Chip Kidd- page 3 | 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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It hasn't changed the way I design book jackets. I think it's made me more alive to dealing with authors. Because again, I'm spoiled because I'm a writer designing my own cover. In the one sense it's a burden, on the other I can't imagine the fate of my book jacket being in someone else's hands to sort of decide for me. I think for some writers it's very traumatic. You know, they get a jacket they don't like and they don't know whether to speak up or accept it. Having seen the publishing process as an author, it's made me a little bit more sympathetic than I used to be.

Does a typical idea come from the book itself, the author, something on the street, a flea market, a dream, or what?

It's totally everywhere. Absolutely. And the nice thing about books is the deadlines aren't as crazy as somewhere like a magazine or, God forbid, a newspaper. So, you have the luxury of time usually, to read a book and let it kind of like simmer and percolate in your head. And waiting for the right solution to come along, whether it's something you come up with on your own or a piece of art they you see in a gallery. I would definitely recommend anybody who wants to be a book jacket designer to move to New York City.

How is a book cover different from an album or magazine cover?

Hmm. Well, the album cover, for all intents and purposes, it's weird, because it's like the walking dead. They still exist and they still get made, but it's almost like "why?" With everybody buying music online, it's literally been reduced to the size of a postage stamp. For at least 10 years now, the music video has completely replaced the album cover as the key piece of visual iconography connected with a certain album.

Magazine covers, by in large, they're just dying to tell you everything. They can't tell you enough. All the smattering all over the front of the magazine. They're just shrieking at you everything inside. Where a book cover, if it's done right, is going to just suggest a sensibility, it's going to be a lot more coy and a lot more discrete.

How has book jacket design changed over the past 20 years?

Overall, it's gotten a lot smarter. I think there are more designers and publishers who want to see challenging stuff. I think the experience of going into a bookstore is much different, visually, than it was 20 years ago.

Will books become obsolete with digital technology?

I love this question because it gives me the chance to reiterate for the umpteenth time: No, the book is not going anywhere. The book is already the most concise piece of technology to deliver what it delivers. When the last "Harry Potter" book came out, kids weren't downloading it. They were lining up at bookstores. People like something they can pop into their bag. People didn't carry their Sgt. Pepper album all over the place—they would go home and listen to it.

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