Art director

Q&Q’s art director takes a look at this year’s cover design trends

Cover credit: Design: Kelly Blair

In the cover design, large print and bright colors are not so much a trope as a necessity. Now that it has become essential for a cover to grab our attention like a thumbnail on a screen, this necessity has become exaggerated. The colors that shine on a backlit display are vitally important, and the scale demands that the type be bigger and bolder. Although the soft, amorphous, colorful forms and large white sans serif type have become almost a cliché, their effectiveness on a small screen cannot be denied.

Unfortunately, the need to provide digital screens removed some of the classic print design elements. Book designer David Gee remarks that “negative space has become kind of a no-no. Whether it’s stunningly stunning images or types, every inch of a book cover seems be filled with visual information. white space is notoriously difficult to master, but it has practical drawbacks: in print, it’s a magnet for fingerprints or smudged sale stickers, and on a screen a design with lots of white can blend in the rest of a webpage. “Maybe there is a secondary underlying practice [covers without white space]in that they allow many bestseller and noteworthy list stickers endorsement buttons with little or no effect on overall design,” says Gee.

Technology hasn’t just affected the way covers are designed; this also influenced their creation. Dan Wagstaff, blogger and director of marketing at Publishers Group Canada, thinks the trends can be traced to common constraints designers have to work with, as well as the tools they use. “There is a bit of a trap in trend research. The designers work with a very limited format – the books are standard size and they require a lot of characters on the cover,” says Wagstaff. “So you’re looking for something to make it impactful. So when I see some of these trending pieces, what they really notice is that the books are these eye-catching rectangles with bright colors!

Design software like InDesign (for layout) and Photoshop (for photo editing) are industry standard, which can also lead to relying on the same pre-made tools and techniques. “A few years ago, there was a tendency of cut-out concentric circles,” says Wagstaff. “I think in the past this would have been quite difficult, if not impossible. The collage would have been painstakingly done by hand with paper and a scalpel. Nowadays, digital tools make these kinds of layers perfect and visual effects effortlessly brilliant.

Advances in printing have allowed for greater creativity in design while making these options available to more publishers. As Wagstaff notes, “I feel publishers are more aware of the importance of design and production values ​​than 10 or 20 years ago, and the quality and affordability of print modern allow you to do things that were perhaps not possible. before. Independent publishers can afford slightly more fanciful covers than before.

As vital as design is for digital, its influence on book design might still be temporary; trends inevitably come and go. As Gee notes, “How long ago was everyone talking about the trend of using gold leaf on everything – five years?”

What Strange Paradise, Yume and Em covers seen on mobile devices

Cover credits (left to right): Design: Kelly Blair; Design and illustration: Sophie Paas-Lang, Design and illustration: Jennifer Griffiths

Revenge of the Blobs

Reviewers have derisively described it as “blob design,” but in the examples above, the designers go beyond that trope with the addition of details that encourage a closer look: the chopsticks holding the you in Yume add wit and depth to the title by lifting it (literally) from the background; the small abandoned boat in What a strange paradise creates a seascape from abstract colors while echoing the odd in the title; and the little black shapes in Em are actually pairs of numbers – some are running, some are armed soldiers, alluding to the story behind the serene petal-like forms.

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream, Annie and the Wolves and Billion Dollar Start-Up covers as seen on mobile devices

Cover credits (left to right): uncredited; Design: Kimberly Glyder; Design: Michel Vrana

Even when the design requires an old image, cover designers adapt to digital screens: Annie and the wolves and The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream both use pre-digital images but contrast these images with intense colors. Secondary text in Annie and the wolves and A billion dollar start-up are selected with a bright yellow, between bold white title; in the meantime, the title and the name of the author The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream are set in an antique typeface, but the colors are modern, intense, and slightly acidic. The red bottle with a skull on the label is a not-so-subtle clue to the doctor’s crimes.

I woke up like this

Young adult fantasy fiction has seen a boom among talented young women authors breaking with the stereotype of the middle-aged male fantasy writer of previous generations. So why do so many of today’s YA fantasy book covers still share elements with 1973 book covers? The wave of fan fiction inspired by existing series, Harry Potter for Dusk, eroded traditional barriers to fantasy publishing and created books that reject the gender and race tropes of previous generations. Despite this, the perfectly groomed female figures of your father Conan the Barbarian the blankets still seem to be there.

Cover credits (left to right): Design: Laura Eckes, Illustration: Christophe Yoong; Design: Rebecca Syracuse, Illustrations: Thea Harvey; Design: Rebecca Syracuse, illustration: Khadijah Khatib; Art Direction: Terri Nimmo, Design: Talia Abramson, Illustration: Ashley Mackenzie

There are, however, important differences. On the one hand, Conan is not found. These women are dynamic, diverse and determined and are the stars of their own stories. They certainly aren’t as underdressed as the women cowering behind the heroes of previous fantasy covers. Now they are heroes. Although they still adhere to conventional standards of beauty, maybe that’s because that’s one of the tropes that makes this genre appealing? There must be: ornate Gothic type; elaborate costumes; Magic; flames; magic flames; but also great makeup and always, still, perfect hair.


This article has been corrected to include credits for featured book cover designers, which were omitted in the print version of the magazine.