Chip Kidd talks about iconic book covers


Kidd chip
Jean Madere

Book cover: This is the first thing you see when you pick up the book and the last thing you see when you close it. Whether or not you judge its content by its outward appearance, the cover participates in your journey with the text, from spying it on a shelf to reaching the last page. Few know this trip as well as Chip Kidd, the acclaimed book cover designer who will talk about his iconic covers and creative process at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Tuesday, May 9, at an Arts & Readings event. from UCSB.

By Michael Crichton jurassic park at Haruki Murakami The Chronicle of the bird to be reassembled, Kidd designed the covers and sleeves for thousands of books, assuming the role of visual author of the reader’s experience. During his speech, Kidd hopes to walk audiences through his creative process step by step, in all of his second drafts and releases. With “most of the cases of the books that have been attributed to me … it was rejected, and I will share what I have done to hopefully resolve this issue.” And, frankly, sometimes I solve it, and sometimes I don’t, ”he said.

Currently Associate Art Director at Knopf, a imprint of Penguin Random House, Kidd generates an average of 75 covers a year, both at Knopf and as a freelance writer for Amazon, Doubleday, Grove Press, HarperCollins, GP Putnam’s Sons, Scribner, Columbia University Presse, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. When asked if he had a favorite design he made, he replied, “Oh my God, I’ve been doing this for 34 years for over 1,500 pounds. I do not remember. Designing the covers for his own books, he said, was the most difficult.

The process usually starts with a manuscript, but every book is different. He sees it as a problem to be solved, a bit like a crossword puzzle (the New York Times editing being one of his favorite hobbies). Some covers are quite figurative, others quite literal. “I often try in works of fiction to avoid portraying directly what a character looks like, because I want the reader to decide in their mind. But if you do a memoir on Scott Kelly in space and you don’t show it, it’s probably not a very smart approach, ”he said.

Some are, in industry terms, “heavily embargoed”, meaning that with “some books, for some reason, publishers want to keep a lid on things for a while” or because the content is sensitive, or because revealing them would weaken sales. . In these cases, he has to work from a blank page, so to speak, and design without reading.

Still others, like Murakami’s 1Q84, take a familiar image – the human face – and reconfigure it using the author’s themes and literary tropes. “Eyes and faces are hard to avoid, but if you look at the 1Q84 design, which is very much meant to be seen as a three-dimensional object, the face breaks when the jacket comes off the blanket, ”he said. “A big theme in 1Q84 is several planes of existence that one experiences at the same time.

Not all designs go through, and some publishers sought out the talents of another designer when they felt Kidd’s wasn’t up to the job. Understandably, he had to learn to bounce back from rejection – a lot – and says if something doesn’t work, try doing something else for a while.

“The good thing about book publishing is that one of the luxuries we still have, even in the age of all snapshots, is time. So if there’s a problem, you’ve got that cushion to think about it, let it simmer for a bit, and frankly let it live in your subconscious for a while, ”he says.

He compares the process to his beloved NYT crossword. With Saturday’s tricky puzzle, “you’re just stuck and put it aside and go do something else.” As illusory as it may sound, when you come back to it a few hours later, you start to see and understand things that you didn’t initially have. I approach rejection and problem solving the same way.

4 · 1 · 1 Chip Kidd speaks at Campbell Hall at UCSB on Tuesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit


Comments are closed.