Book Cover Design: When, And Why, It Matters


My good friend, Nick Belperio, who single-handedly turned me back into a reader, recently told me that book jacket design is one of his obsessions.

  • Until he brought it up, I had never given it much thought. Perhaps because most of my reading centers around biographies and business-related topics.
  • I can’t say I have ever bought – or even necessarily judged – a book by its cover.
  • But Nick’s passion and knowledge of the subject prompted me to dig deeper. After all, you must investigate when a knowledgeable friend tells you: “Some of the most creative and gorgeous package design is in books. It’s migrated there from album covers and movie posters which used to be the most creative and visually innovative.”

Nick’s favorite designers include Peter Mendelsund, Rodrigo Corral, and Chip Kidd – all superstars of the book design world.

  • In checking out their websites and stories, I can understand why this might become an obsession.
  • My questions for Nick and my fellow readers: how does the jacket design influence your decision to buy a book and secondly, how does it influence the reading experience?

See below for my 5 key takeaways after digging deeper into this subject.

1. Cover design is more critical to the sales of fiction vs. non-fiction books.

  • The design has to communicate the right message about the story and its genre e.g. one writer realized his sales had declined after he rebranded his books.
  • He had created a disconnect between his marketing and his book covers. His books were historical mysteries, but the covers gave the impression they were thrillers.
  • Bad move, but fortunately because his books were primarily e-books, the fix was easy.


2. Publishers are pushing book designers for brighter, bolder covers.

  • The hot color of the moment is yellow.
  • Important info to know when you consider that Amazon accounts for 45% of all books sold in the U.S.


3. Movie Tie-In Covers Sell Like Crazy


  • People get very excited when movies are made from their favorite books.
  • No matter how beautiful the original cover, if there’s a movie version, it will sell better e.g. Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.


4. Most of my favorite books do not have exceptionally well-designed covers ☹️🙁☹️


  • Three recent books I’ve loved have very uninspiring covers (The Upstarts, The Gatekeepers, Shoe Dog)
  • Shoe Dog, the fantastic autobiography of Phil Knight, founder of Nike, is compelling, very personal, it moved me to tears.
  • But the cover of this book – meh!!
  • Good thing I didn’t let it influence my decision to buy. After all, when Bill Gates says it’s one of the best books he’s read, you don’t stop to judge the cover.
  • I’m intrigued to know how decisions are made about which designers are assigned to which authors and why.


5. Art Book Covers 😍💕😍


  • Margaret Kilgallen’s Sweet Bye and Bye is one of a handful of books that I display because I love the cover so much.
  • I’m a huge fan of Margaret’s work and own several of her artworks.
  • The cover of this book comes directly from her work.
  • The book (and the cover) were designed by Michael Worthington and Jon Sueda.
  • Another art book that I display based on the cover is Live The Art, an epic monograph that chronicles Deitch Projects’ 15-year reign as top dog in the NY art scene. The book was designed by Stefan Sagmeister.

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