Books have the ability to preserve the written word through space and time. However, often it is their covers that allow said books to remain in our minds. Of course, we shouldn’t judge books by their exterior, but since we all do it already, why not look through some of the most memorable, iconic, and well-designed book covers of all times?
If you’re thinking about how to create your own cover art, through the list below, you will find inspiration to make your own book cover design truly iconic.
And if you’re still strapped for a design, know that you can create a gorgeous, eye-catching book cover in just seconds with Placeit’s Book Cover Maker.
20 Iconic Book Cover Designs
1. The Great Gatsby (1925)
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cover Artist: Francis Cugat
Probably one of the most easily recognizable, memorable, and celebrated works of cover art there is. The Great Gatsby‘s book cover design, with a disembodied face on a blue background, is such a statement that it even influenced F. Scott Fitzgerald to write it into the novel.
2. The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Author: J. D. Salinger
Cover Artist: E. Michael Mitchell
The Catcher in the Rye is another American classic that has very distinctive cover art. In this case, it portrays a carousel horse in red and white, which makes an allusion to the various horse symbols that are present throughout the novel.
3. A Clockwork Orange (1962)
Author: Anthony Burgess
Cover Artist: David Pelham
Even though this isn’t the original cover, A Clockwork Orange‘s art references the novel’s main character, Alex, as he’s presented in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece based on the book. This is done in a minimalist way, but with loud intensity, which is very fitting for the character.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Author: Harper Lee
Cover Artist: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic among classics, so much so that it’s never been out of print. This means it’s had its fair share of book covers. However, this cover with a tree over a maroon background is probably the most well-known design for it.
5. Catch-22 (1961)
Author: Joseph Heller
Cover Artist: Paul Bacon
Minimalist design makes another appearance in this list with Paul Bacon’s Catch-22 cover art. Still, Paul Bacon had to illustrate around ten different ideas before this one was chosen to be the cover art for the book.
6. Psycho (1959)
Author: Robert Bloch
Cover Artist: Tony Palladino
In Psycho, the main character, Norman Bates, exhibits abnormal behavior due to a nervous breakdown. Its book cover design wittily and accurately depicts this psychotic break with cracked letters that run down the side of it.
7. The Godfather (1969)
Author: Mario Puzo
Cover Artist: S. Neil Fujita
The Godfather narrates the story of a mob family, headed by Don Vito Corleone. The Corleone family pulls the strings of the mafia business, making this book cover design very telling of what the story covers.
8. The Cat in the Hat (1957)
Author: Dr. Seuss
Cover Artist: Dr. Seuss
Children from all over the place, young and old, can easily identify this next piece of cover art. Dr. Seuss was a master of children literature, rhymes, and even illustrations, as can be corroborated with this iconic book cover design.
9. Look Who’s Back (2015)
Author: Timur Vermes
Cover Artist: Punch Design
Probably one of the most characteristic looks in history is that of Adolf Hitler. And, since this book narrates the return of this evil figure, its minimalist design takes advantage of this with a clever placement of the title to make it seem like his mustache.
10. The Bell Jar (1963)
Author: Sylvia Plath
Cover Artist: Bantam Press
This is the 1972 book cover of The Bell Jar, as designed by Bantam Press. The use of dark colors, as well as its portrayal of the wilted rose, is supposed to convey some of the heartbreak and bleak themes mentioned in Sylvia Plath’s text.
11. It (1986)
Author: Stephen King
Cover Artist: Jim Tierney
If you know anything about It by Stephen King, it’s probably that it involves a scary clown that terrorizes a group of children. And what better way to get readers scared right off the bat than to have a toothy, sinister clown grin with red accents as the book cover?
12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997)
Author: J. K. Rowling
Cover Artist: Mary GrandPré
The book that got every youngster reading in the late 90s is bound to have a memorable cover. In this US edition book cover design illustrated by Mary GrandPré, we can see Harry Potter engaging in a game of quidditch, which would become insanely popular itself.
13. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Cover Artist: Justin Kellis/KICK Design
This piece of cover art has loud, contrasting colors and squiggly lines that make up the face of an older man. This face could be easily interpreted as the story’s narrator who, in turn, can be viewed as Kurt Vonnegut himself, since the novel is thought to be semi-autobiographical.
14. Odyssey (8th Century BC)
Cover Artist: Penguin Random House
A classic book if there ever was one, Homer’s Odyssey has been printed a bajillion different times, and it’s had just as many covers. However, this one chosen by Penguin Random House is a detail of a black kylix that depicts Heracles fighting with Triton.
15. Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Author: Ray Bradbury
Cover Artist: Joseph Mugnaini
In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, books are censored, outlawed, and burnt, and with their destruction, society loses its ability to think critically. That’s why, in this cover, a man wrapped in text is being engulfed by flames, which makes for a pretty memorable book cover design.
16. Twilight (2005)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Cover Artist: Gail Doobinin
Though to many people Twilight is not a literary masterpiece, there’s no denying that its first cover is instantly recognizable. As per Stephanie Meyer, the intensely red apple makes an allusion to the forbidden fruit from the Book of Genesis, which is a metaphor for the main characters’ relationship.
17. All My Friends Are Dead (2010)
Author: Avery Monsen and Jory John
Cover Artist: Avery Monsen
An incredibly cute dinosaur with a troubled expression adorns the colorful cover of All My Friends are Dead. This perfectly sums up what the book is like: dark humor in a ‘children’s book’ format.
18. The Little Prince (1943)
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Cover Artist: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince is whimsical, charming, and delightful. Its cover art is no different, as it depicts the title character atop the distant asteroid that is his home. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aside from being the writer and a pilot (like the story’s narrator), also illustrated the book.
19. The Hobbit (1937)
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Cover Artist: J. R. R. Tolkien
And continuing with virtuoso writers who are also skilled illustrators, J. R. R. Tolkien. The cover references one of Middle Earth’s beautiful but difficult landscapes, which play a huge part in the journeys of Tolkien’s heroes.
20. The Da Vinci Code (2003)
Author: Dan Brown
Cover Artist: Doubleday
Last but not least, another cover that’s famous because of the book’s popularity: The Da Vinci Code. Nonetheless, its distinctiveness probably has a lot to do with Mona Lisa’s stare, which is peeking through in a dark, sinister, and cryptic way, not dissimilar to the book itself.
While there are millions of book covers to choose from, these are probably some of the most memorable, witty, and recognizable ones. Hopefully, you can gather inspiration from them to make your own iconic cover art, if that’s what you’re trying to do.
And remember, if you need a little bit of a push in the right direction, you can always turn to Placeit’s Book Cover Maker to create something beautiful and emblematic in a matter of seconds!