Coming out of a year like no other, many of us are eager to find new sources of inspiration and fresh perspectives—in book-making and beyond. As artists, writers, and designers reflect on the changing times, a new wave of creative ideas is already hitting the design world. Here’s a sneak peek of the creative trends and book cover styles that will define 2021.
2021 Visual Themes
We see four visual aesthetics standing out this year, which offer a creative response to the strange and unique times we live in. Some artists will lean into wild, unconventional, and disorienting designs, while others will embrace a more optimistic, energetic, and comforting vision.
There were many parts of 2020 that didn’t feel real and begged the question: Is this really happening? So, surrealism is going to be one of the top design themes in 2021. There will be lots of dream-like scenarios and visuals common in surrealist art—bizarre juxtapositions, psychedelic objects, deconstructed shapes, and jarring angles of cubism. The mood in the room (and on bookshelves) will be just outside reality, where the imagination runs wild.
When times are tough, it’s only natural to crave more idyllic landscapes and pastoral scenes. The spirit of romanticism in art is nothing new to artists and poets, but this time around the creative mood will be characterized by quiet simplicity. Instead of the ornate, opulent stylings of the Victorian era (swirling scripts and decorative fleur de lys), it will be more focused on minimal, yet serene beauty (dreamy backdrops and graceful lines). This vibe is all about comfort, resilience, and connection.
The year 2020 turned up the volume in all areas of life—and creatives can’t shake that feeling. We got to know every inch of our homes in vivid detail, sometimes yielding beautiful discoveries. One popular theme for 2021 will be: more is more. Picture vibrant wallpaper patterns come to life. Get ready for immersive illustrations and closeup views. This maximalist trend spans modern and historic eras of art and design, so it’s not surprising the aesthetic is back. Who doesn’t love a zoom effect?
The literary scene is no stranger to futuristic landscapes and out-of-this-world imagery in science fiction, fantasy, and thriller genres. Now more than ever, those technological tropes and wild images are resonating in the design world—and in our everyday lives. We move through days filled with devices and pixelated images, calling to mind alternate realities. For some, the current creative mood is filled with adventure, curiosity, and innovation, with an edge of excitement.
2021 Book Cover Design Trends
Keep an eye out for these design elements, color trends, and typography styles that will be hitting bookshelves in the months ahead.
01 Bold Patterns & Prints
One trick to attention-grabbing covers: go big and bold. These books refuse to blend in because they boast all-over prints and patterns in colorful hues. And yes, the design fills every square inch of the front and back cover. Dots? Check. Stripes? Check. Abstract designs and geometric shapes? Check. When you find a pleasing pattern you love, sometimes you have to go all in.
02 Natural World
Getting outside and finding quiet moments in nature has become more meaningful than ever after spending months at home. In 2021, creatives and designers will be looking for ways to honor our deep connection to the natural world, and its inspiring flora and fauna. Book covers will try to capture that sensory experience in photography, paintings, or illustrations. Think lush greens and natural color palettes with vibrant gardens, trees, and animals.
03 Hidden Letters
We all crave a little mystery, especially when it comes to discovering a new book. Designers may be tempted to interrupt, obscure, or even hide parts of letters in the book title to create extra suspense. Adding a blur effect to the typography also suggests that not everything in this story is as it seems. No wonder this cover style is already popular in the sci-fi and thriller genres.
04 Lo-Fi Graphics
Right now, the creative world is riding a powerful wave of nostalgia. So don’t be surprised if you see book covers boasting pop art, pixelated images, and sticker art–the kind of lo-fi design elements that call back to the early software and tech visuals of the nineties and aughts. Look for checkers, grids, tiles, cartoon graphics, and computer-style fonts that all lend a vintage feel. Combining analog “old school” elements of design with digital “future” mediums is all the rage, and now it’s trending on book covers.
05 Oversized Fonts
If you have something to say, say it loud. That’s the design strategy for books with oversized or distorted typography on the cover. There could be giant lettering in part of the title that screams, LOOK AT ME. Other ways it could play out: tilted or stretched-out text effects that catch the eye or even appear difficult to read. Some letters may be too big for the design frame—literally pushing the boundaries of the book cover.
06 Artistic Sketches
While the aesthetics of book covers have long revolved around pairing crisp typography with high-design graphics and flawless photography, a new approach is taking shape. We’re seeing cover art and illustrations with a more handdrawn feel, like pencil drawings you’d find on the pages of a sketchbook. The images range from scribbly ink to smooth watercolor effects, but they all favor raw, natural lines over the stark, polished designs of the tech world.
07 Collage & Organized Clutter
Everyone knows the experience of having multiple tabs open on a computer. Starting in 2021, some designers will be bringing that digital effect to book covers. It could look like classic collage, with cutout images pieced together in surprising ways. Or you might see pictures and text stacked on top of each other, creating partially hidden layers. Visually, it creates tension and intrigue, proving there can be method to the madness.
08 Vibrant Color Combos
Say goodbye to quiet color palettes and ombre patterns of pastels that smoothly blend into deeper shades. Another new trend in book design that’s bound to stand out this year: bold contrasts and unexpected color pairings. Creatives are leaning into saturated spectrums and vibrant hues on book covers, a formula designed to brighten things up and boost anyone’s mood (which is exactly what we need these days).
Which design elements are you planning to feature on your next book cover? Start your one-of-kind project today.
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