Chip Kidd has designed over a thousand book jackets. Wait, strike that. According to his 2006 monograph Chip Kidd has been telling people he has designed a thousand jackets since about 1999. He’s discussed his methods, philosophy, and techniques in interviews and articles, as well as novels, but his new book Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design is his first instructional work.
And keeping with tradition, he says that he’s designed over a thousand jackets in Go’s introduction. There are some designers who may be disappointed that Go is written for children, but while the book is written on a fourth grade level, it’s not lacking information.
Absolutely no space is wasted—even the copyright page is used to explain the history of the copyright symbol. And every page has Kidd’s wit and verve: “Congratulations, you have decided to open this book, even though you have no idea what it’s about . . .”
At first, skimming over the text, I wondered if the book was just a little too wordy for kids. It might be, and that’s fine: kids are smarter than they’re given credit, and when you read Go from its inside cover to its last page, you can see a dialogue that starts off very small and dramatically builds, the way books should. You won’t find the vastly overused “How to Use This Book” (and good riddance).
After going over some brief history, Go’s first chapter is a discussion of form “simply what things look like,” which is so simple it may stop many designers in their tracks. We’re inundated with trend reports, photoshop tutorials, rebrands, but yeah, come to think about it, what this is all about is what things look like. Things that look clean, dirty, cracked, smooth, fuzzy, complicated, that’s our first impression of graphic design.
Anthemic to Kidd’s own design work is the “Big and Small” trick that he shows in Go, where he presents a small comic panel, blows it up to the size of the page, and then reduces it back to its regular size, as if by magic. He presents a spread of typefaces, and talks about their origins. He talks about the design of you, the reader, how names and identities are important.
But moving beyond the basics of design, there are Kidd’s observations: he presents an entire page of razor blade wrappers from the 1950s, each different, because it “shows that many different color schemes and typographic styles can coexist in a way that can please the eye without confusing it . . . This proves that sometimes in advertising beautiful form is enough”.
Some of the activities in the final section of the book are activities that any designer should try: starting a graphic design scrapbook; redesigning something that you love; and most meaningful, designing a logo for a cause you believe in. Some of these exercises by readers will be posted on the book’s Tumblr page.
If the book has a weakness, it’s where Kidd talks about his own career. He starts with the Jurassic Park jacket, Kidd’s most widely seen work, but it’s not necessarily one that a younger audience will be familiar with. And yet it is a design that has been seen on lunch boxes, stationary, t-shirts, and tattoos—both temporary and the kind people die with.
Then he displays twenty or so other of his book covers, but they’re presented as a seamless collage and not as individual books. Why? If someone hasn’t seen them before, it’s hard to know that these are individual books. When he displays his jacket for Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, it is very hard to show how elegant it looks when it’s wrapped around a book.
No matter: what’s really exciting about Go isn’t just that we have another book from Chip Kidd, it’s the new designers that Go will no doubt inspire.
For more information about Go and Chip Kidd visit HERE.