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Book cover trend: smoke spirals

Earlier today I came across Eva Maria Staal’s Try the Morgue, the design of which reminded me of John Green’s Looking for Alaska (review). I did a bit of browsing, and found that smoke spirals are a relatively popular design element. In general, the motif seems to be incorporated into otherwise simple designs; the colour palette is usually a pale smoke tendril on a dark background, although sometimes a light background is used as well.

Smoke as a design element does seem to work on a number levels. Visually, it’s ethereal and soft, adding texture and depth to what might otherwise be a stark image. In terms of its symbolism, you can take your pick, really, but there’s certainly a sense of life and death, transformation, disappearance or loss, spirituality or religious themes, and wish fulfilment, or lack thereof.

Below are some of the examples I found:

 Book cover trend: smoke spiralslooking for alaska john green Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals

These next few covers feature the “smoke” motif, but each with a different take. Warm Bodies (review) features a design that’s actually veins and capillaries, but that gives the sensation of smoke; You Wish incorporates the smoke into its title typography. The Leftovers, on the other hand, incorporates smoke almost as a subject, rather than an object or symbol.


Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion Book cover trend: smoke spirals Book cover trend: smoke spirals Book cover trend: smoke spirals

Update: Author Shirley Marr has suggested Please Ignore Vera Dietz for its interesting take on the smoke motif; reader Jason has suggested another, “smokier” version of the Warm Bodies cover:

 Book cover trend: smoke spirals Book cover trend: smoke spirals

Have you come across any smoky book covers in your travels? What are your thoughts on them?

9 comments

  1. Smoke is the new girl in a ball dress/headless girl/photo of a jar?

    Another interesting variation of the smoke theme: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King:

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6665671-please-ignore-vera-dietz

    • Stephanie /

      Oh, rats, you beat me to my post on jars. ;) I did have another current “trend” (or two) in mind, but this one caught my eye, so I thought I’d pop it up first. Cancer issues aside, though, I’d take this over a dead girl in a dress any day!

      Thanks for the AS King cover, too. It’s a striking composition, and definitely an interesting take on the idea. :)

  2. Jaime Lester /

    Hmm. I had never really considered smoke to be a regular occurrence on book cover, but reading your post changed my mind. I can remember several more covers now that have some form of smoke and something smoke- like on their covers. I like it. It is a very simple design but it can definitely evoke quite a few emotions or reactions. I am going to keep my eyes out for more smokey covers from now on. Thanks for the post!

    • Stephanie /

      My pleasure, Jaime! I’ve definitely seen plenty more that incorporate a hint of smoke, or some sort of smoke-like tendril into their covers, but I was surprised by how many there were that used simply the smoke spire theme. I wonder whether it’s partly to do with the shift to ebooks, where cover design has to be fairly simple in order to display well on a screen.

  3. So interesting! I will be on the look out for covers with the smoke theme!

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Susan! Let me know if you find any in your travels. :)

  4. in defense of four of the book titles you included, their titles did include the word ‘smoke.’ haha :)

    that said, the other cover for ‘Warm Bodies’ is smokier (?)
    http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/warm-bodies-book-cover.jpg

    :)

    • Stephanie /

      Ha, good point, Jason! And thanks for the other Warm Bodies cover–you’re completely right!

  5. Stella /

    Wow great catch! I’ve seen some of these at bookstores but never made the connection.

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