• 05.25.16

Early Richard Dawkins Books Get An Algorithmically Generated Redesign

It’s Penguin’s latest evolution of the elaborate book marketing campaign.

In his 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins described a suite of computer programs he created using an Apple Machintosh Plus to simulate the power of Darwinian evolution. The software allowed users to generate insect-like stick figures called biomorphs and select their offspring with the most desirable features to continue the evolutionary line. It was one of the earliest examples of a genetic algorithm and a pioneering project in a research sector that would become known as Artificial Life.


Now, for the anniversary of Dawkins’s early books–The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and Unweaving the Rainbow–Penguin UK is adapting the biomorphs algorithm to generate a unique series of book covers. A team of designers led by designer Mathieu Triay–the mind behind several of Penguin UK’s recent inventive and forward-thinking marketing campaigns for re-releases of classics–the publishing house painstakingly revived Dawkins’s algorithms and made them publicly available online. They also used the algorithm to create each of the book covers, so that no two books are alike.

In the ultimate example of Darwinian selection, you can also use the tool on the site to create a cover yourself, then submit it for a chance to win a book of your own design. Take a stab at the program here–it’s survival of the prettiest.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.