It is hard to say what will happen to the penguin logo when Penguin Books and Random House complete their merger, announced in October, but I can’t imagine that the pudgy little bird won’t survive. Founded in the UK in 1935 to bring well-designed quality paperbacks to the market, Penguin Books made the flightless bird its trademark from the start. The first penguin was drawn by designer Edward Young, with Gill Sans specified for the typeface, and covers showing three bands of color used to organize titles by genre – orange for fiction, dark blue for biographies, etc. Typographer Jan Tschichold modified the logo in 1946 and redesigned some 500 Penguin books and also wrote a four-page design manifesto, “Penguin Composition Rules.” In 2003, Pentagram’s Angus Hyland tweaked the penguin logo some more.
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“When you take anything out of its context and put it against a white background, you see something different” explains photographer Andrew Zuckerman. “It forces all attention on the subject….It’s the absence of space and color…in the end, all you’re left with is the form and range of colors contained in the subject.”
Like his previous books “Creature” and “Wisdom,” Zuckerman’s latest book, “Birds,” is shot entirely against a white background. Using a Leaf Aptus 75S digital camera along with high-speed strobe lighting, Zuckerman caught details that would be impossible to see if the birds were photographed in their natural environment. Instead, Zuckerman set up a mobile studio, mostly at zoos, in four countries and coaxed 74 species of birds into the camera’s range. The result is microscopically crisp detail and dazzling nuances of color. To see more Zuckerman birds and a behind-the-scenes video of the photo shoot, visit Show-Off, a virtual nonprofit gallery conceived and curated by San Francisco/Newark, UK-based design firm Dowling Duncan.
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