I’ve spent the last two years studying the typography and design of science fiction movies for Typeset in the Future, available in all good bookstores now from the lovely folks at Abrams. My studies have given me huge respect for the worlds these films create—their feats of visual storytelling are nothing short of amazing, creating cinematic visions of imagined worlds for which every detail must be realized on screen.
I was intrigued, therefore, when Tor.com invited me to apply the same approach to classic science fiction novels. These books, I’ve come to realize, have an even greater challenge to overcome when visualizing their future. A novel has just a single wraparound opportunity to picture its imagined world. Done well, a great sci-fi cover can seed an entire universe of visuals in a reader’s imagination, giving the brain’s internal SFX department all the material it needs to extrapolate during reading. Let’s take a look, then, at the design and typography of five classic cover designs—and how they bring their imagined worlds to life.