Yellow is the New Black

No, it’s not the blue-or-gold dress illusion again, you’re really seeing more golden hues and mellow yellows. Over the past several years, we’ve seen a spike in yellow book covers – canary, straw, you name it. Why the surge in brightly-colored reads? Amazon’s dominance in the book selling arena and some savvy psych tools may have something to do with it. 

Amazon, which holds roughly 45% of the book selling market, holds debatably even greater sway in the publishing world. For online shoppers, the touch and feel of a book won’t hook their wallet, but a bright cover will – and publishers everywhere are shifting their design schema to suit this massive audience of readers.


 Just one of many golden covers


“Everything gets simplified to what the eye can see at one inch. That can be the size of the graphics, the colors, the amount of detail,” executive art director at Random House, Robbin Schiff, told the Wall Street Journal. The more shoppers online, the greater the attention to design, and the greater the demand to visually please (and visually seduce) buyers. A huge factor in sexing up a book cover is contrast according to Schiff and other designers. While black and white is a bit drab, levels of contrast that near it are extremely stimulating, making yellow the godsend to the online book market.

And contrast is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cover design tricks. Have you noticed all those oh-so-pleasing minimalistic covers of recent years? Simple forms on a cover let the background color pop through, causing the visual to appear more vibrant and and your wallet to tingle with joy. Various shades of yellow can be used according to genre – deeper for thrillers and mysteries, lighter for well, lighter reads – and a nuanced tone for everything in between. Apparently, this design template of bright and bare is effective. Crazy effective.

Yellow-covered books like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Brief History of Seven Killings, and The Power of Habit, are all award recipients and chart toppers. This year, several esteemed books like Coconut Cowboy and Miss Fortune will also make their debut in yellow.



Of course, readers aren’t flocking to buy books like moths to a light because of the vibrant covers. The books are well written and enjoyed for all that stuff inside. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to have something pretty to look at after you finish a chapter, or a nice minimalistic design to draw your eyes down as you cradle your book on the subway. Maybe it’s the yellow fever already taking hold, but we’re okay with brighter covers and bookshelves full of yellow.


Featured image courtesy of Wall Street Journal.