The evocative aesthetic of the Penguin paperback is one of the great design stories of publishing. Not content with creating a distinct graphic identity that has endured over seven decades, Penguin is also one of the most forward-thinking commissioning bodies, responsible for a vast body of innovative and epoch-defining illustration.

As the purely typographic covers were slowly superseded in the mid 1950s, the small canvas of the Penguin book become a showcase for British illustration design, with the ’golden era’ of the 1960s and 1970s regularly referenced by art directors and pop cultural archivists.

See more of the Penguin illustrators and the anniversary postcard set

Mass market book design is no longer a reliable source of excellence, but as the Penguin Collectors Society’s new monograph, Penguin by Illustrators, ably demonstrates, with a modicum of care and attention, the giddy heights of the past can easily be emulated, if not surpassed. Steve Hare has brought together a portfolio of covers, old and new, together with presentations by some of the best-known names associated with modern book illustration, including David Gentleman, Dennis Bailey, Romek Marber and Quentin Blake. The book features many classics and also charts the recent revival in illustration-led publishing, with work by Phil Hale, Victoria Sawdon and Coralie Bickford-Smith demonstrating the paperback’s ongoing role as a place for artistic expression.

In other Penguin-related news, to mark their 75th anniversary this year, the publisher has released a box of 100 postcards, each featuring a different, iconic Penguin cover.