From creating classic novels to expanding in Asia, Penguin Books collaborates with Poly U students on some quirky product ideas.


U.K based Penguin Books have made quite a statement in the world of literature since the company began in 1935. In collaboration Young & Rubicam Advertising and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Poly U), 16 students were given a design brief to create product ideas to change the way young adults think and feel about reading books.

With one of the most established reputation in Asia for art and design education, Poly U often encourages students to work on real-life projects to gain valuable insights. In September 2016, 19-20 years old students were assigned to find a way to promote and encourage the activity of reading. “Book publishers do not compete for people’s money; it is their time. They seek to encourage people to value the pleasure of reading books in the days of instant gratification via social media and chat platforms,” says Jo Lusby, Managing Director of Penguin Books, Asia.

But why are they collaborating with students? It all centres around how traditional publishing houses spend their budget not on highly visible marketing campaign. “We find creative ways to engage with groups of people on an emotional level, especially focused on our stories and our content,” explains Jo.

The 9 weeks project included several face-to-face meetings to discuss the branding, merchandising, marketing and a final presentation to both Hong Kong and Mainland clients. Fast forward a month later, the students presented their preliminary ideas and a selection was shortlisted as the final prototypes. We heard the Penguin Group may incorporate elements of the product design as they prepare classic Penguin gift sets for the mainland market.

Jo happily tells the Hive Life team that books shouldn’t be disregarded, “there is a huge level of affection and enthusiasm both for the Penguin legacy and for the activity of reading.” Hinting that there could be a similar project in the future, we cannot wait to see what takes place later on the year.

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