Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Futura in YA titles

Here’s a post on covers of YA novels. The post covers the EVERYTHING IS BLACK phase, the girls-in-ballroom-gowns phase, the drowned-girl phase, and the illustrated cover phase, ongoing now.

The post then moves on to discuss the current trend for very large centered titles that take up a lot of the cover, in sans sarif fonts, especially (I guess) Futura. Also that the titles are not tilted and there is no drop shadow.

Like these:

The argument is that these titles are easier to read in thumbnail form than sarif titles, titles with drop shadows, smaller titles, etc. Although plausible in theory, I would like to point out that this cannot be the reason.

Of the 24 covers presented above, at least 7, which is roughly a third, have titles that are hard to read. The only ones that are really easy to read are the ones where the titles do not walk down the entire vertical cover and also WE USED TO BE FRIENDS, where the background is ultra simple.

WATCH OVER ME is one of the hardest, as the pale letters wash out against the pale background colors. The blue letters of ALL OUR WORST IDEAS is tough to read against the blues of the cover. The “here” in YOU WERE NEVER HERE is nearly invisible to a first glance.

Go back and look at YOU WERE NEVER HERE. Did you see the girl’s face at first? Am I the only one who didn’t see the face at all to begin with? Just curious. To me, perhaps because I was looking at the title, it was just blurred background colors until suddenly the face appeared.

But that’s not the point. The point is, are those titles really easier to read than this one?

In this cover, the title is big, but very much sarif, and confined to the bottom of the cover. As the letters are pale against a dark background, and the title is all in one place and you don’t have to search for it, I’d say the title is a lot easier to read than many of the ones above.

Here’s another:

Yellow against yellow, but the drop shadow, specifically noted as absent in all the examples above, makes these letters stand out. They are front and center, but not floating in front of an image. Also, putting the title in one confined place makes it easy to find and read. This title is a hundred times easier to read than most of the ones that are supposedly made to be easy to read.

Here’s another:

The title is small, confined to the bottom of the cover, and SO much easier to read than the ones that come down the middle of the page.

No, as far as I’m concerned, readability at thumbnail size CANNOT be the reason for the trend in title size, font, and placement in those covers. That is therefore just another trend, like the Drowned Girls trend … which I notice has not entirely ended. Three Drowned Girls out of 24 — if the girl in WATCH OVER ME isn’t underwater, then what’s with her hair? — and if she’s drowned, then that’s 12.5% Drowned Girl covers. I would be fine if that trend ended at once. I’ve never seen the appeal.

I also don’t see the appeal of dropping the title a word at a time down the entire front of the book. As I conclude that’s just a trend, I can hope the trend will become soon become less prevalent.

One final note: I missed this at first, but one of those covers above is by Elizabeth Wein — THE ENIGMA GAME. I’m glad to see that one has a title that is easy to read. Here’s the description:

Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something — anything — to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can’t anticipate.
Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code. Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie must work together to unravel a puzzle that could turn the tide of the war — but doing so will put them directly in the cross-hairs of the enemy.

This story is connected to Code Name Verity. It’s not quite out, but nearly — scheduled for release in early November. Just thought I’d point that out, as surely some of you are fans of Elizabeth Wein, as I am.

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5 Comments Futura in YA titles

  1. Pete Mack

    Um. I count 4.
    Vanishing Derp, er Deep
    Watch over me
    We are the Ashes, we are the Fire–despite the title, the imagery is all drowned girl
    We Were Restless Things
    That is 16.7%

    And extra kudos to Children of Virtue and Vengeance for turning the motif on its head.

  2. Pete Mack

    Oh yeah, and extra thumbs down to Vanishing Derp for totally ripping off the cover from Malinda Lo “Adaptation.”

  3. Rachel

    Pete, you’re right! We are the Ashes does have the drowning girl thing. I guess I missed it because I was focusing on the title and the title implies anything but drowning. Round it up to 17% and wow, that’s a lot of drowning girl titles. I really do not understand why that motif is so popular.

  4. Herenya

    I first read this blog post on my phone and I opened up my computer to type this rely. Interestingly, some of these covers’ titles were MORE readable on my phone, when the image were even smaller.

    Like: We We Were Restless Things. In a small thumbnail, the title jumped right out at me. But when the cover is larger, it’s the hand which draws my eye and I’m finding it harder to focus on the words. I have a similar reaction to Everything I Thought I Knew, too.

    These days I’m more likely to first see a book as a thumbnail on a screen, and I’ve noticed that covers with larger text and plainer font are more often still be readable when the thumbnails get really small. But sans serif font isn’t the only way to go. Looking at books I’ve read recently with covers set to the smallest size, there were several titles in serif or cursive that are perfectly clear. One of them was Tuyo.

    I have read The Engima Game! The UK cover has serif font, which looks great in person and not so much as a thumbnail, but I think that’s due to a lack of contrast.

  5. Rachel

    Herenya, how interesting! I’ll have to look at those on my phone and see if they seem clearer to me too at that size. It honestly didn’t occur to me that they might be clearer at a very small size compared to a small size.

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