Whether on your kitchen counter or sitting on a shelf, coffee packaging and books are both items that can be displayed if well-designed. For books, there’s even a specific word for taking photos of an aesthetically pleasing shelf of personal items—the shelfie, which has been used on social media since the early 2010s.

Is there an intersection of design trends in these two worlds as well? Looking at book covers and illustration trends in the publishing world, we can compare those trends to coffee design and see where the next trends could be going. Shared elements and similarities are all over these eye-catching formats, so grab your coffee and a good book and let’s dive in!

coffee and book design thriller paperback covers leah bowman

Graphic design concepts like typography, color, and contrast are frequently used in creating both book covers and coffee packaging. Coffee brands aim to create a feeling or build a certain atmosphere with bold designs. Whether it’s merchandised in a cafe or listed on an e-commerce website, coffee packaging is often shown on a neutral or light-colored background. Strong design elements and solid colors help the branding stand out.

Visual techniques like bold type, bright colors, and high contrast are good at grabbing your attention in this environment. But even with these obvious advantages, is it still a fleeting trend? Coffee packaging didn’t always look this way. Remember the plain brown paper look?

Called kraft paper (the spelling comes from German), this style was a dominant trend in the 2010s, also when flat-bottomed 4-corner bags first came on the coffee scene. It’s a type of paper made from cellulose that is versatile and strong due to how it’s produced. Pouch-style resealable bags jumped from pet treats to coffee and followed a plain, inconspicuous look.

But now, things are a bit different. Many coffee brands use bold text and bright colors to draw attention to their name and differentiate their coffee products. It can also help to explain the product to consumers in a few short words, like Third Wave Water’s products to balance water chemistry for optimal coffee brewing.

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coffee and book design new fiction covers leah bowman

Book covers are amping up design, too. Over the last five years, color trends have pushed hue and saturation to the max, resulting in the “unicorn frappuccino cover,” according to writer Alana Pockros, referencing that notorious Starbucks drink. Neon colors or abstract backgrounds with a bold centered title are common. These vibrant styles are a throwback to ‘80s and Y2K fashion and design. Bright ’80s colors influenced fashion in 2023 as well.

Typography styles that are on trend include covers with little or no text hierarchy. No text hierarchy can appear in different ways, from a wall of letters to simply having the title and author listed with equal prominence. Several of the books on Lit Hub’s 2023 best books list use the same typeface, size, and weight for the title and the author. This style is popular no matter what kind of typeface is used, and we can see examples of serif, sans serif, and marker fonts.

coffee and book design big type packaging designs

The use of contrast often shows up in book covers with distinct examples depending on the genre. Pop art design and bright colors are used for mainstream fiction, and dark and moody concepts with high-contrast text are often used for mystery and thrillers. Peep the eye-popping colors and glossy high contrast in the Goodreads 2023 Best Fiction nominees.

As trends move faster, there will be a move away from concepts that quickly look dated, like certain typefaces or detailed photorealism. It’s also likely that color trends will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, as is seen in the fashion industry.

Designers are starting to move away from cursive or script typefaces. One reason for this change is that younger generations can’t read them. This strategy might be a good thing for design longevity since script and “marker” style typefaces have been short-lived trends in the past. Fonts with flourishes or script-like details can look dated fast because they are so easily recognizable. Anyone remember seeing Lobster all over everything?

coffee and book design lobster typeface 1001 fonts
via 1000fonts.com

Script styles are also not recommended for accessibility. They can be hard to read for people with vision disabilities or dyslexia.

Photorealism and effects like pencil sketches of people and landscapes have often been used in coffee packaging and sometimes on book covers. This trend has been around for a while and will probably fade out in the future.

Using more abstract or graphic styles produces a more relatable image for a wider audience. Leaving design ambiguous may also be more engaging than making it direct and unequivocal. With books, readers often enjoy imagining characters in their own way, as people or characters who are familiar to them. Coffee is also a similarly subjective sensory experience, with some coffee drinkers perceiving specific tastes, flavors and textures while others don’t.

coffee and book design colorful or abstract packaging designs

As we’ve seen, the ’80s and early 2000s are already present in current graphic design trends in coffee and the literary world. Along with fashion, trends seem to be moving even more towards Y2K. Styles might develop into more use of metallic and futuristic colors, or low-contrast and muted “minimalist” designs.

coffee and book design futuristic design inspiration

There will still be variation among genres, but we can expect to see innovative design and packaging styles along with classic approaches. Grocery store coffee bags will still love the color brown, with specialty coffee brands leading the way creatively. Book covers will display a range of design styles, with fiction titles driving the trends, and non-fiction making more minor tweaks to the tried and true styles.

Leah Bowman is a freelance journalist based in Canada. This is Leah Bowman’s first feature for Sprudge.

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