6 of the Best Dystopian Book Cover Designs 

POSTED ON Jan 31, 2024

Althea Storm

Written by Althea Storm

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Apart from fantasy, dystopian novels are where you meet some of the most intricate characters living in an elaborate, vivid, and often mind-bending world. These characters and worlds are often a metaphor for the world we live in today, the ideologies we grapple with, and the decisions we have to make. And that’s why authors of dystopian novels mull over what their book covers would look like. 

The visual appeal of a book cover can elicit emotions, set the tone, and offer a glimpse into the dystopian universe awaiting readers within its pages. From hauntingly minimalist designs to striking imagery that mirrors the societal unraveling within the story, the best dystopian book cover designs complement and enhance the gripping narratives they encase. 

In this article, we’ll explore the 6 best dystopian book cover designs and why they’re so great.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

dystopian book cover designs 1984 george orwell

When you think about classic dystopian novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984) by George Orwell is probably the first to come to mind. Because of the utter genius of this book, it has had many book cover design iterations (most of which feature a single eye), but the one pictured above is one of the most striking ones. 

On the cover, we see a single eye set inside an upside-down triangle that’s hanging over the silhouette of a dystopian-looking city. Surrounding the eye in the triangle are helicopters and missiles. If you’re in the United States of America or you’re familiar with Egyptian mythology, you’ve likely heard of (or seen) the Eye of Providence, or the All-Seeing Eye, which alludes to the existence of an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Supreme being. 

This depiction accurately encapsulates the totalitarian society of Oceania in 1984, which is ruled by the Party and its leader, Big Brother, who controls everyone’s lives. The protagonist, Winston Smith, who’s a low-ranking member of the Party decides to rebel against the omnipresent eyes of the Party and Big Brother. The novel explores themes of surveillance, manipulation, and the consequences of unchecked governmental power. 

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 

the handmaid's tale margaret atwood

One of the most poignant tales of recent times, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, is a dystopian novel set in the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic society where fertility is rare. The story follows Offred, a Handmaid, as she navigates a world where women are reduced to roles based on their reproductive abilities. 

While the book cover, which is interestingly sparse, doesn’t quite tell you how bad things are in Gilead, you do get a sense of foreboding the longer you look at it. It boils down to two things: color and style. The colors black and red often signify negative elements like danger, anger, aggression, and violence. 

As for the style, the silhouette of the handmaid is set against the solid black. There are no elements in the background to give it more “life” and the handmaid’s face is concealed by her white bonnet—a testament to how women are not considered full, autonomous beings in Gilead. 

The novel explores themes of oppression, gender politics, and the impact of religious extremism on individual freedoms. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Spirals generally have a way of hypnotizing people, making them feel like they’re being drawn deeper into the center. This one is no different—especially with its warm red overtones and cool blue undertones positioned over a dark background. 

Presumably, as you look at the cover, your eyes slowly mull over the words, “Brave. New. World” until they reach the spiral’s center (which is really on the bottom left corner of the cover) where there’s a somewhat simple illustration of the globe. When you look closely at the globe, you see the two airplanes settled in the whitespace—and now you start to wonder what’s happening in this world. 

As you might’ve guessed, the airplanes signal technological and biological advancements, which in this futuristic World State city of London, have eliminated conflict and suffering. Through science, citizens are conditioned to be emotionless, compliant, and agreeable to the class system to which they’re all subject. Just like the spiral on the book cover, you quickly learn as you follow the story of protagonist, Bernard Marx, that the happenings in this World State city get even more sinister the deeper you dive. 

Marx questions the dehumanizing consequences of a society driven by pleasure and conformity. The novel explores themes of freedom, individuality, and the cost of sacrificing humanity for a utopian vision.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Pictured here is one of the covers of Book 1 of the Maze Runner trilogy, which has since been adapted into a movie series. If you’ve read the books or seen the movies, then you know that it’s about a young protagonist named Thomas who wakes up in a mysterious glade surrounded by a massive maze with no memories of who he is or why he’s there. In the glade, Thomas discovers a community of people who’ve been trying to navigate the ever-changing maze while being pursued by deadly creatures. And just like that, Thomas is part of the rat race as he tries to unravel the secrets of the maze and find a way out. 

Now, if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, this book cover (plus the book’s title) will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. As you know now, dark backgrounds are eye-catching, but this cover takes it to a new level by embedding the necessary visual details within the font of the title. So within the letters that make up “The Maze Runner”, you see the tall, spiked, and terrifying walls of the maze and the silhouette of Thomas trying to run through them and get to the other side (which you only get a small glimpse of). 

This book cover piques your interest and you ask yourself, “What happens next?” Did Thomas and the others find a way out? If they did, what’s on the other side? Why were they put there in the first place — and by whom? Do they get their memories back? To what end? 

The novel combines elements of mystery and survival as the characters face challenges to escape their confined and perilous environment.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

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What’s the first thing you feel when you look at this book cover? 

Sure, the answers will vary depending on who’s looking at this, but I think you may feel as though you’re becoming privy to a secret meeting between two people—one of whom is imparting something to the other. The darkness surrounding the edges of the cover pushes your attention to what’s happening in the center oval. You’re seeing something that they normally shouldn’t know about—which is the point of the novel. 

The Giver is about a seemingly ideal society that suppresses emotions and memories to maintain order. The story revolves around twelve-year-old Jonas who’s selected to be the Receiver of Memories. As he undergoes training from the Giver, Jonas discovers the dark truth about his community’s controlled existence and the price of sacrificing individuality for a seemingly harmonious society. 

The novel explores themes of conformity, free will, and the importance of memories in shaping human experience.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

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This book cover does the inverse of the other covers on this list: putting a dark object against a bright-colored background. In this case, it’s the dark silhouette of a hand against a solid red background; the hand has what looks like electric sparks rippling through it. 

You might guess, from the cover, that in the society where this dystopian novel is set, select people have the ability to electrify others—and you’d be right! The premise of the novel is that women and girls suddenly develop the ability to release electrical jolts from their hands. This new power leads to a reversal of gender dynamics as women become the dominant and oppressive force. 

The narrative unfolds through multiple perspectives, highlighting the societal, political, and personal consequences of this newfound power. This novel delves into the intricacies of power, gender, and the complexities of human nature, challenging traditional notions of authority, and the potential for abuse when power dynamics are altered.

Take Inspiration from the Best Dystopian Book Cover Designs

And there you have it—a breakdown of the best dystopian book cover designs. If you’re a science fiction author, you can take inspiration from these designs to make your own book cover. While most of the covers on this list have dark backgrounds, you can choose to do something different — just like Naomi Alderman did for The Power. 

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Althea Storm

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Althea Storm

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