Many industries struggled in 2020.
But we saw two big trends: more people than ever started a business, and book publishing expanded.
Pandemic lockdowns inspired people to embrace reading as a safe form of recreation and an excellent way to keep children engaged and learning.
But, if you want to compete in this growing market as an author, it’s not enough to write a great book. Your book must also have a great, eye-catching cover that can amplify book marketing strategies.
In fact, book cover design is more important than ever. With so many buyers purchasing online, cover design is the most direct and powerful selling tool you have.
So, let’s look at the biggest book cover design trends for 2021.
8 top book cover design trends for 2021:
1. Creative title graphics
The title is one of the most important components of any book.
It serves to capture potential readers’ attention and tell them something important about the story or content inside.
Finding unique and creative ways to draw focus to the title is one of a graphic designer’s primary goals for cover designs
When we looked at trends for 2020, we saw book cover designers replacing single (or multiple) letters in book titles with photo images, icons, and illustrations.
Those “in-title” images help to draw viewers’ eyes to the title. The images also share insight into topics, themes, or characters in the book when chosen wisely.
This versatile graphic design trend can make cover designs more noticeable and help people better understand your book. These are two important steps that help to convert browsers into buyers.
That’s why we expect to see more author and book cover designer teams embracing this book cover design trend and relying on bold typography to bring attention to the cover.
2. Illusions of depth
Artists have embraced “trompe l’oeil” (or the technique of creating art to fool the eye) since Zeuxis and Parrhasius duked it out in ancient Greece.
And, today’s book cover designers still know that fooling a viewer’s eye with a compelling illustration is a great way to get their attention.
But, designers are constantly pushing boundaries and innovating. So, don’t expect only to see your standard, run-of-the-mill, hyper-realistic form of trompe l’oeil. Today’s designers are putting their own spin on the classic while maintaining eye-catching visual impact.
In 2021, look for illustrations that appear to break the cover’s tangible boundaries (as you see in the cover above), faux windows that appear to reveal hidden depths (like the cover on the right), or implied textures like torn pages.
Eye-fooling designs like these, that burst through or leap off 2-dimensional covers, will continue to gain popularity as a book cover trend in 2021.
Minimalism is a perennially popular design style.
But what is minimalism?
Minimalist cover designs feature clean fonts, simple graphics, and plenty of white space.
This can be a very effective design technique for drawing focus to your book. A calm resting point on a visually busy shelf will naturally draw the eye.
The challenge of minimalism lies in selecting just the right typography, graphics, and layout – because there are no excess frills to fall back on. You also should ensure that all elements are in balance. For example, the title should use a bigger and bolder font than the author’s name, unless you have a huge established audience that buys every book you publish.
Every graphic and detail must communicate the right message. The ample whitespace (space left empty of text or images) must be arranged to draw viewers’ eyes to the important words and graphics.
No one ever said simple was easy. But, when executed well, minimalist book covers are very effective.
In 2021, minimalist designs will continue appearing on book covers across the marketplace.
In 2021, brave authors and book cover designers will embrace boldly patterned covers to stand out in the sea of minimalism and muted colors.
Now, you should never choose a bold pattern for your book cover to be a design contrarian.
But, if a bold pattern supports your book’s theme, then this may be a trend worth adopting.
For instance, in the example above, the gradient-colored arrows point in a chaotic range of directions as a visual metaphor for the discord addressed within the book.
Custom designs like this help your readers to understand better what a book is about.
If you choose to feature a bold pattern on your book’s cover, it’s also important to remember to choose equally bold typography (text elements) that won’t be overpowered by the pattern.
Legibility should always be a primary consideration that transcends all book design trends.
Do bold patterns appeal to you and suit your book? If so, then this book cover trend might be for you.
5. Retro nostalgia
Whenever times get tough, people tend to look to the past with fondness.
So, it should come as no surprise that in the wake of 2020 – one of the toughest years many people have ever known – that nostalgia’s power is growing.
This leads us to believe that comforting retro design elements will grow in popularity in 2021. In fact, the evidence is already mounting.
But, this book design trend isn’t for every book. If your work doesn’t address nostalgic themes or take place in a bygone era, a retro cover design may confuse your readers.
We suggest handling this design trend with care.
If your book features a logical thematic relationship to a particular time period, feel free to embrace style elements of that era, such as black and white colors, in your cover design.
But, cover imagery that clearly depicts a specific time period should be reserved for works that are actually set in that time period.
Old-school design elements can inspire readers to reminisce on what used to be and even conjure positive feelings associated with those times while flipping through the pages.
6. Natural imagery
In our look at trends for 2020, we saw an increase in natural elements in book cover design.
As indoor activities were rendered unsafe and canceled, people embraced the great outdoors and reconnected with nature.
Is this why we’ve seen a surge in natural elements on book covers?
We can’t be certain.
We know that leaves, trees, flowers, grasses, clouds, oceans, rivers, lakes, mountains, animals, and more are very popular in book cover design in 2021.
And, it seems only natural that this trend should continue.
Anyway, as with any design trend, featuring birds, bees, mountains, or trees is only beneficial if it’s thematically appropriate for your book.
This is a fairly versatile trend, considering you have the entirety of nature to choose from. So, work with your designer to choose the elements that best represent your book’s themes, plot, or setting.
Or, if Mother Nature isn’t a good fit for your book, pass this trend on by.
Illustration styles can be clean and elegant, simple or chaotic, playful, or stern. The only limit to an illustration is the designer’s own creativity.
This adaptability allows illustrated book covers to effectively capture your book’s tone and character with original artwork. It also ensures that an illustration style can make a unique impression and visually stand out.
And, this is why illustrations continue to be popular in book cover design.
Last year, illustrations were popular for romance covers, young adult fiction, mysteries, and comedic books. In 2021, we anticipate that illustrations will make their way onto covers in a wider range of genres.
What illustration style would best capture and represent your book?
8. Clear, easy-to-read typography
Clean, easy-to-read typography is always in style.
But, as we start 2021, it’s more important than ever before.
For those who can visit bookstores in person, people are shopping quickly because it’s safest to minimize time spent indoors in public.
And, for everyone else, books are purchased online from tiny thumbnail images.
Book covers with clear typography are easier for people to read from a distance (or a smaller scale, like a thumbnail image) and more likely to catch a shopper’s eye.
We see this cover trends across themes, from romance books to non-fiction.
So, authors who are thinking about the logistics of selling their book and the book itself are prioritizing clean typography for their book covers in 2021.
Pro-tip: Serif fonts are easier to read in print, and sans-serif fonts are easier to read online. So, choose your typography accordingly based on the medium where you will publish your book.
Turning a new page
Every year a new crop of cover trends arises.
While it’s important for your book to look timely and relevant, it’s even more important to have a cover design representing the book inside.
So, by all means, review the cover trends we’ve outlined here. And choose to embrace – or discard – those cover trends based on your unique book and your unique audience.
This year, prioritize a book cover that will help you tell your story, attract new readers, and sell more books.
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