What's the deal with ths book cover?

There is a specific book cover that I’ve seen it used on several different books, changing only the color and the text. I stumbled across another one just now. Here is another one I found using Google’s “find similar images” thingy. Both of these are from the Columbia University Press, so I assume the several other titles I’ve seen are, too, but I’m wondering if anyone knows what those seemingly abstract images are, and why they reuse it so often. (Are the circles supposed to be plasmids, possibly?)

If no one here knows, you could always write to Columbia University Press and ask. When a bunch of books share a cover design, they’re usually part of a series. The series editor will have commissioned, or at least approved, the cover design, and will probably know if there’s a meaning behind it.

If you look at the back cover of the second example (in Google Books preview), you’ll find that they’re both part of the same series (“The Great Moments in Paleobiology and Earth History Series”). Serial non-fiction books are often published with identical or near-identical covers.

Yep, that explains the “why” if not the “what.” Here are 11 books with the same cover.

I think it’s just artsy-fartsy abstract art.

Looks like a stylized coelacanth tail to me.

The idea of “moments” (rather than “eons”) related to these topics entertains me.

Today we’re covering Tuesday Feb 23rd 232,097,866 BC, from 9:30 to 9:32. There’s a lot of material, so please pay attention.

Well, trilobites have just been done to death.

Seriously, if this series covers a lot of epochs, it would be difficult to pick any particular life form as being representative. So the art director might have thought an abstract image for the series would work best. And it is less important for this kind of book than for one sold in a bookstore, since no one is going to fork out a good bit of change for a book like this based on the cover.
The related books shows yet another one in the series with the same cover (different colors) and one with what looks like a trilobite on the cover - so maybe my joke above is correct.

It looks slightly fishlike to me - and maybe the cover means something to experts.

It doesn’t look like an object to me, it looks like a complex chart. I have emailed their publicity department, and perhaps will get an answer.

It’s like the O’Reilly animal covers only, like, prehistoric, man.

It looks to me like land meeting water - the squiggly lines in the middle representing water. A graphic designer buddy of mineuses a similar theme for clients that have something to do with water.

Fish, in my opinion. Tail on the left, head out of frame.

Close, it’s actually The Critical Moments and Perspectives in Earth History and Paleobiology series.

Looks like a fish to me, but also with a nod to B&W geological mapping.

I thought water’s edge and single cell prokaryotes with semipermeable membranes represented but see the fish too … and the different things to potentially interpret may even have been the intent of the artist.

I never did hear from those guys.

Because it would be a spoiler, obviously

I’m binging now–worked my way up to the tragic episode of “The Paleozoic Crisis (Life and Death in the Permian).” It was so sad–I cried when the ceratitid ammonoids didn’t make it.

It’s actually a combination of shapes that reprograms portions of your brain. In this case, the intent was to reprogram people to buy more books with that image on the cover. It’s just a test case to see how well the concept works while they try to remove the elements that makes a few reprogrammed people want to tear off their clothes and run screaming in the subway, which is viewed as counterproductive.

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said
Fifty people a day tearing off their clothes and running screaming in the subway. And friends they may think it’s a movement.

Apologies to Mr. Guthrie.

You could ask the cover designer directly…