“The Establishment” Owen Jones – Penguin Book Cover



The Establishment

The ‘establishment’ in terms of the UK used in the different contexts which may include leading politicians, senior civil servants, senior barristers and judges, aristocrats, Oxford and Cambridge academics, senior clergy from the Church of England, the most important financiers and industrialists, governors of the BBC, and the members of and top aides to the royal family.

The term in this sense is sometimes mistakenly believed to have been coined by the British journalist ‘Henry Fairlie’, who in September 1955 in the London magazine ‘The Spectator’ defined that network of prominent, well-connected people as “the Establishment”, explaining:

“By the Establishment, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power in the United Kingdom (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially” (Henry Fairlie, 23 September 1955, “Political Commentary”, The Spectator).


This image  accompanied the headline “Michael Gove vs. the ‘creaking’ legal establishment — round one”  (Sebastian Payne, 23rd June 2015, The Spectator) shows the Statue of Justice, holding the balance in her hands in this case it is used to illustrate the imbalance of justice that Gove  was trying to change.

Gove who was then justice secretary was concerned that our justice system was tipped too much in favour of the wealthy. He stated

‘There are two nations in our justice system at present. On the one hand, the wealthy, international class who can choose to settle cases in London with the gold standard of British justice. And then everyone else, who has to put up with a creaking, outdated system to see justice done in their own lives. The people who are let down most badly by our justice system are those who must take part in it through no fault or desire of their own: victims and witnesses of crime, and children who have been neglected.’

It echos the same concerns as ‘The Establishment’ which describes “how the elite networks at the top of British society close ranks to protect their own” (David Runciman, Wednesday 10th September 2014, The Guardian)

I became interested in how a Typed faced illustration could symbolise the imbalance that Jones’s book documents and how he portray’s ‘The Establishment’.

the establishment.1

My design ideas started with the words ‘The Establishment’ split diagonally to symbolise the imbalance of the scales. The exaggeration of the sloping text lent itself to show small characters of the tag line “And how they get away with it” falling off the end of the page. I became interested in the concept of opposites in terms of size. ‘Big’ symbolising “powerful and elite” and ‘small’ for “vulnerable and exploited”, descriptions which Jones refers to this context. The slope symbolises  the ‘small’ in society having an uphill struggle against the existing elite ‘Big’. It also symbolise’s the imbalance the Jones has explored in his book.

The Establishment  Jone’s refer’s to is indicative of ‘The class’ divide which was played out in a comedy sketch broadcast on ‘The Frost report’ “a sketch-based show that mercilessly lampooned politicians and society’s foibles, especially those surrounding class and culture” (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/852164/) in 1966 with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.


In black and white it also plays on opposites of up and down, narrow and wide, obsolete and common. Married with the widening divide of the establishment today opposites of minority and majority, upstage and stagnate, stitch ups and cuts, climb and fall would probably update the descriptions of the establishment’s activities since Jones’s publication.

This led to my interest in how I could design a front cover for this book which would appeal a contemporary audience who are experiencing the establishment as it takes us through Brexit. ‘Brexit’ has brought to the fore the class divide now referred to by politicians as ‘the Gap’. However Brexit has also been seen as the will of the people which has been thwarted. The most recent broadcasts (find some headlines) have highlighted the inadequacy of the establishment.

Jones discusses how “traditional forms of opposition to the elite – trade unions, churches, mass membership political parties – have fallen away”.  He suggests that there is an absence of  “robust institutions” capable of standing up to it. He concludes by discussing how new technology has not helped. “The rise of the internet,” Jones writes, “and in particular social media, provide fresh opportunities for new movements to link together. So far they have failed to do so in a coherent way.” Jones says they have to find a way. What he doesn’t know, as yet, is how. The Brexit vote is seen by many as a protest vote. ‘The Establishment’ explains why this vote may have come about. It is a starting point for understanding the drive behind it. I the feel that if the front cover of  Jone’s text is given a contemporary treatment that attracts the same kind of attention as Brexit it may appeal to an audience who could become that robust institution which is capable of standing up to ‘The Establishment’

Further initial designs


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