the dual streaks of orange proffer a nod to the quintessential Penguin brand. When sited next to individual imprint logos, it doesn’t look out of place and has a sense of coherence that the temporary identity lacked.

It also allows each imprint, which include Dorling Kindersley and Penguin, each of whom have strong individual identities, to stand on their own two metaphorical feet. Whilst this maintains a visual link to the umbrella Penguin Random House company, the orange/black streaks physically divide the two, thus ensuring the survival of the randomly wandering penguin (and friends!).

Good Design is Good for Business

I was also relieved to read that Michael Bierut, one of today’s most eminent and respected graphic designers, was involved in the creation of the new wordmark. He explained his rationale for the design; he, and his team at Pentagram Design Consultancy, wanted to steer away from a direct amalgamation of the two companies into one logo and instead consider other possibilities:

“… it didn’t make sense to create a new symbol for a company that already has 250 symbols, none of which are going away, and each of which has its own heritage and value.The challenge was to come up with a wordmark that could at once provide a strong endorsement for each of the imprint symbols, and that could in turn gain itself in meaning through association with them.”– Pentagram Design

Being the somewhat trained graphic designer that I am, I can only surmise that this must have seemed like a monumental task. However, Bierut et al have created a dynamic and successful identity. I especially love how they have used an entirely new typeface, Jeremy Mickel’s ‘Shift Light’ to emphasise the merger, and thus demarcated its wordmark as a singular publishing identity. As stated by Bierut, Shift is a development from ‘typewriter’ fonts, such as Courier, that reflect the literary nature of Penguin Random House’s business.

By using the ‘light’ font weight, the ‘typewriter’ link isn’t explicitly obvious and crass, and neither does it impinge on the individual imprint logos it will be paired with. The choice to lean heavily on a typographic solution means that the resulting wordmark doesn’t favour either company. Instead it creates a unified design which is more subtle than an attempt to mix a house with a penguin!

On a side note, I love the quirky, curved serifs on the ascenders and the ear on the lowercase g (a particular favourite of mine)!

Demonstration of the new wordmark with existing imprint logos.

Demonstration of the new wordmark with existing imprint logos. Image Courtesy of Pentagram.

 

Despite my initial reservations, I think Penguin Random House, Bierut and everyone involved at Pentagram have succeeded in re-imagining the Penguin Random House brand going forwards into the future.

It was potentially dangerous territory to mess with one of the only identifiable brands in publishing. By respecting Penguin’s history, Beirut has ensured that the tuxedo-suited, flappy chappie lives on and, together with Random House, can only build a stronger, modern identity that capitalises on Penguin’s historic recognition amongst its public.

The Also-Rans

Most amusingly, it has been fun to see some of the visions that designers and individuals around the world had prior to the announcement. Speculation over the new logo has been rife and some of the predicted answers are nothing short of amusing and whimsical:

 

This post was originally published on 11th June on Victoria’s blog, ‘[B]ookend[S].

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Victoria is the creator of Blurbify, which was created as part of her creative dissertation project at the end of the MA course in 2014. She has a background in graphic and web design, having gained a First class degree in the subject from Anglia Ruskin in 2010 and is a lover of digital publishing, editorial and design; though she still prefers holding a real book, rather than a Kindle!