Contemporary Book Cover Design (or, How Publishers Like to Upset Me)

Covers collage from The Book Cover Archive.

(Originally posted on Blogger site.)

Blech.

An article in the New York Times — Favorite Book Cover Designs of 2012 — is what got me thinking about this.

Actually, I need to interrupt myself here. Because that’s not entirely true. For a long time, I didn’t pay any attention to book covers. Then, after a recent, lengthy discussion with J, in which she opened my eyes to the fact that book cover design was something worth paying attention to, I started…well, paying attention.

Since that time, I’ve been looking at the covers of the books I see or read, and that was when awareness started to dawn inside my brain — I did not care for the design work going on in most contemporary publishing. Then I found that New York Times article, and that just cinched it.

Covers, recently, have been too much like those in the image up there. Too stark; too dominated by large, non-serifed text. All title and so little image. I, personally, prefer a nice blend of text to image. They seem to embody the worst qualities of a text-heavy cover, too. I actually really like the style of books published by Gallimard, who are masters of minimal design. If you’re going to go minimal, go tastefully minimal, I believe.

I’ll give a few examples of what I like in terms of cover design.

Michael Cisco's The Divinity Student. Click to purchase from Amazon.com.

Michael Cisco’s The Divinity Student. Click to purchase from Amazon.com.

Lance Olsen's Girl Imagined by Chance. Click to purchase.

Lance Olsen’s Girl Imagined by Chance. Click to purchase.

Anne Michael's Fugitive Pieces. Click to purchase.

Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces. Click to purchase.

Nick Bantock's Sabine's Notebook. Click to purchase.

Nick Bantock’s Sabine’s Notebook. Click to purchase.

I can only hope that the book covers I design for my own ebooks manage to strike a nice balance between my own aesthetic and the design that modern readers expect and enjoy. Ideally, without my cover looking like either a time-traveling refugee from a past decade, or a blocky product of today’s publishing trends.

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