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Art Graphic Design

Sci-Fi Book Covers

We all heard the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover. But I have the feeling that some designers might ignore this quote when they are creating book cover designs.

That’s why I’ve divided this article into two parts.

In the first part, you will find out why it is essential to design a book cover according to the specific book genre and how to achieve that successfully. In the second part of the article, you will discover my top 5 sci-fi covers and their aesthetic interpretation.

Here is the list of the best 5 sci-fi book cover designs:

  1. The Enceladus Mission by Brandon Q. Morris.
  2. Otaku by Chris Kluwe
  3. Planetfall by Emma Newman
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  5. A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole

Let’s get started!

Imagine you’re in a library or bookstore searching for a new book to read. In that case, you’ll probably pick out the one with the best-looking front design, and if it catches your eye, you’ll likely scan the backside and read the blurb.

It’s in human nature that we judge whether something is good or bad with the help of our senses. When food smells good, we tend to think it will taste good as well. On top of that, if it’s displayed pleasantly, it will make your mouth water!

In the case of books, it is impossible to judge whether a particular book is good or bad based on its smell, but we are drawn to the one with the most attractive cover. On the other hand, it’s quite likely that a novel with an unattractive design won’t land on your reading list.

When a writer commissions the design, they usually want to reflect some specific details from the story. In that way, he or she introduces their visual interpretation of the plot to the reader.

Having a nicely-created cover is especially vital for books from the fantasy or science fiction genre. These books especially need to be made artistically, as they often portray specific scenarios that are hard to imagine.

Designing a Cover Accordingly to the Genre

In the world of novels, there are many different genres available to the reader so that everyone can find a perfect one for their taste. Some love to read sci-fi novels. Others might like to read classic detective books like Sherlock Holmes, which trigger different emotions.

Are you a fan of both genres? No biggie, some writers masterfully combined either into one book. An example would be Philip K. Dicks book – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

If the writer’s job is writing a book that hooks a reader with the story, then a designer’s is to design a cover according to it and its genre. That’s why the best-designed books are the ones that capture the whole story into a single picture. When someone takes it from the shelf, they immediately get an insight into a plot hidden inside.

Although a book falls into a specific class, it doesn’t mean a designer needs to follow a graphic style connected to the genre pixel by pixel. There is always room for out of the box thinking.

Suppose someone can pull off a not generic design but at the same time lets the reader know what type of book he or she is holding in their hands. In that case, that is an example of a perfectly executed cover design.

Nonetheless, designers need to be mindful of their design process and create their work between the clients, design style, and content guidelines. Some might quickly wander off the right path and design a cover with no connection to the content or genre.

Sci-fi Book Cover Design Guidelines

If you look at the typical science fiction cover design, you would see many use bluish color shades, sharp lines, and neon glowing elements. All of these symbolize technological advancement.

Also, typography is always a big part of every design and needs to mirror the genre. There’s a whole category of sci-fi fonts such as Nebula that imminently give you the filing of futurism.

As mentioned previously, there is always room for artistic expression, and you will meet some in further examples.

Using Charters and Different Elements

Frequently designers place different elements and charters from the story. That helps a reader to imagine what type of world and characters were in the writer’s mind when he or she was writing a book.

But sometimes, the author doesn’t want to influence the reader’s imagination and commissions a design with elements that have no connection with the novel. In that case, designers might create a book cover using typography and background toped with some effects.

Now that we’ve covered a theory, let’s dive into the 5 best sci-fi book cover examples.

1. The Enceladus Mission by Brandon Q. Morris

The book is about a space journey to the Enceladus. One of Saturn’s moons, which happens after a rob probe detected an extraterrestrial life.

When a reader reaches for this book, they immediately sense that the story is happening somewhere in outer space.
Assume someone is unfamiliar with Enceladus’s word. In that case, they might recognize Saturn in the background, which hints that the story takes place somewhere near the mentioned planet.

Now that we’re already talking about Saturn, I must say that I fancy the plant’s fading effect that slowly disappears into the background. This gives the feeling that it is not the story’s central element, but it serves for orientation purposes.

Book cover of The Enceladus Mission by Brandon Q. Morris

Enceladus takes the lower third of the cover and makes it extremely visible with intense dark colors. Another element popping out from the book’s cover is the small human figure – the story’s main protagonist.

Even though it’s smaller than other objects on the cover, it certainly stands out because of its central position. An additional effect that intensifies an astronaut’s visibility is the contrast between the lighter, glowing background and the dark human body.

When you hold the novel in your hand, the dark color scheme instantly gives you a cold vibe. Moreover, the fog radiates the enigmatic feeling and makes you wonder what type of life is hiding on Enceladus.

The typography used here is one of the typical examples of the sci-fi category. Big, bold, monumental rounded corner letters connect beautifully with the picture’s overall spherical elements, from the stars to the Enceladus’s U shaped valley.

2. Otaku by Chris Kluwe

It was written by the former NLF player Chris Kluwe, and with the bright color combinations, this book screams at you to take it off a shelf.

The story rotates around the main character named Ash, a team leader of all-female online gamers, who translate their moves from the physical world to the digital with the help of hapspheres.
Let’s see how the cover design matches the plotline.

The most noticeable illustration is the portrait of the main protagonist – Ash, who takes two-thirds of the space. Thus the reader knows this character is important. The title might suggest that the name of the leading figure might be Otaku. Even though that is not the case, this word can be linked to her, considering that it’s used for someone obsessed with manga and anime.

Similarly, the bright color choice and the absence of soft shadows are usually used in the anime circles and were likely used as an inspiration for this cover illustration. Colors consist of four primary ones used in printing – cyan, magenta, yellow, and key.

Otaku by Chris Kluwe cover design

In the background, we can see the futuristic skyscrapers of Ditchtown, the place where the main character lives. Additionally, you can observe tech style designed circles that start behind the city and travel through the whole cover, giving the feeling of pulse/radiation. They act like the wi-fi symbol and symbolize online connection, tying together the real-world and the digital.

From the upper side of the cover, magenta tones start changing to cyan. A color that is commonly used in the tech space. The transition from one color to another deepens the symbolism of merging the physical and virtual worlds.

Both colors are used for the illustration of a protagonist as well. She’s mainly illustrated in magenta color – a representation of the real world and a few pinches of cyan that indicates the digital environment to which she’s slowly connecting.

In the intersection of both worlds, we can see the yellow portal, a representation of the gateway between the two.
The two different yellow tones create the impression of a tunnel. Along with that, the outer circle has a bluish stroke that represents the beginning of cyberspace.

The artist captured the exact moment when Ash touches the digital plane. As mentioned earlier, the cyan color indicates this connection.

Because she only tapped the digital playground and she’s not entirely consumed by it, her shape only has a small amount of blue outline. Contrary if she’d be already fully immersed in the cyberworld, her whole figure would be painted in blue color.

The only color that didn’t change on the character is her goggles’ hue, which remained pink. This color symbolizes the living person behind them.

We can also observe the eclectic lines that appear from the portal and create this action vibe, where anticipation rises before the tournament beginning.

The lettering used for the title is another prime example of typical sci-fi typography. You can notice sharp lines that are typically seen on computer components.

Matching color of portal and title Otaku, as previously mentioned, is used for geeks in Japan symbolizes the gateway of someone who is a regular person to somebody who starts playing online games.

Besides that, it makes it highly visible.

As mentioned before, this cover is a real attention grabber, and the designer included a TON of details in it.

3. Planetfall by Emma Newman

This is the first novel by Emma Newman in her four-book series, and from the sequence, I can say this one is the most beautifully designed.

The story revolves around the main character Ren who is an engineer/scientist. She is one of the first settlers who survived with the 3D printing technology.

As you can see, the graphic on the cover reflects the story. You can spot different three-dimensional items printed by the colony that they use for everyday life. All the objects are floating around. On top of that, the light grey color palette adds to this feeling of lightness.

Planetfall by Emma Newman sci-fi book cover design

The central character’s facial shape on the cover is created with the mentioned objects clustered together into different face features – ears, nose, and eyes.

The designer has placed another low poly layer underneath the smaller parts to make the Rens features more pronounced.
The low poly design merges into the grayness in some sections, but the main facial features stay intact.

Subtle polygon style also enriches the story because every three-dimensional object begins with a low poly mesh. The more surfaces you add to it, the more detailed it’ll become.

What do I mean by that?

Look carefully at Ren’s face. You will see it’s not created with a detailed polygon mesh. That could symbolize the new settlement’s rough world, where life is harsher than on the planet Earth.

Typography follows the main 3D design style. Red letters don’t have a lot of extruding effect applied to them so that they don’t outweigh the overall light color design.

Like in the previous examples, the designer decided to go with the font popular for this genre type.

4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

There are many different design variations of this book cover. We are going to look at the one that is designed only with the typography and red background.

But before we take a closer look at the design, let’s see what this book is all about and how the story matches the cover art.

The novel is about Jason Dessen, who has invented a device that is capable of creating a parallel universe according to the decisions he makes in his life.

I don’t want to spoil the story too much, so if you want to find out how those parallel universes affect the main character, be sure to grab this book.

Firstly we’re going to examine the typography used for the title.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch cover design

In the previous book cover examples, the titles were written with the wide capital height, and Dark Matter is not an exception. In this case, high letters mimic the stretching effect. Can you guess what type of force in the universe has the same impact? Black holes. When an object enters one, it stretches like spaghetti.

The title and author’s name is chopped/duplicated across the whole front cover, symbolizing the parallel universes that Jason created throughout the story.

In some way, it also has a form or a shape of a medical file cabinet, where a nurse searches between different medical records to find the one that matches the patient. This metaphor can be linked to the search for the right universe of our protagonist.

Along with that, chopped font gives the impression of traveling/moving and makes the whole book cover lively. The more you look at it, the more it wants to suck you in, in the same way as the black hole would.

The color combination of the red background and black font creates a real crowd-puller. Moreover, harsh color contrast symbolize the desire and difficulty Jason is facing when he is searching for the accurate universe. Where he could live with his wife Daniela and son Charlie.

This book cover is an excellent example of how a designer with a minimalist approach and without any additional illustrative elements transforms the story into a graphic. I can say this is a challenging task to achieve.

5. A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole

A Conspiracy of Stars is the first book of Olivia A. Cole. It has many different design elements that we can interpret.

First off, let’s see what the novel talks about.

The story follows the main character, Octavia. A 16 years old girl and descendant of the first people who, after their crash landing, inhabited and started exploring the planet of Faloiv and their natives called Faloii.

From the quick story summary, let’s dive into the aesthetic interpretation of the cover design.

When you first pick up the book, you instantly get a sense of secrecy that reflects the novel in which a reader can find multiple plot twists.

The book’s most prominent element on the cover is a flower that looks like a hybrid between the butterfly and flower. Besides that, blossoms are kind of flying from the bottom quarter of the cover. In this case, you can see the author’s or designer’s visual interpretation of the new planet’s flora.

A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole book cover

Around the alien-looking flower, two circular lines are orbiting around, which symbolize the Faloiv planet itself.

We can see the tech-looking circle in the background, which could be a symbol of entrance into the new world that the earth settlers fall into after their crash.

If you remember the first book cover example where we could observe the mist that intensifies the feeling of mystery; the same element appeases on this cover as well.

Both books’ also added the stars on the dark background that indicate that the story is happening somewhere in the universe.

One of my favorite design elements on this cover is the typography. The previous cases had the title and author written in a font style typical for the science fiction genre.

But not this one. The designer went for the serif font that is structured to mimic somehow the sound of mystery that I’m constantly talking about.

The letters in my ears sound like a sound coming out of a music box, and the whole effect is enhanced with the use of different size letters. The blur effect applied to them creates the third dimension’s visual perception. Various font sizes, combined with the blur effect, also illustrate the zero-gravity attribute of the universe.

In this cover design, we can also observe the greenish shades which symbolize nature. Simultaneously, as discussed above, those color combinations are usually tied to the sci-fi style.

I adore all the careful design elements which give the feeling of enigma and visually recap the novel content.

To Sum Up: Sci-Fi Book Covers

In this article, you’ve found out my top 5 science fiction book covers and their aesthetic interpretations. Besides that, I’ve presented you with the importance of different design elements, which triggers the readers’ right emotions and makes them curious about the novel content.

You can also find out more about the Best Romance Book Cover Designs in my article HERE.

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