Category Archives: Book Design

Best Book Covers of 2014

The learned and eagle eyed folks over at Design Observer have released their list of the 50 Best Book Covers of 2014. It’s quite a list! There are 50 of them, so click through to see them all.

Seeing this Chip Kidd cover for Murakami online doesn’t do it justice. The colors pop and the die-cut holes to the map below really make this cover. It’s a fun trim size too.



It’s a fun ranking and worth scrolling through. It seems to be a great mix of ones seen often in shops and other lesser known ones that have it made it to the front-of-bookstore tables yet. I’m always glad Design Observer does these lists as I’d miss out on quite a few of these books.

This raised 3D slip cover is C-R-A-Z-Y.


The Best Books ranking/competition goes back around 90 years. Here are the Best Book Covers from previous years as well:

Design Observer also compiles a list of the 50 Best Books of each year, where the whole design is judged and not just the cover. And it’s fun to see who made the list as well, but when online, I enjoy the covers more. Anyway, here’s their choices for 50 Best Books of 2014. To get an idea what this is about, the book ODD VOLUMES got a nod in both the cover competition and the book competition. The folds really show how the book is organized and speaks to the subject of the book which is book art.

I was glad to see The Martian on there as the paper used really made it glitter as if covered in martian dust. So you have 50 to choose from – which book cover is your favorite from last year?

Go Set a Watchman Releases in 4 Weeks

Ok, folks – Harper Lee’s new book hits book store shelves in less than a month, on July 14th. You can pre-order all of the internet or your local bookstore. It’s been fun seeing how awareness of the book has developed. And it all started with the origin of the manuscript and all the questions surrounding that.

Now the covers are out. As with just about any book published today, it’s fun to compare the U.S. cover with the British cover. First, we have the U.S. cover, which seems to be purposefully designed to match the vintage To Kill a Mockingbird cover.

Go Set a Watchman is set 20 years after the end of TKAM, but the cover certainly lets you know you’re in the same place. Here’s the original 1st edition cover:


While over across the pond they seem to have gone a little more modern noir feel I think, but the type is period.

Most of the time I usually prefer the U.K. counterparts to U.S. covers, but this time I’m non-plussed. The fact that the author’s name is set the same as the title feels weird. It’s as if the marketing and design teams could not come to an agreement so they just threw their hands up and said “Make it all the same size” or something.

Though I do like the way they shadowed in the words To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a bit literal for me, but it’s ok.

Both covers have an October harvest vibe as well. Maybe that figures in heavily to the story? We’ll have to wait and find out! It will be interesting to keep up with the reviews once they start rolling out when the book is released on July 14th. And to watch sales numbers. I know some folks took a step back when Harper Lee’s letters didn’t fetch a reserve price at a recent auction, but the crowd that buys million dollar scribbles is a totally different crowd than those waiting to see what Harper Lee has to say about Scout and Atticus.

What do you think of the covers? Have you pre-ordered the book or are you tired of the hype?

Be the Expert: in Book Covers

Week One of Nonfiction November was fun and is responsible for adding nine books to my wish list this holiday season. This week’s topic is being hosted by Leslie and is listed as “Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert” where we are supposed to highlight some books we’ve read (or want to read) around a topic.

So for Week Two I would like to offer up the following books which will help you to Become the Expert in Book Covers. Please notice I did not say Book Cover Design or the History of Book Covers or Book Cover Production Engineer, but simply book covers. Some of the stories behind a few famous titles and covers are amazing and humorous. Also, how do you know if a book cover nailed it? What works? What doesn’t? Why? Should the designer have tried something a little riskier?

Here are three books that I recommend reading if you are at all interested in book covers/book jackets and the thought process/discussions behind the winners and losers.

First up is Chip Kidd’s Book OneKidd is as close to a rock star as you get in the book design world (he was asked to play himself in a soap opera for crying out loud) and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s very large, colorful and gorgeous. Plus, it’s filled with all kinds of tid-bits and insights into the publishing world as Kidd shares hate mail from readers who dislike his covers, letters from authors as they flip/flop on whether a concept will work and rough drafts that lay at the bottom of the trash can. Many iconic covers, from the past 20 years, appear in Book One as Kidd shares how they came to be. Including the Jurassic Park dinosaur logo, Donna Tartt’s covers and dust jackets for Haruki Murakami.

ChipKidd_BookOne_01 ChipKidd_BookOne_02 ChipKidd_BookOne_03 ChipKidd_BookOne_04 ChipKidd_BookOne_05


Another book worth reading is Wendell Minor’s Wendell Minor: Art for the Written Word. Minor has produced many iconic covers himself, but his are all painted and watercolor (as opposed to Kidd’s graphic designs). But this book does a great job sharing notes, letters and thoughts behind the composition of some of Minor’s more famous covers for authors like David McCullough and Pat Conroy.

Wendell_Minor_01 Wendell_Minor_02

I have to admit to feeling a little teacher-ish about this last one, but to appreciate all of today’s book covers and to see how all the rules are being broken (I mean we are trying to be experts this week, right?) – it helps to gain a little historical perspective. That’s why I’d recommend Alan Bartram’s Five Hundred Years of Book Design. Yes, it sounds dry and boring. But if you like words… if you like books… if you’ve ever considered buying  a throw pillow because it has words typed all over it, then you will appreciate this book. The book is an odd tall narrow shape and features page after page after page of wonderful photos of (mostly) type-only book pages from Roman-times to modern-times. Once you get a feel how type and text is best stacked and what works and what doesn’t you’ll really start to notice jackets at the bookstore when the author’s name is too big or the title is just too off-center.

500_years_of_book_design01 500_years_of_book_design02

Anyway, those are three books I’d recommend you check out if you’d like to become an Expert in Book Covers. I promise they are each filled with big colorful photos of books, words and dust jackets. Everything you need to get excited about book cover design and chat about them over a beer.

So catch up on all of the other bloggers posting this week for Nonfiction November over on Regular Rumination and by following the #nonficnov hashtag on Twitter.

Books Arts Documentary

PBS has a great new documentary-short series out with the latest installments focusing on a handful of book artists. This video is under six minutes long. The film starts with a paper engineer who has helped make some of the world’s best pop-up books as well as a paper sculptor (timecode 2:08) who cuts books and images into “book tunnels”. They also talk to an artist (timecode 3:37) that tears, glues, weaves and re-molds books into new collages and forms, in an effort to make her artistic point. It’s all very fascinating. PBS posted the documentary to YouTube and I have embedded it here: