The Evolution Of Book Cover Design

by Anne Carton Tweet - in Book Cover Design - 10 min read

Book Cover Design

Books tell stories or give us information on a wide range of issues. One of the key purposes of having a book cover design is to give a glimpse of those in stories and information to the potential reader on the cover. Another purpose of the cover design is to make the reader interested in the book. An attractive book cover is the starting point for a publisher to sell books.

Each book has a different story to tell. Books are also the source of unique information that people long for. Therefore, each book design is different from the others. But that is not the sole reason behind a variety of book covers. There is a tough competition in the book market to attract the customers. This has given rise to the ever-changing ways of creating book designs in many unique styles.

Another most important thing to consider when talking about book cover design trends is that there is no permanent cover design for a book. A book published today may not be carrying the same design in its new editions after a decade. Even novels, poetry books, and short story books have an entirely different cover design when they appear for sales in their new editions. This is because of the new design trends emerging over the years.

The main function of an impressive book cover design is to communicate the story that is inside in the pages. The success of the cover design is in its ability to evoke some interest in a story or information. This is the reason for design trends changing so frequently. People from the different era have a different liking, which is reflected in the designs of that era.

So, a book cover design from the 1950s will not be relevant anymore even after a couple of decades. The same book has a different cover design today than it was having in the 40’s or 50’s. Keeping that in mind, a study of how the book cover design of some of the famous books changed over the years will be interesting.

Here Are Some Of The Iconic Book Cover Designs

01. Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

As you can notice clearly, the same book has gone a sea change in its book cover design. The book cover in the left was designed in 1898. This iconic book was first published in 1865. In the older edition, you can see most of the elements of the story such as poker cards. The girl seems to tackle something imaginary on the book cover. A tone of dimness prevails in the cover due to the use of pale colors and rough lines.

Lewis Carroll

Now compare the older the cover to the cover of the same book published by the Penguin Classic in 2015. The colours are bright yellow, white, and red that stand for the dreamy world of Alice. This cover has all the story elements such as poker cards, rabbit, cat, and hat. The new cover is more alive, more colorful, and is surely more attractive.

02. 1984 – George Orwell

1984 is one of the legendary novels by George Orwell. Its first book cover was published in 1950 by Secker and Warburg. The book cover design on the left has hand lettering as its main feature. However, this design failed to tell us anything about the story narrated in the novel. It is simply a design that gives us the title of the novel.

George Orwell

On the right, there’s the cover design for the contemporary edition of the same book. The design by Ben Jones narrates the story in its own way and gives us the subtle hints. The new cover has many eyes. These eyes stand for the utopian world that the novel depicts. This creates a curiosity in the reader to open the book and read the story. This book cover design won the Polish Book Cover Contest in 2011.

03. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The cover design of the legendary novel “Lolita” – by Vladimir Nabokov – was simple when it was first published in 1955. It hadn’t any image on the cover. The reason for it was that the designer could not find a single image or illustration that could do justice to the story of the novel. The author Nabokov simply did not agree with any of the images brought before him for the cover. So, the title was the cover design.

Vladimir Nabokov

But 60 years later, we have an image of the lollipop and hand lettering on a redesigned version of Lolita. The designer chose a lollipop as a symbol of what the leading actress of the story stands for. The combination of the lollipop and hand lettering creates a strong visual that persuaded viewers to open the book and read.

04. Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is a classic novel by Jane Austen. First published in 1894, the book cover design had a peacock image and many illustrations inside. The edition was known as ‘’The Peacock Edition’’. This was an attractive cover design.

book cover design

The contemporary professional book cover design of the same novel was designed by Jessica Hirsch in 2011. The new design is a classy composition. The book cover this time stands for the graphic design style of the Victorian age. What makes this book cover different is its use of modern lettering. We can find frequent use of modern lettering style in professional brochure design as well.

05.The Trial – Franz Kafka

On the left, we can see the first American edition of The Trial. This book cover was designed by George Salter in 1937. This is an effective design that tells the story symbolically and tells about the struggles the hero has to go through.

book cover

On the right is The Penguin Classic edition of the same book from 2000. The design has the same idea of the old cover. But this time the designer took resort in the abstract imagery to give a hint of the content inside. In the original cover, a conventional font was used. But in the new design, the designer used an unconventional font.

06. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The city lights and the mysterious sad eyes in the 1925 book cover design of The Great Gatsby are the chief features. But these two elements made this a legendary book cover design in the history of America literature books. The font used makes the cover even more meaningful. One of the reasons for this book cover making an impact is that there was a close collaboration between the designer and the author.

The Great Gatsby

In the contemporary book cover of the same novel, the designer does not use the famous melancholic eyes. In fact, no elements from the older designs are retained in the newer one. Instead, the opulence of the 1920s is represented in the new book cover by an elegant pattern. There is a hint of the art deco style of the period in which the book was authored.

07. The Odyssey – Homer

The ancient Greek epic Odyssey was written in around 8th century BC. In the modern times, the book cover design on the left was created for the 1950’s edition. This classic design has a ship at the bottom, which represents the return of Ulysses to home after the fall of Troy.

The Odyssey

On the right, there’s more contemporary cover from 2014 edition of the same book. This cover has a ship sailing on the sea. But the styles of the boat and the waves are different. At the same time, the style depicts the era of Greek art.

08. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

The first edition, on the left, had a fantastic cover design. The graphic designer used large fonts for the title. The white whale Moby Dick at the bottom also dominated the design as it in the book and the film. It was surely a remarkable book cover.

Moby Dick

The newer modern edition of the book has a cover design that is more dependent on typography. The letters are shaped in the size of a white whale. This helps bring the attention of the viewers on the whale that is seen as sinking the boat. This book cover hints at the story.

09. The Old Man And The Sea – Hemingway

Hemingway’s iconic novel – The Old Man and The Sea – was first published in 1952. In this book cover design, the designer illustrates the fishing village which is at the center of the story. There is a sea as well in the background. The story is about the Cuban fisherman and how he struggled during his voyage.

graphic designer

But the newer edition of the book has a better cover design. It has an old man on the boat and he has the sea at his command. He is a fisherman who is battling with the giant marlin. The cover depicts the fisherman turning the wave into the fish tale. It is surely a great symbolic design that hints at the story inside the pages. Such impressive book covers help sell your books through your social media page effectively and quickly.

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10. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

The novel “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was published first in 1962. The story is about a person who fakes insanity so that he spends his days in the hospital instead of prison. The book cover from the first edition has special use of the typefaces to give the feeling of being psychedelic. To create the effect, the fonts are bold and broken and they are in colors too.

In the newer edition of the book released in 2012, the designer used some illustrations of eggs and a broken egg. The designer AJ Hatley won the Penguin Design Award for this cover design. The design is a symbolic representation of the hero’s free spirit and the courage to speak for others.

These are the iconic book cover designs that have inspired many designers. You can easily notice that there is a huge difference in the cover design of the same books after a few decades. This is because the design preferences had changed a lot with the time.

Graphic designs

Are you also interested in creating such great book covers for your book? You have an effective option to explore. You can crowdsource your book cover design work and such other works like logo design to Designhill. This is a great site where hundreds of business owners come to get their graphic design needs fulfilled.

They can have hundreds of talented designers working on your design project. So, all you need to do is to launch your book cover design contest for them. In a short period of one or two weeks, you get many unique design entries. You can then pick one cover design that stands for your book’s story. You get these designs at one affordable price.

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Conclusion

Book cover designs have changed a lot from what they used to be decades back. There have been changes in the use of typefaces, colours, images, and other elements. We can compare the designs of the same legendary novels and see how their book covers of the first edition and the newest ones look vastly different.

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Anne Carton is a small business consultant, designer and an enthusiast blogger working with Designhill, one of the fastest-growing custom design marketplace. She has authored several blogs, articles and editorials on various topics related to interactive content, concerning design, social media strategies, growth hack strategies, digital marketing and e-commerce.

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