A Decade in Book Design

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Haruki Murakami, left, with Chip Kidd.

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From “Chip Kidd Book Two: Work: 2007-2017”

CHIP KIDD BOOK TWO
W
ork: 2007-2017
Introductions by Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman and Orhan Pamuk
Illustrated. 318 pp. Rizzoli. $60.

You can almost always judge a book by its cover if it was created by Chip Kidd, the Knopf veteran whose second monograph cuts an impressive slice of book publishing and design history. Without ever giving a plot away, Kidd’s covers and jackets — evocative marriages of typography, color and picture — are, especially for avid book readers, among the most memorable images of the past 30 years. His series have been credited with branding many of today’s popular authors, among them Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Jay McInerney, Orhan Pamuk and Michael Chabon; his one-offs routinely attract the eye. They are witty, mysterious and elegant. He does not allow his style to dominate, but rather creates styles that fit the individual authors like suits of clothes.

While “Chip Kidd Book Two: Work: 2007-2017” is profusely — at times chaotically — visual, Kidd provides insight into how intimately he works with authors, not just packaging and promoting the writers’ words but helping them to envision their own visions. The follow-up to “Chip Kidd Book One: Work: 1986 – 2006” is a testament to the designer, fiction writer (of the autobiographical novel “The Cheese Monkeys”) and documentarian (he’s edited historical books on Batman, Captain Marvel and “Peanuts,” as well as other comic book and cartoon heroes) whose design career has been nothing short of prodigious. Kidd has become well known beyond the arcane world of graphic design through a continuous flow of magazine and newspaper profiles, radio interviews and TED talks, as few others in the industry have. Kidd’s life in the spotlight has made him a sought-after graphic design luminary, and “Book Two” is filled with entertaining professional anecdotes about doing projects with the likes of John Updike, Cormac McCarthy and Elie Wiesel, along with a little design philosophy thrown in for good measure.

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Samples of Kidd’s book-jacket designs from the past 10 years.

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From “Chip Kidd Book Two: Work: 2007-2017”

“Book One” was more self-aggrandizing; “Book Two” is more thoughtful. Although it starts with a somewhat tired trope — the self-interview — in it Kidd offers provocative personal insights and theories, like this one on the fate of book publishing: “I feel the archival nature of the hardcover book solidly argues against its going away — it’s permanent, it will be kept and shelved and referred to, it will outlast us all. And when the lights go out, you can fire up a candle and open the book to read and it will work just fine.” He says that over the last three decades and counting, “since I’ve been doing this work,” whatever form a book takes, “its author wants the work visually represented — in as interesting and memorable a way as possible.”

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“Book Two” also proves that, for Kidd, design is more than a client service; rather, it’s an interpretive art with plenty of room for personal vision. And he shows, both in word and picture, how his life and art are entirely, irrevocably intertwined. A natural storyteller, Kidd uses graphic design as a language to tell his own stories while helping others to convey theirs.

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