George Orwell’s 42 different covers for 1984

As a self-published author changing your book cover for your ebook or paperaback can be daunting. You don’t have anyone to really compare yourself against; how often have the best sellers changed their covers?

If the cover works and the book sells, why change it?

There are a lot of different reasons, but today to help put your questioning mind at ease I want to share with you the many different book covers for George Orwell’s 1984. A classic, a trend setting piece of literature, ground breaking in its prophecy.

While you browse the book covers I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you guess when the book cover was published?
  • What part of the design tells you it’s from a particular era?
  • What parts of the design are trends, which are now considered unfashionable?

  • What does each book cover say about the book? Does it convey the message of what the book is about?
  • Is there anything on the cover which shows what the book is actually about? I.e.: Is there a literal image of what’s going on inside the book, on the outside, or is it more symbolic?
  • How do you think the book would sell with each different cover, in today’s publishing industry?
  • Can you find the one that was designed after the film release?
  • Can you find the one that was designed by Shephard Fairey, the designer who did the Obama Hope poster?
  • If these covers were shared in the self-publishing industry, what sort of feedback do you think other authors would share? “Is the title big enough for the thumbnail?” “Does it speak of it’s genre?” “Does it say enough about the book? Is it too different?”
  • What is your favourite cover, and why?

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This last book cover version is my favourite. It is a multi-layered concept designed by David Pearson, and this is what he says:

The new cover design is part of Penguin’s ‘Great Orwell’ series, a re-release of five of Orwell’s greatest works. Pearson and his team designed all five covers for the ‘Great Orwell’ editions, and although Pearson refers toNineteen Eighty-Four as the ‘risk taker of the series,’ each of the re-booted cover designs stands out as fresh and thought-provoking. When PSFK asked Pearson about the bold choice for Nineteen Eighty-Four, he told us his inspiration was ‘born out of altering/erasing the identity of the book,’ adding, ‘using classic Penguin livery – which everyone knows and understands – allowed for this sort of fun and games — I would argue that the idea wouldn’t work otherwise.’

This is why this book cover is my favourite, not just in this series but is in my top 5 across the board of book cover design:

  1. The concept: Penguin produces books that are considered classics, educational, and famous. THIS book in particular forces the reader to challenge their thinking, and the thinking of society around them. Pearson has used our real life experience with Penguin to transcend us into the book.
  2. By picking up the book to find out more we are going against group think and Big Brother.
  3. It is immediately eye catching and stands out amongst its competition.
  4. It is bold and intriguing
  5. It tells us what the book is about in simplest terms.

Even the most famous books go through major redesigns, from limited editions to scrappy high school paperbacks, from western culture design to European and Asian influences.

So when you think about if you should go for another redesign, ask yourself the same questions you asked when looking at the Orwell covers. Can you guess when the cover is published? Does it use trend style design, or is it timeless? Is it symbolic or literal, and what is more appropriate for your story?

 What are your thoughts on multiple cover design for a book? Should there be a limit, or different designs for different countries?


Comments 5

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  4. I agree with your take on the Penguin covers but my favorite would be the Penguin cover with one eye focusing on you through tunnel vision, in others word you can’t escape the ones watching you. I feel it captures the books main theme best but probably isn’t fancy enough for today’s crowd. Really though any of the eye themed covers or even the label man one would be fine in my opinion. As to should other countries have different covers? I don’t see why not as long as you don’t sensor or change the contents of his book.

  5. It would be nice to know a bit more about the covers, like year and place of the editions.

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