Scroll open and look at the top 10 fiction books on the Amazon bestseller list, and you’ll find that they have a few things in common: blocky, oversized text, bright wallpaper, and eye-grabbing colors.
This trend is all part of the “bookstagram” aesthetic, a book cover design movement that emerged over the past few years to make books appealing to social media users. After all, social media is a huge part of marketing strategy, with everything from influencers being paid to showcase their bookshelves on Instagram to publication houses themselves creating images and social copy exclusive to the platform. And this is what creates an interesting paradox: To get analog readers, publishers have to make sure their books are enticingly scroll-stopping on small screens.
“Instagram has made everything more aesthetic, from lattes to fashion trends to book covers to travel,” says Carly Kellerman, associate publisher for Zondervan Books at HarperCollins. “I’m very cognizant of the ‘shareability’ of book covers as I craft the direction, and I often draw from an author’s Instagram presence to gauge how highly-designed or curated we might need to go to create a cohesive look.”
You’ve seen book covers of this style before: oversize, all-caps sans serif text, flat, vivid colors, and soft pastels. Some examples of the bookstagram aesthetic include Vanishing Half by Britt Bennet for its all-caps block type and bright, abstracted overlapping colors, and Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (consider the bright, modern art-like wallpaper and block white text).
A big reason the books look like this has to also do with the fact that photos are much smaller now when it’s time to sell a book— whether that’s through compressed images on an Instagram feed, scanning product thumbnails while mobile shopping on Amazon—so it becomes even more imperative for the book to stand out. “The book cover needs to work, and be attention-grabbing as a small thumbnail among many other book covers,” says Nicole Boehringer, art director and production manager from The Images Publishing Group on the role that Instagram has played in the design process.
Still, it seems that at this point, millennial book design has reached full tilt. Everything looks alike—splashy, colorful, and loud. At the same time, online book marketing isn't going away either… and we’re definitely not planning to give up social media. So, the question remains: How will book design evolve and innovate to reach online audiences and social media in new ways? We spoke to a few experts in the field, and this is what we found will dominate trends in the next few years.
1. Geometric designs will have a moment.
Currently, splashy wallpaper is definitely a thing, but Boehringer believes that geometric design isn’t all that common—and still has the same appeal as a colorful graphic. “The shifting contours and grids can feel almost hypnotic to the reader, whether they’re hugely splashed out or in contrasting, small grids,” says Boehringer. “I think by playing with these patterns, readers will get hooked onto the small details in the cover.” Consider playing with ratios and shapes, looking to see which ones play with detail the most.
One example of this trend is Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier, releasing in November, where the flooring and people imitate rich hexagonal patterns all over the front (that white sans serif text is still going strong, though).
2. Text will go vertical.
Big, splashy texts will remain, but the copy will be flipped, rotated, and set from top to bottom, rather than left to right. This will play with perspective and get readers to look at an old word in a new way. According to Kellerman, this can especially work well for shorter titles, where the font can go bigger and twist around the book in an almost haunting way. Designers, take note from this classic example: 1959’s Psycho by designer Tony Palladino.
3. There’ll be a deeper contrast.
Right now, the splashy covers of Instagram are adorned with fonts that stand