Jim Stoddart’s ‘Swiss’ Mini Moderns

Design by Jim Stoddart, 2011

The series of mini Modern Classics was published in 2011 as a celebration of 50 years of the Modern Classics imprint.. It was released singly and also in an edition of 50 books in a box set. The silver/grey colour commemorates the brand colour of the Modern Classics, which has more or less held to the present day.

“In 2011, on the fiftieth anniversary of the modern classics, we’re publishing fifty mini modern classics: the very best short fiction…”

The clean geometric layout shows the influence of the Swiss Typographic Style has had a long reign at Penguin. Bursting out in 1961 with Romek Marber’s famous grid, it has reappeared in different forms ever since. The Swiss design philosophy was to achieve a kind of informational purity, with the use of modern sans serif fonts, taut asymmetrical layouts, and, when images were needed, photographs rather than hand-rendered illustrations. It was ‘high modernism’ in graphic design. 

Designed by art director Jim Stoddart, the mini covers have minimalist simplicity – achieving the maximum with the minimum, with elegance. Avant Garde, the geometric typeface by Herb Lubalin, reinforces the cool and orderly layout.


james-mini-modern. / ..james-mini-modern-2

On his website Stoddart has published the design grid he formulated for the series. Look for other grids on the site, it reinforces the impression of classical design rigor at Penguin that goes all the back to the 1940s and the era of Jan Tschichold and Hans Schmoller.mini-modern-stoddart-grid

Was Jim Stoddart inspired by this 1960s title? JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was one of the most successful of all Penguin Modern Classics. It was printed with this elegant minimalist cover in the late 1960s – Salinger famously insisted on typographic covers. A mint condition copy is like a bar of silver and Stoddart’s series shares that feeling of preciousness, despite their small size. 


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