Five Favorite Cover Designs

 

Just a quick little post, since I’m getting ready to head back to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and it’s a three-hour drive there. I rearranged one of my bookcases this weekend, and in the process of pulling books off the shelves, dusting said shelves, and putting all the books in a new order, I just had to pause and look at some of these covers, because the designs are so beautiful! I’m not talking about single paintings or photographs that show the main character looking off into the distance or something like that. I’m talking about a cover that shows us what the story is all about using the fundamentals of design and maybe a picture or two. So here are five of my favorite book cover designs of the books I own:

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A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Intricate paper cutouts and silhouette portraits were popular among the Victorians, and so this cover design suits both the period the story is set within and it’s often humorous nature. Veronica has her moments of both whimsy and proper upper-class decorum, and this design fits both those aspects of her nature.

 

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

There are no pictures, but I quickly get a sense of the book’s fairytale nature, as well as its English countryside setting. When used well, typography and line drawings can convey a story as well as a movie poster, despite the lack of celebrity faces I usually see on this book, thanks to the movie tie-in editions.

 

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

The art nouveau theme instantly sets my mind toward the poetic, and so I expect to find beautiful wordsmithing and artistic ideals from an earlier era that resonate as strongly now as they did then.

 

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Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

My eye is always drawn to simple, minimalistic designs that pare a book’s ideas down their most basic elements. With its dark background and blood-colored bird, I am reminded that Marcus Aurelius fought many battles, but the white feather reminds me of the light of his wisdom.

 

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My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

In his Ted Talk, The Hilarious Art of Book Design, Chip Kidd discusses how he developed the art to wrap around a story about court intrigue among 16th-century Ottoman painters. It distills the story into a series of images and then unwinds it so that the story unfolds as you pull the book off the shelf to reveal the cover, and then are drawn into the book itself.


The older I get, the more I am drawn to a book’s cover design, as it seems to me that if something has a beautiful and thoughtful design, then more care has gone into its making. This isn’t always the case, but it usually turns out that way.

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