Book Design Trends in Today’s Non-Fiction

Design June 18, 2014

The book market changes constantly. What helps us keep up with the fast-paced transformation? Awareness. Not only attentiveness of content and topic trends,  but also an awareness of what’s changing in the area of book design trends. Two cover design extremes occur. One, designs that blend into other books in the same market, and two, books so different from the current trends they are confused with another genre.

This dilemma makes non-fiction cover design challenging for market placement. Consider the self-helps, biographies, memoirs, cookbooks, financial, sports, practical life, and countless other subjects each competing for readers. Let’s explore a collection of book jacket designs which effectively combine good design practices, with powerful marketing techniques.

Typographical Focus

Typography is an overlooked, yet crucial element of design. Containing a vast array of styles, forms, personalities, and arrangements—a typeface can make or break a cover. What separates successful typography is its ability to effectively capture the book’s content. Using a script typeface, simply because of a personal like of the style, hinders the typeface from doing its job. Typefaces work best when their true character can shine. Take a look at the examples below.

Making Ideas Happen – Scott Belsky

Large, bold typography make this an eye-catching, yet effective design.


The Seen and the Unseen – Jerry Crossley

Following the format of an eye chart, this design’s typography doubles as a metaphor to the books meaning.


Think – John Piper

Think relies on simple imagery and a professional typeface choice to communicate to readers.


Slave – John MacArthur

A style emerging more frequently in today’s book covers, John MacArthur’s book features type large enough to hang off the edge of the front cover, making the design far more interesting.


Radical – David Platt

Notice the title of this as well as the previous two books. One word. In books, especially those depending heavily upon typography for their design, short and catchy titles are key.


Too Big to Fail – Andrew Ross Sorkin

In a creative execution, this cover design doubles as the title and imagery with a powerful message to readers.


Additional Resources

Learn more about the topic of typography with these helpful resources:

Clean and Powerful Imagery

Another piece to the book cover puzzle is the use of simple imagery to convey meaning. As with typography, when a book’s design is dependent upon a photo to carry the weight of the cover’s impact, high quality is essential. With the flood of self-published books filling today’s online marketplace—pixillated images, fuzzy photos, and improperly captured scenes stand as red flags to book buyers. As with any element of book production, professional work makes all the difference.

Crazy U – Andrew Ferguson

This design and imagery successfully captures the humorous nature of the book by displaying a dad half-covered by a stack of paperwork.


Poke the Box – Seth Godin

Though such a concept doesn’t work for every book, Seth Godin’s Poke the Box relies solely upon imagery for the cover. Not one word is found on this front cover design, yet its brand stands as one of the most effective for 2011.


My Korean Deli – Ben Ryder Howe

Beyond a simple photo, My Korean Deli captures the personal touch of this author’s story in an effective and eye-catching manner.


Disciplined Dreaming – Josh Linkner

The simple yet powerful photograph in this design speaks volumes by portraying that creativity doesn’t just happen, but is turned on.


Symbolic Yet Simple

Symbolism is dangerous territory. In the hands of the inexperienced, it can confuse readers, mislead browsers, and bewilder book buyers. When used properly, however, symbolism provides a powerful avenue for design to shout the heart of a book’s message. With simple imagery or typography, a point is proven with as few words as possible. Once again, simplicity makes the most powerful design.

The Big Short – Michael Lewis

Little explanation is needed for this image. One glance and the reader wants turn the book over to discover the context the author’s cover references.


Sacred Space – M.C. Wright

Avoiding the clutter and complexity of a smattering of images, Sacred Space compels the reader with a simple, yet powerful image communicating the title’s meaning.


Rework – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier

Simple yet effective. Almost anyone can remember times in high-school writing and re-writing term papers until surrounded by a mountain of crumpled notebook paper sheets. This cover captures such images without the fanfare of a complicated and cluttered design.


Eve’s Mysterious Name – Carol Trent

With bold, impacting colors, the imagery on this cover quickly conveys it’s meaning through the title and fruit hanging from the tree.



Whether cover design is your profession, or a step along the way to your book’s completion, we gain insight by studying the current trends of the trade. Beyond an art form, cover design is a means of visual communication to the heart of a book’s message. The more effectively its executed, the better it will serve the purpose of telling potential readers why the work is worth a second look.

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