Review of Book Cover Trends for 2023
Updated: Jan 8
There is a difference between a good looking book cover and a successful book cover. That being said, a successful book cover should also look good as people do judge books by their cover. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing a cover should also meet genre expectations as well as communicate the theme of the book.
Changes in cover design trends can be seen year after year, but they are more of an evolution then a revolution. In fact some current trends have started decades ago, like the Big Book Look, but have slowly evolved into multiple sub-categories that each present a trend of their own today. Some other trends come and go in cycles, each time slightly changed to fit the new marketplace.
Lets take a look at some of the most popular cover design trends at the beginning of 2023. Some of these trends are going strong for a few years now and some of them are fresh with new elements.
One last note before we dive in, these trends often overlap or are combined so some cover examples that we chose can fit into more then one of these categories.
1. Floral / Nature Motifs
Nature inspired covers are a constant theme for a few years back. They cross genres, publishing houses, and platforms. They have evolved from centred floral pieces into pattern forming backgrounds with contrasting vibrant colors, only interrupted by the white typography usually spanning the whole cover.
Opinions are divided as to what is the cause of the large presence of this trend, from a maximalist approach as response to previously favored minimalism, to the idea that it is a form of escapism from the burdensome reality of today. Maybe the real reason is the fact we as people are intrinsically drawn to the beauties of the natural world around us, and that connection has naturally grown it’s way into the book world.
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer via Penguin Random House
When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill via Penguin Random House
The Wise Women by Gina Sorell via HarperCollins
2. Color Blends
Again a cover design trend spanning a couple of years. Origins of this trend probably lie in the package design industry where we could see a surge of designs that were competing for buyers attention with abstract shapes and lines all done in vibrant contrasting colors. This style also took over social media and naturally got transferred to book covers which are predominantly marketed on said media.
It is widely used for Literary Fiction. Shapes can go from being completely abstract and communicating a mood to actually representing some known forms and objects but in a more surreal way. This trend is big but one should be cautious when choosing to go down this road because it is not without issues. As Austin Harvey rightly notices in his critique of this trend, using abstract shapes and same color palettes can leave these covers looking all the same.
The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor via Penguin Random House
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson via Penguin Random House
When Trying to Return Home: Stories by Jennifer Maritza McCauley via Counterpoint LLC
3. Big Book Look
One of the first things you are taught in design school is that graphic elements need to be arranged in a certain hierarchy. Designers use hierarchy to guide a viewers eye through content in an intended way. This is where Paul Bacon, a pioneer of the Big Book design came in. Notice I said he is a pioneer of the Big Book design and not Big Book Look. There is a difference. Bacons designs were very simplistic with great importance placed on the title. Another feature was a lot of negative space and a single, emblematic image.
Forward a bit and this act of “book branding” with a singular element has evolved in Big Books where usually it is the authors name which takes up the most space on the cover, as authors became huge stars, and the title became less relevant. Big Book Look refers to identical cover treatment by debut authors who are promoting themselves as a brand to their readers.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman via HarperCollins
The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich via Simon & Schuster
Dearly by Margaret Atwood via Penguin Random House
Although all of the above mentioned trends can in fact have illustrated artwork, under illustrations we predominantly mean illustrated covers with a clear theme correlating with book genre and topic. Simplicity and wittiness of these illustrations represents the “who” and “where” in such a manner that there is enough room left for reader’s imagination.
Illustration style is closely related to books theme and genre, but they feature common elements such as predominant use of flat contrasting colors and simplicity. For romance genre or young adult books typography is usually white and hand drawn while the illustration style is more casual, relaxed. Fantasy and mystery genres tend to utilise more straight lined and edgier artwork.
Beach Read by Emily Henry via Penguin Random House
The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner via Simon & Schuster
Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller by Meredith Ireland via Simon & Schuster
Sparring Partners by John Grisham via Penguin Random House
Again a cover design style that has been going strong for a few years now. These covers have certain boldness, aggressiveness even. They are a combination of textures, cutout imagery and illustrated artwork that have been put together into a composition often having edges of elements cut in sharp lines or simply torn off. There is a sense of destructible force which, paradoxically, gives birth to a new piece of art. These covers often have a very original punk look to them.
My Fathers Daughter by Hannah Azieb Pool via Penguin Random House
The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije via Simon & Schuster
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet via Saraband
6. Central Motif / Object
This is a well established trend for Fantacy genre, but can also work for Science Fiction and even a Thriller in some instances. If you were to go to goodreads for example, and type “A single object on the cover” in the search box, you would immediately see that search results favour the Fantasy genre, so it safe to say that this trend defined the genre in terms of cover design.
It doesn’t have to literally be one single object, but it acts an eye catcher paced in the center of the cover. Usually the object is set up in a scene with smaller graphic elements that further provide clues about what can be expected inside the book pages. It is a very powerful concept that easily catches the readers attention and works regardless of the actual graphic technique used.
Thrust by Lidia Yuknavtich via Penguin Random House
Vanquished: Breath of Death by Anita R. Eschler - designed by Franziska Stern
Minimalist design has been around for decades and it still persists as a trend mostly for non-fiction books. Unlike most of the cover trends we covered (pun intended) above, minimalism makes the most use out of negative space. These covers are easy to visually digest and design elements almost always carry symbolic messaging of the books core topic.
The Maid by Nita Prose via Penguin Random House
Screwjack by Hunter S. Thompson via Simon & Schuster
8. Typography only covers
Just like the minimalist covers, typographic only covers have been around for a long time. Some of the innovations here have to do with type arrangement on the cover. More and more covers use extremely large lettering spanning from top to bottom, and left to right, without being afraid of bleeding out of the cover or onto the spine. In a sense having the words break the canvas bounds. Combination of this bold approach to typography with contrasting colors gives a stunning and elegant, yet simplistic look to the cover.
The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye via Penguin Random House
The End of the World is Just the Beginning by Peter Zeihan via HarperCollins