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Pelican site on different devices

Work / Graphic Design

We chat with the designer who helped create the ace new Pelican Books site

Back in May, Penguin relaunched its Pelican imprint – exhuming the series that first emerged in 1936 thanks to a fortuitous mishearing at King’s Cross station, as we explained in our Behind the Scenes piece.

Penguin’s in-house designer Matt Young designed the beautiful branding that brings our stately pelican back to life, and since December last year he’s been working alongside Bristol-based agency Fiasco Design to create the Pelican Books site, which lets users read the first chapter of any release for free. The site is faithful to the series’ book jackets design, in a simple palette of turquoise, charcoal grey and white, set off with the brand’s distinctive tweaked Brandon Grotesque typeface.

We had a chat with Ben Steers, Fiasco Design creative director, about working on the project.

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Pelican site on mobile

How did you get involved in designing the Pelican Books website?

We’d worked with Penguin on the design of the Snowman and Snowdog site, and they asked us back to work on the Pelican site in December 2013, but we didn’t start until mid-February.

Can you tell us a bit more about the brief?

It was quite a technical brief to map out all the requirements – they came to us with a clear idea of what they wanted – a platform where books can be read online but not via e-reader. They wanted to bridge the gap between typical e-readers and modern web browsers, where people can read the books online effectively anywhere you’ve got an internet connection.

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Pelican site on mobile

How did you approach that?

There was a lot of emphasis especially from Matthew Young on reader experience itself – legibility, the size of the body text, and removing unnecessary stages and steps in the user journey so that everything is a click or two away. There was a huge effort with the typesetting to make sure everything was legible and that the reader experience was as good as it could be, even to down to the width of the central column.

It’s quite an unusual looking site for a publisher in that it doesn’t feel as though you’re being navigated towards buying a physical book, or even directly shown the physical books in the range….

They didn’t want it to feel like a sales pitch – there was a lot of internal discussion around the language and the copy of the site, especially on the homepage, to avoid that.

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Pelican site desktop

How did you align the design of the site with the design of the books themselves?

They were keen to keep it all heavily branded as pelican products, hence the ‘pelican blue’. On the site it changes colour within the headers on the books, but it’s a very soft transition – it makes it feel less flat.

It seems quite unusual to have so few images too, what was the thinking behind the use of pictures and the Pelican himself?

We did go through various stages with images – at some points there were pelicans in the book headers, and there were some clouds but it was felt internally they might look a bit too childish for the wider demographic they’re putting the books out to. We didn’t want to clutter it.

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Pelican site on mobile