Dry book cover, 2003

Chip Kidd

Location: New York, New York
Click above to view the full-size image

Chip Kidd has been creating book jackets and covers for the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf for twenty years. Entering the field almost directly out of college, he discovered a medium where his dark and clever sensibility could flourish. By the time he turned thirty, his name was recognized not only among designers but throughout the literary world.

Kidd’s jackets and covers are distinctively his own, yet they adhere to no particular style. His cover for Jay McInerney’s The Good Life features a photograph of ordinary objects covered in dust from the collapse of the World Trade Centers, exposing the intimate side of an enormously public disaster. The cover typography for Dry by Augusten Burroughs appears to disintegrate before our eyes, like the resolve of an alcoholic struggling to recover. Stories about the making of these and dozens of other works enliven the pages of Chip Kidd: Book One (2005), a monograph which uncovers Kidd’s distinctive way of compressing a literary trajectory onto the body of a book.

Kidd prides himself on allowing the content of each book to suggest its own design approach, an attitude he owes to his education at Pennsylvania State University, where a quirky cast of professors promulgated a concept-based approach to graphic design. (Kidd’s experience there is the basis of his comic novel The Cheese Monkeys, published in 2001.) The books themselves have also shaped his education, immersing him every day in writing of the highest order. The literary scene, more than the design profession, has provided the context and community for Kidd’s work.

Book production engages the efforts— sometimes conflicting—of authors, editors, agents, designers, publishers, publicists, marketers, booksellers, and more. By the time it reaches the bookstore, a jacket or cover design has survived a gauntlet of approvals. Humming along beneath the fray of battle is an intense and intimate collaboration between designer and author—although very often they never meet. Working in the space of the mind rather than the corporate meeting room, the designer absorbs a book and conjures a visual interpretation that compels readers to pick it up and look inside.