Tom Etherington designs the covers for Penguin’s series of little books with big ideas on the climate crisis

The climate crisis is rightly dominating discourse across the creative industries and beyond. Although it has taken us far too long to reach such a stage, and true sustainability remains a goal we’re yet to reach, we might find some help in the literature of the cause.

But philosophical and theoretical books can admittedly be intimidating, so Tom Etherington, a designer for Penguin, wanted to make these new books more approachable and accessible. He began the task for the series by looking into the visual language of protest, which he felt was relevant for contemporary writers including Naomi Klein and George Monbiot. For the earlier writers, however, the godfathers of what we now call climate literature, Etherington looked into more elegant, minimal design solutions.

“In the past,” Etherington tells It’s Nice that, “Penguin has published series like the Little Black Classics and Mini Modern Classics, which have a strict typographic design that feels part of a Penguin heritage that goes all the way back to the Young/Tschichold triband.” Etherington explains that the designs for these series always feel “quintessentially Penguin” and collectable, which was another important factor to consider when designing each individual book of this latest series – providing a connection to not only the rest of the series, but also the publisher.

Etherington claims that the phrase “the beauty of nature” was discussed when deciding how to design the covers. “This new direction for the covers focusing on the beauty of the natural world felt far more connected to the writing,” the designer says, “and from there, things fell into place fairly quickly.” Etherington therefore only wanted two tones of one colour for each cover, “and nothing man-made. I was inspired by shapes from nature.”

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