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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Frank Herbert’s Dune Book Cover Progression

By Maisie Jane Garvin, Beccy Fish, Juliette Tulloch and Giulia Caparrelli

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that the movie adaptation of Dune starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson came out in October. Dune is the first instalment in a high fiction, science fantasy series written by Frank Herbert. The novels are set in the distant future, amidst a feudal interstellar society. Published first in 1965, the book series has been around for decades and it is no wonder that it has seen a vast array of covers. In this issue, we have decided to talk about some of our favourites across the years, to get all of us involved with the movie hype.

This stunning front cover of the deluxe, hardback edition of Dune was published by Penguin in 2019. The man behind the cover art, illustrated endpapers and dust jacket of this edition is Matt Griffin, an award-winning illustrator, animator and author from Ireland. Describing the work for Dune as a “bucket list job”, it is clear that Griffin worked hard to create an image that correctly represents the narrative, with both the desert and galaxy aspects of the story incorporated into the cover.

For the 50th anniversary edition, Francis O’Connell created one of the more minimalistic covers, with the silhouette of the sandworm creating the cave illusion, opening onto the sandy plains. The nude tones match the barren sands of the planet with the soft browns of the other planets in the distance. The serif typography is common amongst the sci-fi genre, making it easily identifiable within the category. Because the book was adapted for film, the title is prominent to be easily recognised by movie fans. The movie’s success unfortunately makes Herbert’s name more irrelevant now, which is why his name typography is so small.

No doubt to mark the release of the new film adaptation, a stunning new gift edition was released in September 2021 from Orion by SF Masterworks. Complete with detailed sprayed edges, gold foiling, a bold choice of purple and a quote from Paul Atreides that adorns the back cover, this special edition leaves nothing out. Inside, the endpapers are illustrated with the classic depictions of the infamous sandworms and the orange tones of the sand dunes. The simple yet striking line work echoes the current book cover trends that are pushing for less is more in tandem with bold colours.

The current United States paperback editions of Hebert’s series, published by Penguin imprint, Ace, in 2019, features striking orange tones and an unusual vertical title placement. Gone are the days of photographs and detailed faces, as now there are abstract shapes and block colours – similar to commercial fiction in the current charts, such as The Book of Two Ways and The Mountain Sings. Jim Tierney is the designer and illustrator of this new edition for the series, which focuses on the dunes of the planet Arrakis and its important production of spice, unlike some of the earlier cover designs.

For one of the earliest covers, John Schoenherr took on the challenge to attract the first wave of readers in 1965, winning the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Here the dusty, tanned colours are heavily established to construct the world within the book. The display of the sandworm is a powerful element to indicate the theme of the novel and intrigue those into understanding the creature. Being one of the older covers, the typography is not as striking compared to covers produced in later editions. Interestingly, Frank Herbert’s name is the most imposing piece of text, whereas the title is tucked away in the corner.

This special leather hardcover edition was published by Barnes & Noble in 2013. The style is minimalistic in the way the iconic dunes and planets are portrayed in two-colour illustrations. At the same time, the intricate, decorative frame that encloses the scene also echoes a more traditional design that reminds of old fairy tale books. This very resemblance to an older tradition seems to be making an explicit statement, granting Dune the renowned status of a classic.

In 2016 Penguin Classics commissioned the design of its new sci-fi/fantasy series “Penguin Galaxy” to artist Alex Trochut. The design is bare, highly typographical, seemingly inspired by the industrial design of the Bauhaus school. The colour palette used evokes the sandy colours of the story’s setting, whereas the concentric lines of the letters somehow recall the idea of different planets intersecting. The title of the book becomes the design itself, reaching maximum abstraction on the back cover: the letter “D” is rotated by 90 degrees to create the word “Dune.”

Which one is your favourite?



Melissa Monahan
Melissa Monahan
Feb 27

Well I guess I have three favorites-both of the 2019 versions shown as well as the 2013.


P Dach
P Dach
Jun 15, 2023

The 90's version with a mainly black cover and a rectangular window showing a dune and two tiny figures. Really put Arrakis and their journey in perspective.

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