Chip Kidd- page 1 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd, a graphic designer and author, received a 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for one of his innovative book covers

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Extended Interview

You wear many different hats—designer, editor, writer. For which are you most passionate?

That's an interesting question. Ah, I mean the cop-out answer is I'm passionate about all of them. I think one thing was meaningful to me at some point was to turn from becoming a designer to becoming an author and I don't mean just a writer, but I mean generating the content as well as deciding what it was going to look like. I think that's the thing that interested me the most, whether it's a novel or a book of comics. That's what I'm most passionate about is the authorship.

You have designed some 1,000 book covers. How do you keep them unique?

I depend on the writers to not write stale books. I get a sense from reading the manuscript that the writer is doing a really good job, so that kind of cheers me on to do the same visually.

What ideas do you try to steer clear of in your book designs?

I try to avoid something that's literal. I did a cover several years ago for the novel My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk. The title is in blue. But of course rules were made to be broken. I did Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, and what's on the cover? A pretty horse. But it was showing just the mane, not the entire body, as if the horse became a part of the landscape.

What was your most challenging cover to design and why?

A new translation of the New Testament, that was very daunting, but very satisfying because I used a photographs by Andres Serrano, who is a very controversial photographer. It was a close-up detail of a dead man's face basically, with his eyes half-open. The publisher took a chance and went with it. Ultimately, it totally backfired and it was all guilt by association because of this photographer. No bookstore would carry it, basically.

Are the covers you consider your best work the same ones everyone considers your best, such as ones for Crichton or Sedaris?

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