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Pelican Books

Contributed by Robin Rendle on Nov 18th, 2014. Artwork published in
November 2014
    Pelican Books 1
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Matt Young, a designer at Penguin, describes the process behind a new website called Pelican books

    The brief for Pelican was to make these books accessible and distinctive, and I suggested that to make the books even more accessible we should make them available to read online.

    One week later I’d built a prototype – a simple one-page responsive website – and was pitching it to my colleagues in the Penguin Press Art Department. The emphasis was all on the typography – and crucially the spacing and the margins around the typography – to ensure a clean, legible, comfortable reading experience regardless of what size (or resolution) your screen is, from the smallest smartphone to the largest desktop monitor. Later that afternoon I was pitching the idea again, to our Managing Director at Penguin Press. The concept is simple: you go to and the books are available to read right there in your browser. You can read the first chapter for free, and if you like it, you can buy the full book and continue reading.

    The website employs a customised version of Brandon Text and Freight Text. The latter is used as body copy, which is less than interesting since it seems to have flourished online as the default serif (whenever I read a website with Freight Text I immediately think of Medium). But here, it’s clearly Brandon Text that steals the show. And this is interesting for a host of reasons, one being that I wrote a little review of the original typeface for Typographica earlier this year. I mentioned that:

    A recurring disappointment of setting type on the web is seeing poor translations of families that were origin­ally designed for print. Thankfully this is not the case here, yet the efforts in manually hinting and optimiz­ing for screens are as likely to go unnoticed as the individual letters themselves. Designing text faces of this sort, then, is not a suitable profession for those in search of glory or prestige.

    Going back to my review it’s clear just how wrong my initial take on the typeface was – I assumed Brandon Text would be a quiet and subtle addition to any design. However the team at Penguin has clearly made this typeface flex every bit of its geometric muscles; at any distance this combination of color and fine typography makes each screen and graphic detail look glorious, perhaps even prestigious.

    This design has shown me just how flexible some typefaces can be once we ask them to do strange and unfamiliar things.

    Pelican Books 2
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Pelican Books 3
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Pelican Books 4
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Pelican Books 5
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Pelican Books 6
    Source: Pelican Books. License: All Rights Reserved.


    • Brandon Text
    • Freight Text




    Artwork location

    2 Comments on “Pelican Books”

    1. This is a beautiful project. But Pelican books have a tradition of beautiful modernist covers and my only qualm is this site doesn’t reference that. But that is of course a personal opinion. 

      The nod to the pelican brand color was a nice touch.

    2. Brandon Text as used on is spaced more tightly and uses the binocular ‘g’ (to make it look more like Brandon Grotesque?) as well as its monocular ‘a’. Both alternates are included as Stylistic Sets in Brandon Text.

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