James Pardey’s The Art of Penguin Science Fiction website is one of the coolest things I’ve seen all year. He’s collected a wealth of information about the cover design of Penguin’s science fiction books from 1935 to 1977. The evolution of designs is striking. Take a look at these four covers of Day of the Triffids , by John Wyndham. It was first published in 1951, and published by Penguin Books in January 1954. The first Penguin edition features a cover illustration by John Griffiths based on sketches Wyndham himself provided, at a time when cover illustrations were very rare. On the left are the 1962 reprint and 1963 reprint, both with illustrations by John Griffiths. Finally, it was reissued as a Penguin Film Classics this year.
I love the simplicity of them, and that little line drawing of a triffid is just too cute. The designs varied a lot more widely than that though, so I strongly recommend you visit the site. Here’s a teaser, in case you’re still not convinced.