Before I dive into the complex world of book covers, I should confess that my rudimentary and frankly half-hearted initial search quickly turned into a passionate and intense hunt for cultural trends, typography, and design. It turns out that book covers are fascinating and not altogether unlike clothing fashion. Just as I wear styles first adopted by fashion icons who convince me of their chic-cool factor (I’m looking at you, overalls and turtlenecks), there are design bandwagoners for book covers as well.
I will be the first to admit that I scan library shelves for interesting typography and art along with the best of them, but it’s also important to note that book covers are actually a critical and effective means of visually placing books into their respective genres. We would probably do a double-take if we saw the newest Stephen King novel sitting next to a Rupi Kaur poetry book on a store shelf, and rightfully so. Book covers not only attract consumers’ eyes in bookstores, but they quickly identify genre. Although similarities in wider genres are to be expected, when I searched a little harder, it turns out that there are many trends to consider with regard to cover designs.
In January, The Booklist Reader examined some young adult book covers and made a few observations. Perhaps the most noticeable of their observations is how far-reaching the influence of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is. Variations on Green’s book cover, with its bright colors and hand-drawn font, are still being echoed in the typography of newly released young adult books, including Claire LaZebnik’s Things I Should Have Known. Hand-drawn fonts are having a big moment, as are whimsical drawings. Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park has a beautiful and memorable cover, and like Green’s cover design, the drawing of Rowell’s two main characters seems to have ignited a character-depiction trend— a design direction seen in the recent bestseller, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Marketing company Envato put it bluntly when they declared that “hand-drawn everything” is big right now. Ooligan Press’s own The Ocean in My Ears by Meagan Macvie certainly supports the idea that hand-drawn typography and colorful backgrounds are currently enjoying their time in the spotlight.
Book cover trends also extend beyond the young adult genre, and it turns out that 2017 isn’t all about hand-drawn fonts and whimsy. Retro throwbacks are currently appearing on book covers, and in another article, The Booklist Reader points to 70s styled fonts in particular. In designs that harken back to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, authors like Lena Dunham and Jojo Moyes have chosen to depart from the whimsy of hand-drawn type and lean into the resurgence of text-heavy serif fonts. And while hand-drawn, colorful covers don’t seem to be going anywhere, the increasing number of throwback covers makes me wonder where the bandwagon will go next. I’m betting on a continuation of retro-themed covers—designs to accompany the bold return of Birkenstocks, choker necklaces, and double denim. But what do you think? Write us a comment below with your predictions. Where is the future of book covers headed?