A lot of authors want their book’s title to be big and readable at thumbnail size (which I covered here), and they also want their covers to have some unique artistic element. Often they approach it as an either/or situation. How can I have giant title type without covering up this awesome custom illustrated scene? But here’s the thing:

Using the type of your cover as the artistic element itself can be a really effective approach.

The visual ways in which we present words can have a lot more nuance, power, and personality than most people realize. Just as writing a book isn’t a matter of sticking some words on a page and calling it a day, designing a cover is not just sticking the title on a pretty picture. The style of font or lettering used, the size and placement and color- those all play into the first visual impression that your book makes. And depending on your book and audience, a well-done type treatment might be all that your cover needs.

Take a look at some of these great examples*:

To think of a type-only cover as somehow limiting would be a mistake. Clearly, even within this niche of cover approaches, there is a wide range of styles and genres represented. It’s worth considering whether it would be a good fit for your book.

Here are a few questions to ask concerning the use of type as your cover’s art element:

  • Can your type convey an essential component to the book? (Room, drawn in crayon, as the story is told from the POV of a 5 year old)
  • Can your use of type visually reinforce a central idea in the book? (The Brand Gap, or The Shallows)
  • Would using type as a textural element make sense? (7 Days, or Tease)
  • Would flat type, or type with more depth/detail work better for your book? (the relatively sleek and plain letters of Me Before You vs. the texturized and randomized look of No Country for Old Men)
  • How does this specific type (shape, size, etc.) fit the tone of the book? (Push has a very different visual tone than The Lowland, or Grace Williams Says it Loud)

Asking these questions when you approach your cover can at the very least inspire some new ideas, even if you don’t use a type-only design in the end.

What do you think: are you a fan of type-only covers?

*I kept it strictly to type-only covers for this post. There are also a LOT of great covers that combine great typography like this with small illustrative or photographic details that enhance it (particularly in certain genres and YA), but I wanted a clearer selection of examples.

Need more help brainstorming cover ideas?

I’ve got a list of questions for you to work through and talk about with your designer. Check out 50 Questions from Your Novel’s Cover Designer.