Staying on Trend with Cover Design

Jack Wedgbury, Senior Designer for Troubador’s imprints takes a look at cover design trends and how we apply them to our books:

Keeping up to date with what is on-trend for book covers is an important part of our design team’s role. Spotting key trends in design, materials and enhancements allows us to understand what is popular within the industry, which in turn allows us to offer this to our authors. To do this, we read blogs and trade magazines such as The Bookseller, look at social media, attend weekly design meetings and make inspiration visits to printers and bookshops.

Following a recent bookshop visit, we noticed that foil blocking was a major trend, featuring within the cover designs of books from every genre. From historical fiction to poetry, shiny metallic foil was gracing the covers of new releases more than ever. Moreover, foil was becoming the main feature of some designs, like the UK edition of Circe by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury). This incredible matte bronze foil finish inspired the design for Ayeme’s Circus of Redemption by Keith Blackburn, published by The Book Guild. Therefore, by offering cover enhancements such as foil blocking to our authors, as well as designing covers that would be suitable for this enhancement, we’re offering our authors the chance to take advantage of this trend. A shiny cover design can go a long way in enticing potential readers to pick up a book!

In terms of design, we look at colour palettes, imagery and fonts to understand key trends in these areas. For example, looking at colour trends within genres enables us to know what readers expect when browsing a bookshop, and allows us to react to this, ensuring that our books fit in well within the trade. Applying this research to our cover designs, we recently spotted that purple was a key colour in children’s and young adult books, featuring within the cover designs of books such as Slay by Brittney Morris (Hodder), The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow) and Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo (Hot Key Books). Therefore, we chose to incorporate a purple colour palette into a design for a recent young adult fiction title published by Matador, Devil’s Mist by Liam Moiser.

By reacting quickly, we are able to take advantage of trends by incorporating elements such as this into our designs. In doing so, we ensure our cover designs stay fresh and up to date, and ultimately keep them commercially appealing. Keeping on top of cover design trends is a twenty-four-seven job, but for the book-loving design team at Troubador, it’s a welcome task.

Recently, our design research was put to the test when Book Guild author, Awais Khan, completed his own market research, posting online the covers for both the UK and the South Asian edition of his book In the Company of Strangers. He held a poll for the covers in two different online forums, and the results were both interesting and extremely positive. The forum dominated by UK readers preferred the UK cover while the forum dominated by Pakistani/Indian readers preferred the South Asian edition. This goes to show how different each of the markets are and how each publisher has to understand their market in order to give the book the widest appeal possible. Thanks to Awais and his research, we’re able to see first-hand that the design research we undertake produces positive results.

From the point of view of a reader, or author, cover design trends are not something you’ll necessarily notice. But behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into market research in order that we can use this knowledge to make our author’s books as commercially appealing as possible. Having said that, next time you’re browsing a bookshop, you’re bound to start noticing them. See how many you can spot!