Chip Kidd- page 2 | 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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I think the one superficial thing those books would have in common, they're all best-sellers and they're big best-sellers. I think the challenge as a designer in trade publishing is to do something that's an interesting design, but that also has a mass appeal. I think what I strive for is to constantly debunk what that means. The cover for Dry for example [which looks soaking wet], that's the cover for the paperback. The publisher initially rejected the design and went with a completely different design/designer. The publisher of the paperback said, "No, we want the original that got rejected." And the book did great, the paperback did better than the hard cover. And it's like, well, then what does a "commercial jacket" mean? It doesn't have to mean what everyone thinks it does. I like trying to surprise people.

What book before your time would you have liked to design the cover for and why?

The Catcher in the Rye. There's a final scene with a carousel in Central Park, so the original design is a very stylized, very of-its-time [1951] drawing of a carousel horse. I think I would try and represent Phoebe somehow, but again, not in a literal way.

How much input does the author give usually?

It all depends. Sometimes they'll literally design it for you even though they may not know that's what they're doing. Or sometimes, you know, they'll give you complete carte blanche, or some kind of combination of the two, somewhere in between. They're all different.

Does marketing or branding ever interfere with or influence a cover concept you want to create?

I'm pretty lucky as far as that goes. Every now and then, somebody from marketing will chime in about something or other. And sometimes they're right. But, no, I feel pretty lucky that way. In a sense, I'm sort of in an ivory tower.

Does the genre you're covering matter in the design?

The challenge is to subvert the genre basically. It's like what can a crime thriller look like that isn't predictable or we feel we haven't seen before? And it's hard. Often, you try and you fail and you move on. But I had to redesign the Philip K. Dick's Minority Report and that was an interesting challenge. I didn't want it to look like "science fiction," but it should still look appropriate for the subject matter.

Has becoming an author changed the way you design book jackets?

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