Book covers are a unique and wonderful art form. It’s no simple task to boil down hundreds of pages of well-considered words into a single image or design and still make it compelling enough for people to want to pick it up. Book design can sometimes make or break the success of a book. It requires wit, knowledge of design fundamentals, and an overwhelming amount of creativity. The task is even more daunting when you are given the assignment to design a best-selling book.
I wanted to see how designers have handled such a task so I looked through the cover designs of the 10 best-selling books of all time. I found hundreds of covers ranging from the mundane to the corny to the excellent. Here are some of the most interesting cover designs I found:
1. The Bible
Literally thousands of editions of this book have been printed, with designs spanning a huge variety of styles. Here are a few representative samples.
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao – Mao Zedong
Mao’s quotations are hugely read in China, and also hugely red in design. Simple, but effective.
3. The Qur’an – Muhammad
Here are a few beautifully ornamented Arabic covers, with some English-translations trying to keep the same flavor.
4. Xinhua Dictionary – Wei Jiangong
Not a lot of originality with this best-selling dictionary.
5. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Dicken’s great novel is represented with very dramatic illustrations.
6. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship – Robert Baden-Powell
Interestingly this book is designed using a consistent illustration style across many editions.
7. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Pilgrim’s Progress has been around awhile and it’s cover has been designed in the period’s popular style many times.
8. The Book of Common Prayer – Thomas Cranmer
Lots more red for this simple book of prayer.
9. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Great illustrations and ring/eye references. Some especially fun covers from the 60′s and 70′s.
10. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
This fairly-recently written novel has had fewer editions than most of the others, but still some great designs.
And there you have it: book covers from the 10 best-selling books of all time. What did you think (anyone notice an huge use of the color red)? Which ones were your favorites? Do you have any more examples you’d like to share?