Penguin SF series, 1972–73
One of the most iconic uses of Amelia is arguably Penguin’s Science Fiction series from the early 1970s. David Pelham, who served as Penguin’s art director from 1968 to 1979, “continued the use of strongly colored illustrations introduced by Alan Aldridge” (Phil Baines: Penguin By Design, 2005). The thirteen paperback covers from this series feature dystopian illustrations (all by Pelham himself) in various styles, using strong and bright colors. They are united by the use of all-caps Amelia for the author’s name (or the title, for compilations), sandwiched between lines in News Gothic for the series name and the title, against a black background.
In his role of art director at Penguin, Pelham would often connect certain typefaces with a genre or a specific author. Under his direction, the science fiction covers would continue to use News Gothic in combination with other typefaces and illustrators until a radical change of style in 1979. Pelham left Penguin Publishers in 1980: “When, from time to time I overheard people in the marketing department referring to books as ‘the product’, I knew it was time to jump.”
Amelia was designed by Stan Davis (b. 1938), a Cooper Union graduate. In 1966, it was chosen as one of 15 award winning type face designs in a competition sponsored by the Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC) in Tamarac, Florida. With its MICR-inspired aesthetic featuring an unconventional distribution of thicks and thins, it soon became associated with all things computer, futuristic, or paranormal, and was a popular choice at the peak of the Space Age. One influential example is S. Neil Fujita’s jacket for Future Shock (1970).
For additional info on this series (and beyond), see also chapter 18 of James Pardey’s Art of Penguin Science Fiction, Josh MacPhee’s expansive blog post on the Penguin Science Fiction
covers, and the Unsubscribed Blog.