Designing the Picador Classic font

12 January 2015

When we in the Pan Macmillan art department started looking into the Picador Classic series, we knew we wanted to create a look that celebrated Picador's titles by making striking and original covers with a unique branding. During the process, we carried out our own investigation into each title whilst thinking about the series as a whole. We looked at the positioning of the logo: it needed to work on the front covers and spines of the books, as well as for all marketing purposes. It also needed to give us the freedom to make each cover true to the book.

White spine and back cover of The Book of Evidence
The white spine and back cover of the Picador Classic edition of The Book of Evidence.

When Picador was first launched in 1972, one of the original branding ideals and design elements that marked it out was to use white to give a clean and sophisticated design element to the covers. We wanted to keep this as an iconic part of the finished design work, and on the new covers it acts as a framing device holding the modern spines and back designs.

Collectively we looked at the logo design. The Picador logo uses a version of the typeface Albertus, which was designed by Berthold Wolpe in 1932. Wolpe’s innovative design suggests the texture of letters cut in wood and, by evolving the geometry of Albertus and creating a lighter, more elegant typeface, we have taken the font on a journey through Picador’s timeline to its classics of today.

Developing the Picador Classic font
Redrawing Albertus to make a clean, elegant, and modern typeface. Rendering a more accurate geometry gives a cleaner feel to the type.

What started out as background research quickly became a fully-fledged project of its own, and we enlisted Dave Farey and Richard Dawson to design a new font from our initial sketches. The new Picador Classic font that they came up with has a strong visual relationship with the original Albertus typeface.

Dave Farey's sketch
Dave Farey's sketch for the Picador Classic font.

“Wolpe was trained to cut letters in metal and stone,” Farey says, “so Albertus has both monumental and industrial antecedents. Using it as a starting point, various styles, interpretations and letterforms were tested to maintain – grandfather to grandson – a strong visual relationship, with the new style eventually developing a softer and more elegant quality. It’s very legible and attractive to read, either as headlines or text.

“This comes about because the design of the individual letters, where they can be, are openly formed and not enclosed, so letters combining together as words then sentences will have a natural flow and a friendly aspect.”

You can see for yourself on our Picador Classic page, designed by the lovely folk at Ranch.

The series design is in keeping with the great writing on Picador’s list and every individual cover stands on its own as an iconic piece of design as well as clearly being part of the series.

>>Read more about the design of individual covers on the Waterstones blog.

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