An Undercover Classic

As we near the end of January we, without a huge amount awareness are also approaching the celebration of ‘Orwell Day’. This inaugural day is being launched by Penguin Books to mark the death, and influence of the momentous author who died on 21st January 1950. To ground the anniversary Penguin have released new editions of Orwell classics, designed by the hugely talented and wildly enviable David Pearson. Amongst a wealth of beautiful design work Pearson has created for Penguin, now adding to this repertoire, is this varied updated collection. Notably, and the cover which has inspired this entry is for Nineteen Eighty-Four. Although it’s approach is clearly concept driven, it wholly portrays, relies and is balanced upon its process. In such a visually saturated environment of current times, where information is, and is expected to be at it’s most accessible, this is a somewhat radical and opposing move. Perhaps, this in itself is the draw from a designers perspective, the understanding of how many hurdles this must have incurred to get to this point. As quoted in Creative Review’s article Pearson says:

“It’s obviously the risk-taker of the series,” says Pearson, “and I can be very grateful to Jim Stoddart, Penguin Press’ art director, for safeguarding its progress in-house. It takes a fair bit of confidence to push something like this through and I can only assume that Jim had to deal with the odd wobble.”

The decision of concealing and obscuring the title of the book through the use of debossing then foil blocking the typography, actually achieves the opposite effect of obstruction. The creation of something which is not only visually beautiful, but also contains the element of intrigue works in its advantage to attract. From this point of view it is understandable that Penguin were content in putting the design forward. Perhaps this sort of attitude to design and print processes, is one which we will be seeing more of as print and tactility have been gradually reseeding. As this approach is becoming a rarity, perhaps it is one we will return, and navigate towards as a refreshing aesthetic from an evolution of daily visual clutter.

The series is available to buy here. View further work by David Pearson at