From pasta cookbooks to Zadie Smith: designers on their favourite book cover designs

To mark World Book Day 2022, we asked designers to choose recent book covers that stood out to them and why.

Plummer’s own copy of Small Bodies of Water

“One of my favourites from the bookshelf this year has to be Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles, illustrated and designed by Gill Heeley. A series of enchanting essays that explore identity and what it means to belong. Nina weaves personal memories together with stories of wild swimming, childhood dreams and adventures in nature – all of which span across the world (from the wild coastline of New Zealand to the bustling city of Shanghai.)

“The book blurb itself made me want to jump in, but the vibrant, spring-like cover enticed me even more. Every paragraph in this book is alive with colour and Gill perfectly captures that energy with her vibrant and graphic, hand-painted cover. And although subtle, I love that the colours also bleed into the typography, bringing texture and a touch of fluidity to the cover too.

“A simple but joyful cover to mark the start of a hopeful spring (and perhaps even encourage a few more chilly dips in the sea).”

Bethany Plummer, senior designer at Baxter & Bailey

Courtesy of Penguin

“Intimations by Zadie Smith is a reflective series of short essays written in the midst of lockdown and in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. The cover – a collaboration between paper crafting artist Owen Gildersmith and photographer Stephen Lenthall – and book reflect that powerful period with beautiful photography and artwork which is so simple, yet impactful.

“I enjoy that it looks as though it has been intricately crafted with care, which makes it all the more impressive to me. Its simple construction with the use of light and shadows evokes a sense of drama, resulting in a somewhat haunting image to reflect on the events of the times. The black and white imagery paired with bold type is clever and eye-catching, giving the book a real standout quality for any shelf.”

Charlotte Clowes, senior designer at We Launch

Tanguy’s copy of Think Big

“I first saw this cover on Instagram and straight away it intrigued me. I read a bit about it and quickly decided to buy it. So it did the job it was supposed to do. It’s a mix of a direct and ambitious title with a bold and positive design. There is something almost default about it, like some 80s VHS tape packaging.

“I have always loved idea-based cover design, like the 70s Penguin covers designed by Derek Birdsall. They were often about complex and serious topics like inflation, poverty, ethnomethodology – but they looked exciting and approachable.

“The cover of Think Big does just that. The book is about behavioural science and its use in personal and career development. The content is engaging and inspiring in a very practical way. The cover design embodies that. Professional self-help books could easily look like they’re trying too hard to look clever. This cover celebrates colour and simplicity. It delivers a powerful message with very few elements. That’s when design is at its best. And the strangest thing for me, I don’t even know who designed it!”

David Tanguy, creative director and founder of Praline

Lewis’ copy of Peace, Love, and Pasta

“Peace, Love, and Pasta is a cookbook, with a cover designed by Heesang Lee. The playfulness of the pasta illustration is what caught my attention. Subtle details such as the pasta wrapping around the central point of the fork really add depth to the overall design. It’s interesting as most cookbooks tend to include food photography in their covers.

“Heesang uses a beautiful colour palette for the design, which allows you to break down the hierarchy of the design into digestible sections. On the light brown fork, a foil printing technique has been applied, which gives the design a distinctive look and feel.

“Using a hand scripted font on the ‘and’ allows the reader to focus more on the serif words, which are the core elements that bring the book to life. The back cover is an extension of the front, with the pasta illustration wrapping around. The content featured at the back sits on a clean graphic image which has the shape of a pasta cutter. These details really give the design a more coherent look and feel.”

Kieron Lewis is a graphic designer from London

Courtesy of Viking Books

“My favourite book cover is The Hike, written by Drew Magary and illustrated by Will Sweeney. I totally did the cliché and picked this up at the library solely based on the cover. I tend to gravitate towards illustration-forward design, the more oddball the better. I was immediately drawn to the quirkiness. A zombie? A cave cricket? What kind of hike are we talking about? I also have a funny affinity for crabs, being a Cancer I truly feel they’re my spirit animal – so I was sold. After reading, it just happened to become my favourite book.”

Rebecca Williams, design director at BrandOpus

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