Chip Kidd: A Singular Voice in Design

The prolific artist may be a designer first, but he's an evangelist for design second.

“One thing I have understood again and again in the last 30 years (and counting) since I’ve been doing this work is that, no matter what form a book takes, it’s author wants the work visually represented—in as interesting and memorable a way as possible. I truly believe that won’t change.” — Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd: Book Two covers the last decade of Kidd’s design work in the many and varied forms it takes. Arguably the most prominent contemporary book jacket designer, Kidd’s talents also extend to posters (the inaugural Boston Book Festival), logos (the Abrams ComicArts imprint), movie marketing campaigns (Morning Glory), and album art (Paul Simon’s Surprise). His creativity and genuine love for many of his subjects is at the heart of this volume, and it’s a fascinating and worthy successor to his excellent Book One.

Boasting introductions by Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, and Orhan Pamuk, Chip Kidd: Book Two emphasizes the professional relationships that not only make up much of his work, but also the personal relationships that grow out of their collaborations. The book is scattered with photographs of Kidd with various authors, as well as reproductions of letters received by authors, professional and personal. As Kidd has built a body of work centered on specific authors, such as Murakami or Pamuk, his connection to the material has also grown, and in turn, has helped to create a visual companion for both book and author.

Kidd’s approach in presenting the last ten years of his work is to include final book designs alongside early attempts and rejected drafts, with insight into his creative choices, publisher’s decisions, and author’s opinions. Because so many of Kidd’s designs are so obviously striking and carefully thought out, it’s particularly enlightening to learn of the process surrounding the final design. Whether a concept is immediately embraced or ultimately rejected, Kidd outlines his thought process for his pitches, often to fascinating and funny (his obsession with repeatedly pitching a fortune cookie-themed cover for several books) results.

Apart from relationships with authors, Kidd’s long history with fellow artists such as Charles Burns and Chris Ware crop up repeatedly. He’s relied on both for numerous projects, such as using Burns’ art on the cover of his own book The Learners or Chris Ware’s lettering for a rejected design for John Updike’s My Father’s Tears and Other Stories. In addition, he includes their artistic contributions to many personal moments of his own life. Ware’s party favors for Kidd’s 50th birthday (50 hand-painted wooden Kidd figures in a bag for each partygoer) are only one example of how a creative and personal relationship manifests itself in Kidd’s life. Indeed, these glimpses into Kidd’s friendships are some of the most charming moments in the book.

Kidd’s love of comics also plays a central role in Chip Kidd: Book Two. His designs for Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman and David Michaelis’ Schulz and Peanuts, as well as many Batman and other DC-related titles exemplify his deep passion for the genre. Kidd has penned his own Batman story, Batman: Death by Design, co-authored a book on Batman in Japan (Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, with Jiro Kuwata), created the typographic titles for the 12-issue runs of All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin, and designed the variant covers for DC’s Convergence series. He’s also authored the gorgeous Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts. Kidd’s connection to comics have been a lifelong devotion, but more than that they’re another instance of his personal and professional lives coming together.

Chip Kidd: Book Two is not only a showcase for Kidd’s beautiful work, it also emphasizes his role as an ambassador for good design. His TED Talks are discussed in the book and speak to his philosophy and approach to designing books. Additionally, he includes a guide to creating a graphic novel, using his own Batman: Death by Design as a model, and describes his excitement in writing about design for kids (the cleverly titled Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design). Kidd’s willingness to take on so many artistic challenges is a testament to his endless creativity and his work ethic.

Kidd could very easily devote all his time to book cover design—and his work in that arena clearly speaks for itself—yet he’s compelled to branch out into myriad other avenues, such as movie campaigns, graphic novels, how-to guides, and public speaking engagements. Kidd may be a designer first, but he’s an evangelist for design second. Book Two is a wonderful addition to the already previously dazzling compendium of his work, Book One, and further cements Kidd as a singular voice in design.

RATING 8 / 10


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