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The Glory of Old Book Covers


Sometimes you have to appreciate bad design of the past. Specifically, vintage sci-fi and fantasy book covers. These designs are the most entertaining because designers had to work with the materials at hand while also conveying extreme, out-of-this-world stories that saturate the genre. Almost all of the covers include a badly-rendered montage of the strange images that maybe slightly give a hint to the strange world inside. The standard elements of science fiction and fantasy covers had become, as this blog stated, a trademark– “spaceships, heroes, heroes on spaceships, dragons, heroes on dragons, dragons on spaceships, etc.”

However, every once in a while this design trope produced a cover that, for whatever reason, worked. For instance, the cover design for Dickson’s Alien Art is a brilliant example of the style that makes up this unfortunate era of design– a world mashed together with fantastical images, complete with a cowboy, an alien landscape with mushroom-like explosions, and of course, a giant ferret floating in the sky. Despite the absurd content, this cover art was successful and can still be considered a proper design today. Maybe through a stroke of luck the designer found just the right combination of images. Or perhaps he knew more about design than we think. Perhaps all of these artists did.  In the genre of sci-fi and fantasy, weird sells, right?



  1. dhyde wrote:

    Some of the designs from that era are probably the reason the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” exists. But if you think about it, from a design standpoint they work. The covers are intriguing and make you wonder what the story is about, and the only way to find out is to read it!

    Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink
  2. zworrell wrote:

    Looking at this took me back to reading Goosebumps in 5th grade! I love the nostalgia these covers bring, and it makes me wonder how people will see OUR era’s book covers in the future. Old style is also super reoccurring, so will movie posters and tv shows adapt this old age sci-fi style again? (I’m thinking about Stranger Things as I write this)

    Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  3. kkeyserp wrote:

    Dude, I am laughing! I HATED sci-fi covers growing up because they were so cheesy! (Same goes for romance novels.) I definitely judged these books by their covers and didn’t start reading sci-fi until I got a kindle. Call me shallow but design choices like this appeal to only a small niche of people, taking a classier design route might hurt the people the genre is meant for but, your audience will probably widen.

    Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink