Though they may appear very simple, intensive time and effort goes into plotting the jacket covers for intended blockbuster novels like Michael Crichton's Next. Today's backpage essay at the NY Times Book Review describes how over the past 30 years a whole design style has sprung up called "the big book look." The goal, according to the article, is to make the book "pop" with the cover "punched out and vibrant."
It's not just the editor, the editor in chief, the publisher, and the author who sign off on the final design, but often the lead fiction buyers at Barnes & Noble and Borders are also consulted. For Crichton's cover, Harper-Collins' designer Will Staehle spent a weekend reading the book and came back on Monday with the idea of an engineered monkey behind the iron cage of a bar code. "The dominant theme of the book is the sale of genetic material -- science for sale. This resolved the whole thing in one strong image."