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Penguin Reinvents Classic Sci-Fi Book Covers With Clever Type Design

How do you sum up a fictional world with a font?

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In the '60s and '70s, the lurid, fanciful covers of science-fiction and fantasy paperbacks didn't usually waste much time with typography. Instead, the designers put all of their efforts into illustrating the bizarre worlds contained within. So look back at the original cover for Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 and it shows a space station; Dune the scorching surface of the dessert planet Arrakis, and so on.

For Penguin Galaxy's new box set of six different classic sci-fi and fantasy books, it's taking a different approach—letting the typography do the talking. All the covers feature a multi-lined decorative font across a colored background; and with only one exception, that font is the same for each of the books. Yet despite this seemingly simple recipe, what's notable about the Galaxy box set is how well this short combination of elements can illustrate a book's plot and themes.

Consider, for example, the Penguin Galaxy cover of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Implying the monolith, the cover prints the title vertically, in a rectangular block, with a black background, referencing both the monolith's cover and the emptiness of space. The orange cover to Frank Herbert's Dune makes each letter in the book's title resemble a sigil, seemingly representing the novel's four main factions: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, House Corrino, and the Fremen. The cover to William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer is a Matrix-like affair where the cathode-green letters of the title glitch out. Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand Of Darkness has the same font overlaid upon itself twice, symbolic of the gender-switching natives of the planet Gethen, which feature prominently in the novel. Using a red color-shift through the title's letters, the cover of Stranger in a Stranger Land evokes the red sands of Mars. And lastly, the sole fantasy novel, T.H. White's A Once And Future King, gets a heraldic font, worthy of an Arthurian legend.

[Photo: via Penguin Random House]

All of the covers were designed by Alex Trochut, who also created gorgeous multi-lined icons for the back covers of these editions, tying into the typography while further illustrating their plots and themes. So even if you don't love classic sci-fi and fantasy but you do love gorgeous graphic design and great typography, you still might be willing to pay $225 for this jewel lucite-encrusted box set when it comes out on November 15, 2016. You can preorder it here.

[All Photos (unless otherwise noted): via Alex Trochut/]

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