Book Cover design trends in 2021

We start 2021 by looking at the trends in book cover design that we think will shape and define the year.

Click on each heading to view the Arcangel Images selection!


Designers often look for a sense of realness and authenticity in an image. It can be a sense of a moment captured, or a particular time and place being perfectly evoked.

Daily Settings

Images that evoke daily life and ordinary routines are relevant for many genres. We see frequent searches for residential settings and suburbia.

Mansions (Modern and classic)

Mansions, manor houses and villas are always in demand. This includes modern architecture as well as British stately homes and US colonial-era buildings.


Cover designs featuring swimming pools have been consistently popular in recent months.
They can suggest decadence, summer escapes, or something sinister beneath a surface.

Black Characters

Diversity is of huge importance in publishing right now and we are seeing more and more stories based on Black characters and perspectives. Demand for diverse models is only going to increase.

60s & 70s

The 1960s is always a popular search topic on our website but recently we’ve also seen demand for the styles and fashions of the 1970s.

Virus Outbreak

We are beginning to see experiences of the Covid pandemic reflected in fiction, as well as an interest in the lives and experiences of healthcare workers.


In literary fiction and thrillers, soft colours, big skies, water and cloud textures are all being used to create a sense of serenity – sometimes with a hint of menace.

Neon Colors

Punchy neon tones make for impactful covers. We’ve seen a number of designs making strong use of these colour palettes. 

Colored Authentic Vintage

Authentic vintage photography is another subject that is always in demand, but we are seeing a number of covers using colour (or colourised) vintage photography.


Duality is an enduringly popular concept in cover design, especially in the thriller genre. Mirror images and opposed or contrasting pairs are often employed by designers.

Double Exposure

Covers making use of double exposures continue to be very popular; it’s an effective way for a designer to pair a character with a concept or setting.


An intriguing recent trend is for cover designs based on fragments – perhaps one image divided up or a collage effect.

Always in demand

The following subjects appear very frequently in search terms on the Arcangel website…

  • Ethnic diversity, especially in children and teenagers, across all fiction genres.
  • Ancient Roman and Greek characters: warriors, battles, shields & weapons, badges…
  • Regency characters and settings, especially for romances and sagas: women, men and couples.
  • Victorian characters and settings: children, street urchins, and the underworld as well as adults of all social classes.
  • The 1920s (People and locations).
  • The 1940s & 1950s (People and locations).
  • First & Second World War themes: soldiers, badges, families, women in conflict, nuns, nurses…
  • Men/women/couples in contemporary lifestyle settings: shopping, having a coffee, walking the dog… Spontaneous and natural.
  • Groups of people, including family and social gatherings.
  • Body parts and details.
  • European cities: Paris, Rome, Berlin, London (People and locations).
  • US culture and lifestyle: streets, houses, city scenes, Americana (People and locations).
  • Middle Eastern culture: lifestyle, streets, landmarks, architecture (People and locations). 
  • Dark / atmospheric houses with a single light on.
  • Domestic settings / disturbance: houses, stairs, hallways, front doors, broken objects…
  • Water.