We talked to American writer, editor, and graphic designer Chip Kidd, one of the most famous and influential book cover designers in history
It's hard not to find a book on your shelf that carries one of his designs. Chip Kidd (Pennsylvania, 1964) has worked on over 3000 book covers of all genres, styles, and authors.
From Cormac McCarthy to Haruki Murakami, his images have illustrated stories for over three decades. His cover of the mythical novel "Jurassic Park", the skeleton silhouette of a T-Rex, has become part of our cultural imaginary. Chip Kidd opens the doors of his studio in New York and shares with his reflections from his extensive career.
From comics to design
Images have had an important place in Kidd's life ever since he was a child. His first great love was comics, especially DC Comics superheroes Batman and Superman, which he "read before he could read". They were his first introduction to the idea that images composed and ordered in a certain way could tell a story. The lessons he learned from this genre he applied throughout his career, both in his comic book career ("The Complete History of Batman", "Superman", "Wonder Woman", "The Golden Age of DC Comics"), and in his later work at Penguin Random House.
It might have seemed that Kidd was interested in cover design from the very beginning, but he confesses that he arrived in New York with the intention of developing his talent in one of the city's big design and advertising agencies. His career, however, eventually led him to Penguin Random House. Immediately, he recognized the potential of this discipline: one of the few within design that allowed him to sign his work, and which he continues to work on almost 30 years later.
A fine line
Kidd conceives and works the design of a book as a 3D object: not only do you have to worry about designing a cover, you also need to take into account the flap, spine, back cover, and the amount of materials and textures that this industry allows that go beyond a simple flat image.
Book cover design is a very specific discipline, but not without its challenges. A writer himself, Kidd understands what it means for an author to give their work over for someone else to interpret its cover. His experience has shown him the need to find a balance between the criteria of the writer and of the designer.
Designing is more than "making beautiful things"
Despite his long career in the same discipline, Kidd is delighted to continue working and is looking forward to new books by veteran authors who, like him, plan to practice their profession as long as possible.
Although he is still active in this era in which graphic design is, to a large extent, a digital discipline, he assures us that he has no interest in that path and that, if necessary, he will be the "last of the analog designers".
Starting from the perspective of a totally digital design world, Kidd reflects: having a good eye for aesthetics and knowing how to do "beautiful" things, although important, is something that may not be, in a few years, out of the reach of machines. For this reason, he believes that to be a good designer, it is vital to have the ability to solve problems creatively and think conceptually, purely human skills that ensure valuable work.