I recently had a conversation with Joe Pearson of Design For Today that left me excited about yet another collaboration with the independent publisher. In a hushed tone denoting suitable reverence to what was about to be announced, Joe informed me that the Puffin Club would be celebrating it’s 50th birthday on 23 March 2017. It was an immediate 'yes' to the suggestion that House of Illustration should hold an event that night to celebrate.
For many, as we were to find out, Puffin represents an emotional relationship with books, charged by that childhood discovery of the joy and power of both literature and illustration. It is this balance between image and word that significantly helped the late 1960s venture become such an immediate and sustained success.
The talk delivered by Puffin expert Sherief Hassan last night focussed on the motivations of Club founder Kaye Webb, as well as the impact of commissioning Jill McDonald as in-house illustrator. When challenged as to the validity of the Puffin Club, Webb’s suncsinct response was “it will make them into readers”. Her instigation of a community, dialogue and a shared experience swelled membership to over 400,000 at its peak.
At this point it would be tempting to focus only on the deeply engaging illustrations of Jill McDonald. Her powerful images and playful typography still resonate with a tantalising anticipation of what awaits beyond the cover. However, this is story which I prefer to put on hold until later in the year, when Sherief and Joe plan to publish their book on Puffin.
Instead, we would like to pay tribute to the Puffin Club members and enthusiasts who rose to our challenge to #PostYourPuffin. We announced this call to action just one day before the talk and to our delight it provoked several hundred posts across Twitter and Instagram - both pictures and discussions about how we all still feel about these books. Here are your contributions so far. The feed is still live though, so why not #PostYourPuffin if you’ve not done so already?