Penguin has unveiled 20 new titles, which will join its Great Ideas series 25 years after its initial launch, with many of the covers being created by the series’ original designer David Pearson.
It has been 10 years since new books have been published under the non-fiction imprint, which focuses on “the many great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas have shaken civilisation”.
Some 20 new titles will be added to the range, including works from Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Wilde and leaders of the Suffragette movement. Pearson has designed the covers of the majority of the pocket-sized books, while a select few have also been designed by Catherine Dixon (Audre Lorde), Alistair Hall (How to be a Stoic) and Felix Koeberlin (Oscar Wilde).
As the original designer for the book series when it first launched in 1995, Pearson says “picking up a piece of work that you put down a decade ago” was “a really interesting process”.
With more than 100 books in the series, he says it has come to be that the collection “has created its own rules” when it comes to design. These latest 20 editions follow the same “rules” as before, with each created using a limited colour palette of black, white and blue.
While all the covers use the same colour scheme, there is little else that unifies the series. This is deliberate, Pearson says, since the ambition has always been to develop a “pleasing inconsistency”.
“[We designed them] so that books play nicely together, but also jar and spar when displayed in different combinations,” he says.
“Some covers prescribe, some misguide”
As Pearson explains, different covers within the series react with the content of the books in different ways. With no titles this time around from the Medieval and Renaissance time periods, as there have been in previous releases, the design scope has changed, he explains.
“Some covers prescribe, some misguide; some are formal, some informal; some are minimal, some maximal; some shout, some whisper,” he says.
These differences are made stark when compared side by side: the Audre Lorde and John Berger book covers, for instance, feature straightforward typographical treatments, while Peter Kropotkin’s book on anarchist communism or Friedrich Nietzche’s God is Dead are covered with a half-graffitied design and an intricate filigree-style design respectively.
Some take a more abstract approach to the contents within the book, like Epicurus’s Being Happy cover which is stylised as a sun. Others, like the Suffragette Manifestos designed akin to a protest placard from the time or Simone Weil’s The Power of Words as a newspaper front page, are more to the point.
Reflecting on the project as a whole, Pearson adds: “Some are legible and some – let’s be honest – require a good deal of deciphering.”