The Penguin family of books has a new chick. The imprint’s name is Kokila, and its mission is to tell the stories of children and young adults from the margins, who are often missing from more traditional books, in an authentic way. Four women—founder and publisher Namrata Tripathi, editor Joanna Cárdenas, associate art director Jasmin Rubero, and editorial assistant Sydnee Monday—are responsible for bringing the imprint to life, which includes its name and logo. In the following interview, Rubero walks through each stage of the logo-design process, ending with the final logo.
Create: Where did the imprint’s name come from?
Jasmin Rubero: Namrata chose the name. She says it was harder to name the imprint than it was her child. The koel bird, or kokila as it’s known in Sanskrit, is a harbinger of new beginnings in Indian poetry and myth, which fits with the imprint’s mission. And, being part of Penguin, a bird name makes sense.
Create: Did you work on your own?
Rubero: While Namrata gave me full design freedom, she and Joanna met with me at every stage to talk about every comp. Their feedback was essential. I wanted all of us to feel excited about the logo.
Create: How did you begin?
Rubero: I researched the bird itself to learn about its habitat, how it flies, what it sounds like—any standout features that I might incorporate into the logo. I read birdwatcher books and watched videos on YouTube. I decided that the bird’s prominent red eye had to be part of the design.
Then I did some really bad sketches. I knew I was going to have a lot of bad ideas before I hit the right thing, so I didn’t want to invest too much time while I just thinking about it and playing with shapes.
In the next stage, I made detailed vector drawings, breaking it down into solid shapes and seeing which proportions of the eye within the shape made the eye pop.
Create: That’s a lot of silhouettes. How many hours went into this stage?
Rubero: I set aside half of my day for a long time while I worked on the logo. I spent weeks drawing, looking at type, at the bird, playing with shapes and type in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, until I could get to the comp stage. Because I’d never designed a logo, I wanted to be sure I looked at it from many angles. The whole process took several months.
Create: What came next?
Rubero: I tried to incorporate the bird into the letter K. I liked that it looked like a bird in flight, and I could see the eye, but it didn’t work when I reduced it to spine size.
For all of the comps, I made really small versions because that’s the size the logo will appear on book spines in bookstores. Yes, the logo will be larger on social media, but that’s not the primary way it will be seen. Whatever logo we chose had to work at small sizes.
I drilled down to focus on the head, but it still didn’t resonate. It was too realistic.
I tried really abstract and cartoony versions to see if it would be recognizable. They were too extreme in the other direction, but I had to try it so I could rule it out and move on.
I knew that the logo had to work with all types of books: picture books, graphic novels, young adult, middle grade, nonfiction and fiction, the full range. If it was too sophisticated, it might read as an adult imprint, and if it was too young, it would only work on really young books. The aesthetic needed to strike a balance.
I moved onto wordmarks. In some of these, I played with type that would aid the reader in the pronunciation of the word: KO-kila. And in the italic version, I liked the way the kicks on the k, i, l, and a were like the beak of the kokila bird. We zoomed in on having a bird head within the word “kokila,” and I really wanted to have a symmetrical capital K with an open space where the beak could fit.
Once we had a comp we liked, I deconstructed it in different ways, rotating the head, the position of the beak, the size of the eye. I wondered what would happen if you have two colors, with black as the outlining color, and the logo is on a dark cover or dark spine. That’s when I tried CMYK. As you can see, I also tried eyes that weren’t red. That lost what was unique about the bird, but I wanted to rule it out. I needed to try it without a red eye to see why it needed to be there.
Create: When did you find the final typeface?
Rubero: I knew the typeface in the wordmark comps wasn’t the right one, but it had certain shapes that helped me understand what kind of sans serif I was looking for. Finally, we chose Linotype’s Legal. I want to call it out because the type designer is a collaborator on this logo, too, by having created the typeface that fit best with our logo.
This one was it for a while. I put it on book spines, title pages, everywhere the logo would live on a book. We really liked it. Then we met with a colleague, Adam Royce, who has a design background and works a lot with the Penguin brand. We wanted fresh eyes to tell us if we were missing something or if something wasn’t working. His insightful note was, “Will everyone read the bird head as an O? Especially at spine size, it might not be clear to everyone. Some might read it as K. Kila.” I wanted the logo be very clear, so that’s why we separated it into two parts.
Create: Tell me about the animation.
Rubero: It was a way to share the logo process with our larger Penguin Random House/Penguin Young Readers team. It shows hints of some of the logos that almost were, and then reveals the final logo at the end. I had never done an animation in Adobe After Effects; that was another new thing. It was fun to use my understanding of how a flip book works and apply that in After Effects.
Create: What do you want the logo to achieve?
Rubero: I hope it communicates a message to the readers: We see them and we want them to feel seen in our books. We want to open the doors to creators who felt they didn’t have a space in children’s book publishing to share their stories. We don’t want to have one story—we want to have all of the stories.