As 2020 draws to a close, we’re looking forward to all the new book cover design trends we’ll be seeing on bookstore shelves, digital and physical, in 2021.
When you look at the upcoming book cover trends for 2021, you’ll notice a lot of them play with the idea of distorting the image in some way to build suspense. You’ll see illusions and complex images that contain elements that aren’t obvious at first glance. You’ll also see nods to unconventional design styles that haven’t been popular choices for book covers before.
Ready for a sneak peek at what book cover designers will be dreaming up in 2021? Check out the eight book cover design trends that will be filling up your bookshelf:
The top 8 book cover design trends for 2021 are:
- Interrupted and partially hidden titles
- All-over patterns
- Blurry covers
- Title and imagery as one
- Illusion of depth
- Rough sketches on covers
- Pixel art
Interrupted and partially hidden titles
There’s nothing worse than getting interrupted when you’re in the middle of a good book, right? Well, one of 2021’s top book cover trends plays with just that: interruption and missing a key part of the image.
But unlike getting interrupted while you’re reading, these covers make the reading experience more enjoyable by teasing and tantalizing readers about what’s to come. There are a few different ways designers are working with this trend, like how BeeDee created a design for Through the Shattered Mirror that magnifies certain letters and turns them into mirrors reflecting the image of an eye back at the viewer. Mila also uses broken glass in their design for How to Navigate Darkness, but instead of magnifying certain letters, the glass here obscures them.
Move over, minimalism—there’s a new book cover trend in town, and it’s LOUD. In 2021, expect to see lots of books with bold all-over patterns across their front and back covers. These covers grab attention and demand you take them off the shelf and read them right now. In a world full of screens and digital distractions, old-school paper-paged books need to be loud if they want to compete for our attention spans. These covers do just that.
Partially hidden titles aren’t the only way book cover designers are building suspense now and through 2021. Another one of the top upcoming book cover design trends is blurry images, which make the viewer feel like they’re looking into an alternate reality.
One thing you’ll notice about these blurry cover designs is that a lot of them incorporate glitch art, a design aesthetic that started picking up traction in web design in 2019. Glitch art rose to prominence as a comment on the strange, futuristic world we’re living in, where we’ve never been more dependent on machines and increasingly cannot imagine functioning in a world without them. That’s still true and in 2021, book cover designers will keep playing with that idea.
Title and imagery as one
Somewhat similar to the trend of disrupting and partially obscuring letters in the book’s title, this book cover trend replaces letters with objects to connect the book’s title with the cover’s imagery.
Some of these designs replace letters with literal objects, like in arte digital graphics’ design for Thrown Off Script. Others replace them with abstract objects, like the lines signifying a staircase that aksamantra used to replace the E’s in their design for When Women Lead. And then there are others where all the text is some element of the design, like in BINATANG’s design for You Only Get What you Order.
Illusion of depth
On a flat surface like a book cover, you’ve got to be creative with colors, shapes and textures to create the illusion of depth. And that’s exactly what book cover designers will be doing in 2021 with this trend.
By creating depth on a book’s cover, the designer draws readers into the book’s pages. This kind of design communicates to readers that there’s depth within the book they’re holding in their hands, like Hortasar does in their design for Tainted Canvas. The design doesn’t have to look like something that’s literally deep, like a cave or the ocean (though this is certainly an option!); it can also be playful and abstract, like the torn-back paper design for The Talented Miss Farwell. In other examples, like YU_’s design for The Art of Loving Yourself, the designer creates the illusion of depth through perspective.
2020 felt like a dream. Not a pleasant, dreamy dream, more like being trapped in a groundhog day-esque nightmare scenario. And so, in 2021, one of the biggest book cover trends (and design trends in a more general sense) is surrealism: creating a sense that you’re having an unreal experience, like you’ve stepped out of reality.
As you take a look at all the design trends that will dominate 2021, you’ll notice a lot of them are direct responses to the experiences we all had in 2020. Surrealist design will become popular in places other than books, like in illustrations for packaging, album covers or t-shirts. Other trends, like maxed-out geometric designs, will also become popular in multiple categories.
Rough sketches on covers
In contrast to the complex and tech-inspired book cover trends like all-over patterns and glitchy blurred images, some designers are taking cover designs in the opposite direction: rough sketches that look like they came straight out of an artist’s sketchpad.
These covers have a rough, raw feel that shows readers what to expect from the stories inside. They’re stories direct from their authors’ hearts, stories that share a piece of their authors’ souls with readers. The covers working with this trend feature a wide range of different techniques: some are going for a scribbled or smooth pencil effect while others aim for an artistic watercolor sketch look. No matter what style the designer chooses, these book covers have a distinctly unique feel to them.
In 2021, what’s old is new again—at least when it comes to book covers. One interesting development is designers getting inspired by design elements and styles borrowed from the infancy of modern technology, and in 2021, we’ll see them playing with the contrasts between analogue and digital media using pixel art, lines of code and computer typography.
Simply put, it’s a cool aesthetic. And it’s a broadly appealing aesthetic, particularly to Gen X and Millennials (who sure do love them some nostalgia!) It’s also an aesthetic that hasn’t been a common concept for book covers before now, which makes it feel fresh and new despite emulating an old-school aesthetic.
Ready for the book cover trends of 2021?
Echoing what we’re seeing in almost every aspect of graphic design, book cover design trends will be defined by creativity and contrast. We’ll see designers playing with unique effects, illustrations, colors, patterns, lettering and more. It’s safe to say that we’re in for an exciting year in book cover design. We can’t wait to crack the spines and jump right in!