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What Fantasy Book Covers Look Like Today

Classic fantasy book covers are instantly recognizable. A sweeping painting of a landscape that features one or two of the main characters, overlaid by an outlined, garishly colored title, is what readers traditionally expect from fantasy book covers.

But popular taste and design capabilities have changed over the decades. If you look through lists of recent fantasy bestsellers, you’ll notice that not all the covers look like this:

Book cover designs of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Book cover designs of The Name of the Wind (2008) by Patrick Rothfuss and The Way of Kings (2011) by Brandon Sanderson

Now, this traditional style of cover design is still prevalent, especially for adult fantasy novels. However, in the genre of young adult fantasy, there are a few new trends worthy of note.

#1: The typography is often more tasteful and stylish, whether the designer chooses to use calligraphy, add elegant swashes to letterforms, or incorporate illustrations into the word. Sometimes the result is humorous or informal; sometimes it’s gorgeous.

#2: Instead of paintings of characters, some fantasy covers have minimalist illustrations. Often, the image is of a crown, sword, or another item that indicates the fantasy genre.

#3: Covers that do feature paintings or photographs of a main character may present the character in a dynamic, dramatic way. A Renaissance-era painting style isn’t necessary, and the main character isn’t always shown standing in the middle of a landscape or cityscape.

Book cover designs of Sky in the Deep, Heartless, and Ash Princess

Fantasy is an easy genre to study since older design styles are so iconic, but I also see these elements in other literature genres. Have you noticed similar marketing trends in other genres of literature, music, or video games?

4 Comments

  1. nchipour wrote:

    I definitely think of the first few when i think of fantasy novels. However, the second group are much more aesthetically pleasing nowadays.

    Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 5:33 am | Permalink
  2. Safiyah wrote:

    This is very interesting! It seems as if designers use serif typefaces when designing fantasy and fiction book covers in most cases, and just like you said “Elegant Swashes to Letterforms”.

    Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  3. aelayan4 wrote:

    That is so true! I remember the cover of a fantasy book “Red Queen” has caught me off guard because of its new design, which is appealing. I love how we can see designs evolving throughout decades.

    Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  4. kreategu wrote:

    I totally agree with you! Also, I think typography makes a big change in the covers as well as small details in the illustration. Now, I consider minimalism is a trend because I see that most of the covers have minimalistic illustrations.

    Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink