Art, Design, Culture: The History of Penguin by Design (part of UK Now) opened its doors at Temple Hotel, Beijing last week. Making our way down the winding hutong lanes to the once-historic temple grounds on a drizzly, grey day for the opening, this exhibition didn’t fail to impress. Starting from the very conception of the world-famous publishing brand in the mid 1930s, down to brand logo design, this showcase of the very best of book cover design analyses the influence of both classics that have stood the test of time, as well as newer publications and designs from the likes of Phil Baines and David Pearson.
A better part of our time was spent calculating how many of the Great Ideas series were already in possession in bookcases back home – a competition between many it appeared – whilst the design of the exhibition itself (voluntarily put together by a design group based in Hangzhou who are also Penguin Books fanatics) complimented exhibition contents in its entirety. Many of the loose books, however, did seem to wander across the room at times, making it hard to keep track of what one had or had not seen, but in times where even the act of picking up a book becomes part of the exhibition experience, perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing. Another downside was the limited number of older publications on show, which stole the spotlight for us. “More” we say!