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