Come on. How bad are the Harry Potter covers really? Cheshire Dave has mixed feelings, but Felix Salmon hates ‘em and our own Sam Potts thinks they’re crap. Me? I’m just grateful that they put some effort into the interior design, and while the covers don’t thrill me I think they’re perfectly fine. The text and image are well-integrated, the style is consistent, and I have no problem with the custom typeface. Children’s literature has certainly enjoyed its share of gorgeous covers, but a cover that merely works is no small featand I think these covers work.
The book designs from my childhood that withstood the test of time include those of Shel Silverstein and Beatrix Potter, but I dearly loved plenty of hideous books and their “bad” cover art (see, for example, this sorry older edition of The Horse and His Boy). What, in the end, do you want out of these designs that they’re not doing? And what is your standard bearer for children’s book design?