Book Cover Illustration & Design - Ten Favourites from 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of the book cover designs and illustrations from the year which have stuck in my mind. I enjoy walking around bookstores, looking at shelves, considering how covers stand out and how they grab a reader’s attention within microseconds. When done well, they are a perfect combination of text, image, marketing, and storytelling.

Little, Brown cover design by Will Staehle; Bloomsbury cover design by David Mann

Both covers are capable of commanding your attention from across the room, especially with the embossed and foil finishing on the physical copies. Bold, deceptively simple, fitting for this retelling of Circe’s story.

Feifei’s distinct line style gives the cover a fresh and modern look when it could very easily have veered into stereotypical ‘Asian art’ territory - ink and brush painting, cherry blossom trees.

Anything by Shaun Tan is bound to be wondrous, thoughtful, and emotive. I love how the lights in the fish mirror that of the city beyond, and how none of the usual building shapes associated with cities are present. The result is a light, airy cover grounded by the dark foreground.

Delort also illustrated the cover for Novik’s Uprooted, which is one of my comfort rereads each year. His scratchboard style works well for her reinterpretations of fairy tales; she deftly upends tropes with descriptive writing that will enchant you before you know it.

I walked past a stack of these in Kinokuniya and backpedaled so fast to take a second look. I love the combination of red-gold-blue/black, the graphic shapes, the crisp, stark atmosphere it exudes. It doesn’t feel like a fantasy novel at first glance.

Design and illustration by Rich Deas

It’s impossible to walk past this in the YA section and not pick it up. Zélie Adebola’s distinct white hair, treated in this graphic style, is difficult to look away from, and so are her eyes.

Palencar’s subtly textured work has both gravitas and an unsettling, ancient feeling to it. You can’t help but imagine the possible stories behind this image.

A standout in the younger readers’ section, this cover makes use of contrasting colours and strong silhouettes to highlight the heroine.

Illustration by Ian McQue

McQue also provided interior illustrations for this volume, which work well even in black and white. And all of his covers for the new printing of the Mortal Engines series have that wonderful balance between graphic shapes and painterly detail.

new mortal engines.jpg

That cover image was originally a concept art painting that captures Miles in a quiet character moment.

Brilliant control of values and shapes in the background to suggest the vast cityscape. And the unusual perspective is arresting. I really missed NYC/ Brooklyn as I was watching this film, which was a combination of bold visual stylisation and earnest storytelling.