Space is Scary

The quiet, the unpredictable, the invisible; why is the unknown so terrifying? Is it that in human morality we consider but don’t ever know ‘life after death’? The notion that maybe we are left with a blank space after we pass? The shock of nothing? No visible horizon to balance ourselves on?

Space often leaves us wondering ‘what’s next?’ The possible impending doom of a new chapter? The deathly quiet ambience of, well, nothing. As humans (and seemingly the most intelligent species on Earth), we continue to try and relate our existence to space. It can be seen as the ultimate creator of life and we continue to question why we’re here, and how to beat the metaphorical clock.

It’s scary; the idea of death, the idea of the end, the idea of no existence. And this is why space is so incredibly powerful. It’s loud, so vast, that we can’t even begin to comprehend it. We become confused by it, we can’t predict what’s next, if, anything at all.   

To me, the idea of space is the strongest asset a cover designer can have when designing for the horror genre. I don’t want to be able to predict the narrative. I want to digest a subtle hint of the story, feel scared not knowing what’s next, what my impending doom might be. I want to feel uncomfortable about the hum
of nothingness. White noise encapsulated on a single piece
of paper.

Here are some examples of cleverly crafted horror covers:

The second version of each cover encapsulates the feeling of horror in its purest form; suspense, loneliness, quiet (but not too quiet!). Unpredictable, the slight shadows give a sense of being watched. It’s amazing how a large amount of space can make somebody feel completely vulnerable. 

These covers all prove that so much more can be achieved in modern horror through a clever, poignant use of white space. Many horror novels decide to throw absolutely everything at the cover, and although this sometimes works, more often than not it will end up looking repetitive, boring and unauthentic, especially in our modern landscape. The excitement of horror is lost; which is a real shame given the scope of the genre.


Kerry Squires is a nonfiction book cover designer at Macmillan Higher Education.