3 Book Cover Designs Worth a Closer Look

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In the October issue of Print, we took an in-depth look at the art of book cover design, and the role covers play in storytelling. Here we’re featuring three more 2013 covers that we couldn’t stop thinking about. The designer of each one took us behind the design:


The Astronaut Wives Club: When a Picture Says Everything

This non-fiction tome looks into the lives of the women married to the Mercury Seven astronauts and the close bonds that formed between them. For the cover, Anne Twomey, V.P. creative director at Grand Central Publishing, found this image of the women on the cover of an old Life Magazine. A high-res version wasn’t available, so the design team had to work with a scan of the printed cover.

This technical challenge actually adds to the look and feel of the book. Its slight graininess sets a vintage mood and overall, it looks like an old printed photo you might run across in a drawer. “The image captures everything about that time period,” Twomey says. “That is the capsule. They’re wearing the clothes of the time.” While the original image was in color, Twomey played up the orange-y red of the capsule to make the cover pop and amplify the vintage vibe.


Elders: Designing by Hand

With technical tools at everyone’s fingers, sometimes it takes a bit of DIY to stand out. It’s the approach freelance illustrator and cover designer Ben Wiseman took for Elders, a novel about Mormon missionaries heading to Brazil and the resulting culture clash. “I don’t like Photoshop,” Wiseman says. “I use it to assemble things.”

Nearly everything you see on this book cover was manipulated in the real world before it hit a screen. The colorful background? It’s a watercolor painting Wiseman created by hand. That script font for the author’s name? It’s Wiseman’s handwriting. And the main photo? Wiseman broke out the camera. “There aren’t many stock photos of Mormon missionaries,” he says. “I ended up photographing my boyfriend.”

The Time Regulation Institute

The Time Regulation Institute: Updating a Classic

The Penguin Classics imprint publishes great works of classic literature, and many titles signal the line’s prestige with consistent branding. Often, there’s a black bar that runs across the bottom of the cover and proudly declares the book a Penguin Classic. For The Time Regulation Institute, a Turkish novel, the publisher wanted to highlight the title with a special design treatment without abandoning the line’s typical branding elements.

Freelance book cover designer Jim Tierney created a jacketed paperback design that features a unique image on the outer layer with die-cut windows that allow the traditional classics branding elements to peek through from below. Tierney played off a central element of the book—time—and chose to die-cut a clock hand along with a shape around the author’s name. When readers open the jacket, they’re rewarded with an intricate illustration of clock gears and hands. “The shape of the die cut was tricky,” Tierney says. “It couldn’t be too intricate or it would tear.”

For more inspiring book jacket designs, pick up the October issue of Print.


The Astronaut Wives Club

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

GCP creative director and designer: Anne Twomey

Digital imaging: Stanislaw Fernandes


Publisher: Hogarth

Art director: Christopher Brand

Designer: Ben Wiseman

The Time Regulation Institute

Publisher: Penguin

Imprint: Penguin Classics

Art directors: Paul Buckley and Brianna HardenDesigner: Jim Tierney