2021 Book Cover Design Trends to Follow

2021 Book Cover Design Trends to Follow

2020 is right behind our backs, and it has been quite a ride. 

Perhaps, despite all of the turmoil of the past year, you had time and inspiration to write and create your worlds. We hope 2021 will give you more breathing room and motivation to work on your books.

Goodness knows we all need more stories that inspire and immerse us into new fictional worlds.

But, what we really want is to help each author attract more readers with custom book cover design. It’s what we do; it’s what we breathe. 

Thus, now is a great time to take a look at book cover design trends in 2021 and figure out how to draw more attention to your book in the year to come.

Book Сover Design Trends in 2021 

Even though the book cover design industry has its golden standards and approaches, it’s always open to experiments, new ideas, and rediscovering old styles. 

The art evolves, changes, and breathes, and it’s difficult to put labels on all its richness. Still, to stay at the top of our game, we need to understand the industry direction.

Thus, we made a little research of our own, diving into the graphic design trends and books to come in 2021. Be it popular authors, smaller premiers, or a niche writing to come in 2021, we’ve tried to find what ties their cover design together.


Here’s our list of massive trends of custom book cover design as well as ideas with huge potential we’ve dug up:

Vivid Colors, Stark Contrasts 

Some things never lose their relevance. Years will go by, and we will still be experimenting with colors and their combinations in search of that perfect one for our book. The number of options colors grant is truly unprecedented, and it’s both — a blessing and a curse. 

In 2021, along with traditionally tender color combinations, we will likely see more vivid, bright colors, and bold contrasts. 

Here are some of the books to come in 2021 that will rock a bright, colorful look: 

Here, you can see both, flat designs as well as more complex ones, but they all share bold color selection. 

Speaking of which:

There are plenty of colors and their combinations that are somewhat underused in custom book cover design. Aiming for them can be an optimal solution for an effective attention-grabber. So don’t be afraid to experiment with novel palettes. 

A bright (pun intended) example is Pantone colors of the year 2021, which are Ultimate Grey in combination with Illuminating (bright yellow).

The  colors of 2021 - Ulrimate Grey and Illuminating

Rarely, will you see the combination of yellow and grey on a book cover, but they create a unique vibe that can be used for different genres. 

Here are some of the book covers we could think of that use some combination of yellow and grey: 

More Illustration, More Authenticity

The complete digitalization of design means that everything handmade has a certain nostalgic touch to it. 

Don’t know about you, but when we look at a hand-drawn image (no matter made on a graphic tablet or paper), we experience a warm fuzzy feeling that is well-familiar to us since childhood. Perhaps, the admiration for cartoons and illustrations from fantasy/sci-fi books is still alive and well. 

What we want to say is the magic of illustration is difficult to mimic even with the most masterful photo work.  

Thus, a book that boasts a hand-crafted illustrated cover can carry a strong sentimental value as well as an authentic feel. In 2021, more authors will use illustrations to their benefit. 

Here some of the future book cover designs that rely on illustration: 

Though generally more expensive than its alternatives, illustrated book covers stand out from the rest because of their unique vibe.

Illustrations work particularly well for fantasy and sci-fi genres. Here are a few of our favorites examples:

Fewer Details, More Impact 

It may sound counterintuitive, but covers with minimalistic design have a tendency to pop. Perhaps it happens because of the contrast between detailed and less detailed covers. Or maybe, it’s easier for a human mind to focus on a less “dense” design. No matter the reason, when scrolling through Amazon or Goodreads book collection, our eyes are often drawn to simple yet impactful covers. 

Minimal custom book cover design works, and we’ll see more of it in 2021.

That’s some elegant beauty. But, we need to remember that such an approach wouldn’t work for any genre or any book. For example, it’s definitely not the safest bet for fantasy or romance novels because the style won’t cater to the target audience well. At the same time, minimalism can work wonders for non-fiction or drama.

Retro Futurism, Modern Cover Design

There are these pages on Instagram that post retro-futuristic images. The intricate story-telling and the unique atmosphere of these artworks call for hours of observing and studying its tiniest details.

Some of the most popular vintage sci-fi art Instagram pages have 300 to 400 thousand subscribers, so there’s quite a market for this vintage vibe. 

Therefore, it’s not strange that the retro-futuristic style slowly but surely continues to creep in modern sci-fi book cover design. And, some books already use the style to their advantage.

99Designs claims that the popularity of this visual style is partly due to “its bold imagination with a surprisingly optimistic outlook.

You won’t see plenty of such book cover design on a mass market. However, in its niche, such cover art has its loyal audience. With the rise of the cyberpunk genre and retrowave popularity, 2021 will show us more retro-futuristic images embellishing imaginative fiction books.  

More Title, More Title

There’s this 2021 trend in book cover design you may have already noticed from previous examples — a title that absolutely dominates the cover. 

In different genres with different art, the title is just there — sitting unceremoniously at the middle of the book, covering, like, 40% of its surface. But it works.

When made masterfully, such custom book cover design looks harmonious. The title accentuates the cover, and despite the presence of giant letters in the middle, the cover looks neat. The books to come in 2021 are full of title-centric cover design

You’ve already seen plenty of such covers in this article, so here’s some more from the books to arrive in 2021:

Overall, such an approach to cover design is one way of making sure that viewers will notice and maybe even remember the title of your book.

We’ve made our fair share of similar covers as well:

More Abstract, More Surrealism

There’s something special to abstract art that’s difficult to put into words, which seems oddly appropriate. 

Still: a tasteful blend of colors and shapes, which as if tries to resemble reality but masterfully fails at it, can be emotionally impactful. In other words, abstract art is pure feels™. And, the abstract style is on the rise. 

Also, a fun fact: the majority of the most expensive art sold at 2020 auctions was abstract or surrealistic. 

So, no wonder that more books are boasting nice unconventional art on their covers.

2021 will impress us with abstract book cover design. 

Simply a Beautiful Photo 

Take a nice photo, color-grade it properly, put well-adjusted typography that ties everything together well, and you have an effective book cover. The recipe has been true for a while and isn’t going to change in the year to come considering the results of our research. In the Oprah Magazine Top 55 of the Most Anticipated Books in 2021, at least 15 of presented book covers used photos:  

 Here are some examples of future books with masterful photo covers:

A Single Face

A few things can be as captivating as a human face. A face tells stories of its own; it is incredibly rich and nuanced. You can study a single person’s countenance for hours and still find details you previously missed. 

Besides, our minds are wired to constantly monitor emotions while looking at a human face. We are inextricably drawn to the complexity of a human appearance. 

No wonder, the books “with faces” are so common.

Double points if the face on the cover is famous; it will get much more attention. Still, even the books with the most famous faces need a well-executed cover for readability, design attractiveness, and professional look. 

Therefore, considering our research of the books to come, faces will continue to dominate the custom book cover design market of memoirs and biographies in 2021. Here are a few examples: 

Besides, faces can work well for other genres fairly well too. Though they generally need some additional artwork. For example, horror, thriller, and nonfiction:  

Final Thoughts 

The trends only further reinforce our belief that 2021 will be a productive year for custom book cover design.

So, we celebrate the end of the year not simply because we hope the next one will go smoother but also because we see the huge potential for cover artistry. We believe the industry has plenty of opportunities to grow and glow. The boundless creativity of written and visual storytelling is inspiring.

We thank you for all your dedication and creativity you put into your works in 2020 and look forward to all the art you’ll unleash in 2021.

If by chance, you need a book cover or author brand design, we are here to help you

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Jessica James
2 years ago

Great post. Thank you!