Designing book covers is notoriously difficult. It’s so hard that we have a whole idiom which asks us not to judge the value of something just because its cover turned out to be really, really ugly.
And damn, has there been a plethora of terrible book covers over the years. As such, you can’t exactly blame the designers for copying, echoing, imitating, stealing, and repeating a particular design when they stumble upon something that works. Take the famous “women with missing heads“trend of 2008, or the”plague of women’s back“unleashed on books in 2013, or the most minimalist”flat woman“variation of 2015. Blame it all for Getty Images To the rise of e-readers: There are usually a lot of similarity on the shelves of bookstores.
The trend of headless women is mainly (but not entirely!) a thing of the past, thankfully. What replaces it is something less disturbing, but just as strange. This is what I like to call “suggestive color spots”.
The blobs are eye-catching. They are colorful. You’re not quite sure what they represent at first – are they hands? Wine glasses? Is there a body there too, or is it just a suggestively shaped patch of fuchsia? The cover is oddly alluring but tells you next to nothing about what might be inside. He invites you to investigate, and at this point, you’re already sucked in. The blanket won.
Blanket blobs often come in feminine forms that serve more or less the same purpose as the headless, flat, or rear-facing women of yore. As Slate Explain in 2015, “By not showing the face of the female character, an editor assumes that readers will be able to use their imaginations to fill in what she looks like.” The 2020 variation is to make the woman so abstract that you can’t attach a specific identity to her.
Sometimes that just makes perfect sense, like the cover of Sahar Mustafah’s upcoming film The beauty of your face, which would otherwise invite judgment if it associated a photorealistic image with its title instead of an abstract. Other times, however, these blankets seem to follow the trend for fun.
However, covers have been evolving into blobs for some time now. In 2019, you can unearth examples like Ms. Everything by Jennifer Weiner and Red to the bone by Jacqueline Woodson. What has changed is the degree of abstraction. The spots have become so amorphous that they only look like shapes.
Aside from the rare clues offered by a title, blob covers remain incredibly indistinguishable, although the use of warm or cool colors can suggest an overall tone:
There is also a parallel trend of using colors in stripes rather than organic spots, a design that can be traced at least To The interestingin 2014. Whether it’s an additional image or the cover is just stripes, you are drawn, like drops, to contrasting colors and left looking for more detail.
It should be clarified that while all of these covers are quite similar, it does not necessarily mean that they are Wrong. In fact, at least from a business perspective, it probably means the opposite: that designers have found something that readers are buying. I think covers can be very artistically enjoyable too. Edge, above, will almost certainly be one of my favorite designs of the year.
I love the hand-drawn picture covers of yesteryear, but it’s understandable that publishers are moving away from expensive original artwork these days. Considering how disastrous other alternatives can be – see: these digital collages of stock images – the blobs really aren’t that bad.
So hang in there. Bookstores are set to be inundated with speckled, sequined, ringed and blobby blankets over the next few months. Personally, the overload of contrasting colors delights me, me, chromophile.
And if blobs aren’t your thing, remember: it’s the inside part that really matters.