January 23, 2005

Blue Sky, Blue Sky

Chip Kidd

I had the pleasure of seeing Chip Kidd speak at my alma mater, Kutztown University, this past Friday night. Kidd is one of my favorite contemporary graphic designers and has been ever since I got heavily into design. This is the second time I have gotten to see him in person, the first being in at the Free Library in Philly moderating a panel of talented graphic novel artists like Chris Ware (another of my favorite artists) and Art Spiegelman. That first time was great, and so was this. Kidd is a hilarious public speaker who’s personality and quick wit grab you immediately. The brunt of his presentation was a sampling of his most recent and soon to be released designs followed by a brief Q & A that left us with modest gems like, Question: “Why did you become a graphic designer?”, Kidd: “Because I don’t have an idea in my head”.

Chip Kidd is most well known for his beautiful and influential book jacket designs. This appeals to me personally on two different levels; first, Kidd’s book jackets are usually full of clever juxtapositions and visual thinking, and second, because I would like to think if I wasn’t heavy on the interactive end of graphic design, that I might be doing book jackets too. I adore everything about books; from the smell of a newly printed book, to the feel of a well-read volume. Something about the packaging of a book has always spoken to me as well, the challenge of representing an entire book with so little; a picture or an illustration and a few lines of type are all that stand in between you and a potential reader. This quality can also be found in other applications like posters, but books embody so much more for me. Back to the point, Kidd is a giant in his field. Some writers even go as far as stipulating in their contract that Kidd is to design their book’s jacket.

Saying Chip Kidd is prolific is a bit of an understatement. In addition to his design staff job at Alfred A. Knopf (of over 14 years,) Kidd is also a writer, archivist, and recently, Art Director of Vertical Books, a NY publisher specializing in English translations of successful Japanese books. The guy just keeps on going. He has always been an inspiration to me (and he started out as a local!), not only for the immense quantity of his work, but for its fine quality. Do yourself a favor and get up to speed if you aren’t familiar with his work.

Further Reading:

and a few interviews:

Commentary (7):

1. niff says… jan 24, 2005 | 9:01 am

Wonderfullly written review jason! I wish i could have been there. pOO on snow!

Looks like Liz would have really enjoyed it also…shame she didn’t make it.

2. Dan Mall says… jan 24, 2005 | 10:05 am

I wish I could get a copy of Big Nozzo. Blue sky, blue sky.

3. Jason Santa Maria says… jan 24, 2005 | 10:09 am

Now you can have the next best thing, the Big Nazo website! They look like my kind of people.

4. Dan Mall says… jan 24, 2005 | 1:59 pm

Ah, blue sky indeed!

5. Megan says… jan 24, 2005 | 9:23 pm

He took my sharpie, cause it matched his shirt! Haha

6. Tom Dolan says… jan 25, 2005 | 10:42 am

Greg told you my story about going to dinner with Chip and a half-dozen designers after his AIGA event in Los Angeles? Chip is of course the life of the party, funny, charming, rapier-quick, etc. and everyone was trying to measure up and say something witty and meaningful. I happened to be sitting to his immediate left and after an hour of dinner talk I managed to say something (which I now forget) about what I thought was sincerely wonderful and great about his work and approach and his respect for the literature, blah, blah, blah, and there’s this nice little silence when I’m thinking everyone is thinking, ‘hmm, nice comment’ and Chip looks at me and says deadpan, “Are you dating anyone right now?” Blushing ensued, followed by much laughter all table round.

7. Nick Whitmoyer says… jul 13, 2005 | 11:08 pm

I was at the Kutztown thing and got to see Chip Kidd… Man he’s one entertaining guy!

I wish if more designers were like Chip Kidd!