3 Haruki Murakami book cover designers you might like

Charmaine Esmeralda
6 min readJul 6, 2020


As a designer and an avid Haruki Murakami reader, I pride myself on obsessing with not only the stories within his novels but also with the covers of each book I’ve ever gotten. They said to never judge a book by its cover but clearly those people just simply want to neglect the value of design in literature. I probably have read through 90% of Murakami’s novels and have amassed at least 2–3 copies of the same book with different covers. What can I say? I’m a sucker for beautifully-designed print. In this post, I’d love to share the works of the 3 designers I love who have designed some of the most amazing covers for Murakami.

Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd is a contemporary American graphic designer, author, and editor. He is best recognized as a graphic designer for book covers. (source)

He is one of the first designers I’ve come to know from art school and has been a graphic design inspiration. I can proudly say I have a few of the covers he designed for Murakami in my library.

The thing I love about Chip Kidd’s designs is the overall art direction. Every cover is as mysterious as the stories within it. However, upon reading into each novel, the covers start to make so much sense and therefore give it more meaning and substance.

I remember watching his Tedtalks in art school and being so excited while the rest of the class had no idea who he is. It was fascinating to hear him speak about his work with Murakami and explain his book design process.

In the video, he talked about 1q84 which has a striking cover with the multi-faceted (cover pages and jacket). As I read the book, the cover really unraveled a lot of mysteries from the 1200+ page story. There are pages in chapters, introduction, and the last few pages where a photo of the moon and the sky are printed all over which (if you have read the book, would make total sense). Not only does the cover supplements the story with a succinct expression but the entirety of 1Q84’s design is very well-thought of and intricately symbolic. What I discovered is the inversion of the page numbers, on some pages, the numbers are inverted which suggests a lot of symbolism from the story and the universe the characters reside in.

Another favorite Chip Kidd cover I love is The Strange Library. Correction, I love the entire book’s design which he creatively directed once again. The texture of the book gives you a very nostalgic feel while visually communicating the story within the book. It is more of a graphic novel than your typical Murakami story. Each page is sublime and such an engaging read. I’m in so much awe that I own two copies of it. When it was first released I wasn’t entirely sure that it was Chip Kidd’s design since a lot of this vintage style is done by John Gall. However, it was overall a visual treat.

John Gall

John Gall is a designer, artist, author, editor, and teacher. He is currently the creative director of Abrams Books. His design and illustration work for Vintage Books, Alfred A Knopf, The Criterion Collection, and The New York Times have been recognized by the AIGA, Art Directors Club, Print, Graphis, and American Illustration. (https://www.montclair.edu/calendar/view-event.php?id=51889)

Kafka on the shore is the first Murakami book I’ve ever picked up. I was very enamored by the cover when I first saw it at my local Barnes and Noble. Ever since that moment (2013) I have been reading Murakami obsessively and have been collecting every John Gall cover design.

Something about this vintage Japanese magazine, almost half-tone, old matchbox quality to it that tugs my heart and soul. It felt like you can smell the old, dusty remnants of the simple past through these covers.

John Gall’s design is a true work of art in terms of its vintage modern style. He has been doing collages for various book covers and for The New York times books.

After a few years of these vintage-style covers, he did a sort of revamping of the entire Haruki Murakami book collection which consisted of abstract lines, geometric patterns, Arial Rounded typeface of some sort, over colorful gradients and textures. It is a completely modern take indeed.

All of the books together seems to create a strange narrative about the inter-connections of each book. However, I guess I’m just very much in love with vintage designs.

Suzanne Dean

Suzanne Dean is a creative director at Vintage. I honestly haven’t heard of her before until I found this other design of Killing Commendatore. There’s a lot of challenges in making a very abstract book cover as a lot of us will try to make sense of it.

Upon reading her process with this alternate version of the cover, I’m just truly fascinated with the use of calligraphy brushes and how the colors are visually pleasing and symbolic. I guess overall that’s the concept of abstraction right?

In the story, the narrator has gone back into painting abstract so the playfulness of the story is very reflective of Suzanne Dean’s design. Chip Kidd designed the first version of this cover but there’s something about this experimental style that is a great depiction of duality of the literal and the abstract. The more I think of it, the more it makes more sense and it transports the reader to the story. If you have read the book, this cover is purely nostalgic and properly captures the narrative of the story and the main character.

I have seen a lot of versions of Murakami’s books especially when I was in Japan.
Every cover depicts how each reader and designer perceives the book. Whether it’s a hardcover or paperback, trust that I will always invest in these prints. The design takes a lot of strategic thinking to properly visually communicate a message so props to Chip Kidd, John Gall, Suzanne Dean, and all the other designers for giving Murakami’s books a cover that does the stories real justice.