Illustrations from in 2020

A year in illustration

In 2020, we've had to draw more than ever on brilliant illustrations to bring our articles to life. Here the Penguin design team pick their favourites from the past 12 months.

Thanks to Covid-19, it was more challenging than ever to make a visually rich destination for book lovers this year.

To do so, our in-house designers drew on Penguin's long heritage of illustration to bring our features to life. 

Here the Penguin Creative team share their pick of the work they created and commissioned in 2020. Which is your favourite?

Christmas gift guide illustration
Samantha Mash for Penguin

As Christmas is right around the corner, we thought it would be fitting to start this article with our hallmark festive illustration, created by Samantha Mash. It’s definitely one of our favourites of the year. The idea of spending Christmas and winter at home feels more poignant this year than ever before and showing someone stocking up and finding company in books, felt like something our audience would really relate to.

A Christmas Carol
Diana Dagadita/Ephemre for Penguin

On a thematically similar note, we really loved this illustration that Diana Dagadita/Ephemre created to illustrate the story behind A Christmas Carol. Making the illustrations feel like they could have been made at the time of the book was important and Diana’s style was perfect for this. The use of colour is really striking here too.

Proust illustration
Nancy Liang for Penguin

When we got the brief for an article on Proust’s madeleine, our design lead knew immediately that they wanted to try something a little bit different with the illustration. They commissioned Nancy Liang to create this beautiful animation that almost visually demonstrates 'the Proust effect'.

The furthest a book can take you series
Michelle Pereira for Penguin

During the lockdown many people were finding it difficult to travel, so we ran a series of essays by authors about the furthest a book had ever taken them. Our design lead commissioned Michelle Pereira to create illustrations for them using a colour palette we created for our summer content. While getting away was impossible for most people this year, this series felt like the next best thing.

Moby Dick in Covid-19
Mica Murphy / Penguin

This was for an article on how some of our classic novels might have changed if they were written during the coronavirus pandemic. Mica Murphy decided to do an illustration of Moby Dick wearing a face mask and imitated an etching style to give it the flair of an old book.

Music in lockdown
Rob Dobi for Penguin

This incredibly elegant illustration was created by Rob Dobi for a May article on how music transcends time, space and lockdown, by Jane Sanderson, author of the book Mix Tape. Rob took inspiration from the book title in such a clever and simple way here.

Small idea, big impact essay series
Bianca Bagnarelli for Penguin

Commissioned by our creative director, Tim Lane, this series was illustrated by Bianca Bagnarelli. The essays, written by various Penguin authors, were just as powerful as the illustrations and covered issues such as race, mental health, education reform and the NHS. We love Bianca’s use colours and space in this set.

Inside the world of rare book collectors
Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

A very iconic illustration for, this was for an article by Joel Golby going inside the world of rare book collectors. This illustration was done by our in-house designer Ryan MacEachern and captures the tone of the piece perfectly.

Bill Bryson quotes
Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Created by in-house designer Alicia Fernandes, this is one of the most fun, chuckle-inducing illustrations we have on The article was titled Heart-warming Bill Bryson quotes to make you smile and this gif made everyone in our team smile when we saw it.

Penguin Perspectives
Tim Lane / Penguin

Between April and May, we published an exclusive essay every day from our leading authors offering their response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Penguin Perspectives was a really interesting proposition that our creative director, Tim Lane, worked on. Using photography of our authors and applying illustrative elements and textures, Tim was able to create a distinctive look for some really engaging content. This series was then turned into a free ebook and audio book.

Reading more in lockdown
Mica Murphy / Penguin

At the beginning of lockdown, our design lead Mica Murphy created this illustration for an article on how to read more when you’re social distancing. The illustration seemed to strike a chord with how many Penguin readers felt at the time when it became our most-liked Instagram post ever.

What did you think of this article? Email and let us know.

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