The world of book publishing moves slowly. It typically takes a full eighteen months to bring a book to market. That’s why book cover design trends often stick around for a long time. One day, you’ll walk into a bookstore or queue up your favorite book category on Amazon, and you’ll notice covers have suddenly changed.
2019 is going to have some surprises in store when it comes to book cover trends. In the last few years, consumers have started looking for bolder and bolder book covers. Here are the top design trends you can expect to see on every shelf in 2019.
9 book cover design trends that you’ll find on shelves in 2019
1. “Big book” design
2. New sans-serif fonts
3. Orange and yellow
4. Floral elements
5. Overlapping designs
6. The text cross-out
7. Hyper-real design
8. Mid-century modern illustration
9. The Lydian typeface
In just the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of the “big book” design. Debut, early-career writers and even independently published authors have started launching books with cover designs that have been traditionally reserved for famous authors with track records—that is, “big book” authors.
Stylistically, these covers can vary wildly, but the hallmarks of big book design are: bold colors, a prominent author name and large title, all composed with very few other elements to distract the eye.
With “big books” comes a need for big fonts! In early 2018, there was a sudden and abrupt typography takeover by the sans-serif font League Gothic (or some close derivative). Books from a wide range of genres were embracing a font previously reserved for thrillers and crime novels.
Designers often combined these hyper-masculine type treatments with contrasting botanicals, flowers and other traditional feminine design elements, which created a pleasant tension. But by mid-year, many designers felt the trend had played itself out, and covers started to land with a similar style, but less expected fonts. Expect this to carry into 2019.
While 2017 brought us piles of mellow pink tones, the industry performed a signature over-correction, and 2018 was all about the orange and yellow. In a sea of blue and green and white, an orange book grabs the eye like nothing else. Several very big, very inescapable orange books hit the shelves this year, and we’ll see many more coming down the pike in 2019.
Bookshelves looked like wild gardens this year with flora as far as the eye could see. Some were fresh and light, while others seemed like they were pulled from ancient wallpaper.
What makes this floral trend different is that the flowers tend to heavily interact, and even obscure the text elements on some of this year’s biggest covers. Something else that makes this trend unique: these botanicals are eschewing tradition and finding their way onto covers by women and men.
A challenge that designers face over and over again is how to best integrate text and photography, which requires taking a real world image and combining it with (typically) digital type to create a harmonious composition.
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of what we’ll call the “overlap” trend, where parts of the photograph overlap or hide the edges of the type. It can be used heavily (like in The Italian Teacher cover) or with a very light touch (like the buttons on The Perfect Nanny). Traditionally, the rule has been to never obscure the book title, but designers are running wild with this trend.
Here’s a trend has been percolating for a while, but we’re beginning to see on bigger books: the art of the cross-out. While handwriting on covers has been holding steadily for a few years (and is arguably in decline now), this fresh take adds a vibe of revision and restlessness, introducing the idea that the author thought about the title, crossed out words and made changes.
While sometimes serving as decoration or redaction, recent covers have subverted the idea and brought entirely new information onto the cover. The Tell Me Lies cover tells an entire story using scrawled elements without using a single graphic element.
While many of the trends we’ve touched on here focus on novels and fiction, there are several that favor non-fiction. One of the trends you’ll find in the fact-based realm is the use of a lot of fantastic sourced elements. These are cover designs that integrate the information about the book into a familiar product or household item.
Whether made from newspaper clippings, food wrappers or even projector slides (in the case of the stunning Lucia Berlin cover), these hyper-real covers create effortless nostalgia and a feeling a wistfulness by taking something expected from our life and introducing it into an entirely new setting.
Covers like the Behind the Scenes Companion for the TV show “Stranger Things” look like they were pulled directly from a used bookshelf. Expect more make-you-look-twice designs like these coming in the next year.
Illustrated book covers have been having a well-recognized moment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the mid-century era. Recent illustrated covers have run the gamut from finely detailed florals to clean and modern flat-lays.
2019 will be defined by the continuation of all these illustration styles competing against each other on the same shelf. We’re seeing a particularly heavy resurgence of mid-century illustrations that feel pulled from visual titans like Facetti’s gorgeous and trippy Penguin Classics and always mod Saul Bass.
One of the most stunning trends to watch happen over the course of this year was the rise of Lydian. Created in the thirties and meant to meld type and calligraphic design, the typeface hit its stride on book covers.
Fighting against waves of weighty sans-serifs (like League Gothic), Lydian has re-emerged in late 2018 as the front-runner for the opposition: leggy, light and gender neutral. We’ll see it continuing its resurgence in literary fiction and then spreading to nonfiction (like the Forest Bathing book).
Get more looks for your books in 2019!
Echoing what we’re seeing in almost every aspect of graphic design, book cover design trends in 2019 look like they will be defined by contradiction. Some designers will continue to push boundaries and move to edgier places, while others choose to embrace the typefaces and illustration styles of earlier eras. Both directions mean readers’ shelves will be filled with gorgeous and fresh jackets.
We can’t wait to crack the spines and jump right into a new year of book design!