Chip Kidd: Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.

Since I was doing research about my picture book project for my MA study, and I was excited to find this video from TED. I truly enjoyed this clip, not merely Chip Kidd‘s experience sharing, but also appreciate his great sense of humor. Kidd is an American graphic designer, best known for his unconventional book cover designs for novel, graphic novel and biographic. Some of his famous book designs include Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, David Sedaris’ Naked, Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha, Haruki Murakami’s 1q84, even his own book A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, etc.

I learned quite a lot from his selfless sharing. He always asked himself a question before designing a book cover – “what do the story look like?” The stories all need to look like something and this is the first impression to get us into. He emphasizes that “a book designer gives form to content, but also manages a very careful balance between the two.” One of the things he learned from design school is that it is fine to show either an apple’s image or ‘apple’ text on design, but it is not good to show both of them at the same time. Showing both image and text will only result treating the audience like moron.

Kidd summarizes that a book designer’s responsibility is threefold: to the reader, to the publisher, and most importantly to the author. A good designer has to be an interpreter and a translator to the story itself. One of his examples is that he made the book cover ‘lying’ to the audience by applying the ‘opposite of Type 101’. By implementing ‘wet’ effect on the book cover entitled as Dry, he manages to translate the idea of the story to the audience.

He concludes that publishing is an art but also a business, and “if we do our jobs right and get a little lucky, that great art can be great business.” I agree that a balance in between art and commercial value will keep us go further.


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