Why Do So Many Books Look the Same? An Exploration of the Art of Book Covers

If you claim you’ve never bought a book based off of its cover, you’re not fooling anyone. Some of my favorite books of all time have been “cover buys” (where you buy it solely for its intriguing cover). But what happens when all the books on the shelf seem to have the same cover? Book designers fall victim to trends just the same as we do, and every now and then a trend seems to completely take over every new release.

It’s almost comical at this point how many books I can easily find whose cover follows the exact same format, down to even the same typeface choice. The trend I’ve been seeing the most lately is

BOOK
TITLES
THAT LOOK
LIKE
THIS

You know what I’m talking about:

I genuinely thought “Little Fires Everywhere” and “All the Light We Cannot See” where the same book for about a year until I actually finally read the latter.

But why do book designers use this format so much? I have a few ideas.


Bold and Clean Typography Appeals to More Demographics

It wasn’t too long ago that a different design trend ruled the bookstore: calligraphy. While fancy hand lettering does catch a persons eye, it can be hard to read for people with poor vision and takes much more work to translate into different languages. The typography we are seeing today is big with a good amount of space for each word to breathe. It’s much easier to read, and allows more wiggle-room for international editions.

script_covers.jpg

Remember when every table at Barnes and Noble was stacked with books that looked like this?

 Thicker Type Stands Out More

You’ll notice in the examples I put for these type of book covers, that the letters are usually pretty thick, and contrast sharply with the image behind it. That’s because it’s proven to catch our eye quicker, and in a way that drills the title of the book into our heads. In the calligraphy examples, it takes much longer to read and absorb the title, but a passing glance at the center-aligned text covers immediately tells us the title and the author. This is helpful for things like window displays, where you’ll only see the book for a moment as you walk down the street, or even subway advertisements.

Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 8.49.04 AM.png
Which book in this picture do you notice first? There are eight books with their cover facing us, but “Blow Up a Storm” stands out because of it’s large type and 2-color format.

Do It For the ‘Gram

A weird fact of life in this day and age is that products are now being designed to be more “grammable” aka: will it look good in an Instagram post? Bold type and an image with 1 strong color make it almost impossible to take a crappy photo of the book, and the publishers rely on social media to get the word out about new books, be it through paid sponsorships or authentic engagement.


There are plenty more book design trends out there right now that I want to tackle as well. What are some trends you’re noticing, and do you love or hate them? Let me know in the comments below!

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