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A Plague of Demons – Keith Laumer (Penguin SF)

Contributed by André Mora on May 30th, 2013. Artwork published in .
A Plague of Demons – Keith Laumer (Penguin SF) 1
License: All Rights Reserved.

Don’t worry, your eyes are fine.

In Penguin by Design, by Phil Baines, this cover appears in a section called “Covers as Poster: Alan Aldridge, 1965.” Aldridge was appointed Fiction Art Director in 1965 and made his mark in a variety of styles. His pschadelic 1967 science fiction series pairs his own trippy illustrations with a wild title effect.

James Pardey has a site devoted to Penguin’s Science Fiction books. I can’t describe the modification to the titles in this series much better than Pardey himself: 

Strung out in shrieking white capitals, they splintered the blackness like a banshee’s wail.

This would’ve been an intruguing cover even with Helvetica untouched, but the effect forces a double-take. And the disorientation lingers. Imagine passing by this in a store.

Credit goes to bookseller Chet Ross for tipping me off on this one. Ross, who was a professor of applied design for 30 years, describes the monster like so:

It’s the type of monster image a child would dream of … It reminds of the Memphis Milano movement in applied design (short 80s movement out of Milan, Italy) – based on developing form with no preconceived notion of precedence, and often only a slight regard for function …

A Plague of Demons – Keith Laumer (Penguin SF) 2
License: All Rights Reserved.
A Plague of Demons – Keith Laumer (Penguin SF) 3
License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Helvetica
  • Akzidenz-Grotesk




Artwork location

5 Comments on “A Plague of Demons – Keith Laumer (Penguin SF)”

  1. Chet [Ross] is always lurking in the corner with some secret knowledge — he is a quintessential bricoleur!

  2. Aldridge did more covers with this kind of type treatment. The straight-legged ‘R’ and some other details (narrow ‘O’, short middle bar on ‘E’) suggest it wasn’t Helvetica that got splintered here.

  3. Good catch, Florian. I added this link above to show others from this series, though they’re not as big as the samples you pulled from his site.

    Perhaps another Aldrige cover, like this one from 1964, can provide some confirmation that the science fiction titles are based on Akzidenz Grotesk.

  4. It’s hard to say for sure. Who knows how Aldridge created this effect; is there any type involved at all? Repeating letters appear to be identical, but that doesn’t say much. Akzidenz-Grotesk has that straight-legged ‘R’, but the wide and open ‘S’ on the Potter cover is off again. Interestingly, in the digital versions, the middle bar of ‘E’ is not as short as here. In Standard CT, it even is of the same length as the top and bottom bars.

  5. Not the same thing of course, but see also Mecanorma’s Television.

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