Literary classics come to life in Pantone colors

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Children’s classics, such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Treasure Island," and "Heidi," are given a fresh coat of Pantone colors in a new series by Puffin Classics. Photo by DON JAUCIAN

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Though classic literature will forever be read, studied, and scrutinized, they have to be repackaged and reimagined every now and then, as the times present challenges in reinterpreting and recontextualizing their narratives.

For example, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” remained mostly as science fiction for years. But Donald Trump’s election as the president of the United States has, whether directly or coincidentally, affected the sales of the book, due probably to Trump’s views and actions towards women.

1984 and Handmaid's Tale book cover Reimagining book covers: George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" with blacked out text and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" with an animated cover. Photos from PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

In the context of today’s political climate, George Orwell’s dystopian book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” also surged in sales last January, along with other sci-fi classics such as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.”

These books are reissued from time to time with new covers and designs, whether paired with classic paintings, graphic designers, or typographic versions. In 2013, David Pearson designed a cover for “Nineteen Eighty-Four” with the title and the author blacked out with foil.

The cover for “The Handmaid’s Tale” was also reimagined in 2016 with an animated cover (the books come with an acetate with which to view the animation). In the same year, Penguin undertook a redesign of Shakespeare’s plays with minimalist covers by Manuja Waldia.

Puffin Pantone The spines of the Puffin + Pantone series, which look like paint chip swatches. Photo by DON JAUCIAN

“They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but when a book is a classic, you don’t have to  — that book has already been judged many times over whilst sporting wildly different covers,” Audrey Niffenegger said in her foreword to “Classic Penguin” Cover to Cover,” a survey of Penguin Classics' stunning cover designs.

In the same way, classics for young ages have also been subjected to reiterations, such as the Puffin in Bloom series and the Chalk Series, both banking on attractive design aimed at giving these stories, which have been told over and over again, a refreshed look.

Puffin Chalk The covers of the Puffin Chalk series featuring art by Dana Tanamachi and Mary Kate McDevitt. Photo from PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

Puffin in Bloom The Puffin in Bloom series with designs by Rifle Paper Co.'s principal artist, Anna Bond. Photo from PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

This month, Puffin Classics also reintroduced a few children’s classics with rather enticing covers in collaboration with Pantone, a worldwide standard for accurate color communications.

Rather than relying on illustrations or chalk-based typography as in Puffin's previous reissues), the series ssports pantone colors that match with the featured books.

The most obvious is the green 376 for "Anne of Green Gables," the pairing from which the series began. Yellow 012 is a no-brainer for “The Wizard of Oz,” evoking the yellow brick road. The calming blue of the Mississippi River is reflected on the blue 632 of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Puffin Pantone “Color can be that hook for a buyer — that reason for the pickup," Puffin + Pantone designer Danielle Calotta tells Print Magazine. Photo by DON JAUCIAN

But less obvious pairings are also seen in the orange 1585 for “Treasure Island,” the color of the sunset which provides the backdrop for the swashbuckling action in the book; and the purple 2602 for the primrose found in the Swiss Alps for “Heidi.”

The books curiously don’t sport the usual back cover blurb but come instead with a general overview of the Puffin + Pantone series. A detachable bookmark of the Pantone color chips are also found in the back flap of the cover.

Puffin Pantone The end flaps of the cover also feature a detachable book mark featuring the color swatch of the corresponding Pantone color. Photo by DON JAUCIAN

Danielle Calotta, the series designer, hopes that the colors will entice readers to read (or reread) the books — a striking proposition since seeing these bold colors, whether on a stark white desk or a jumble of books stacked in a shelf, stir a strong sense of allure with a bit of intrigue, which is hard for any reader to resist.

Calotta tells Print Magazine: “Color is visceral to me. Color can be a memory. Color creates mood, changes mood, alters mood. “In short, it’s hard to put into words how color inspires me, so this project might have to say it for me.”

“We do initially judge books by their covers,” she adds. “Color can be that hook for a buyer — that reason for the pickup. Whether buyers know it or not, there are definitely color associations for different genres. There are trends that help lead a buyer to a book they might like next.”


Update: The Puffin + Pantone series is now available in Fully Booked branches.