Chip Kidd is an American author, editor, and graphic designer, best known for his book covers.
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JUDGE THIS is a book about first impressions, and when design should be clear, and when it should be mysterious, and what happens when they get mixed up.
Victoria's helping me get started. AMA.
Hey everyone, thanks so much for your questions. Hope to talk to you here again another time. Best, Chip
Hi Chip, thanks for joining us! I work in website development as a strategist and so I'm constantly revealing new designs to clients for their approval. Here's a sticky problem we've had: clients want to be involved in the design process, obviously, but they are consistently underwhelmed when we show them drafts and sketches. How can we involve them in the process and still wow them before they see the finished work?
That is a really, really good question that I don't have any kind of great answer for. But I totally understand the situation. I'm the same way, I almost never show sketches, I'd rather show the finished design (or the first draft thereof, as the case may be) and take it from there, because many clients don't know what they're looking at when they see a rough sketch. The thing about website design is that there are so many more components to it than a book cover. I'm sure you've thought of this, but any luck showing storyboards that in and of themselves have a finished quality but haven't been adapted to the screen yet?
Hello Mr. Kidd!
I LOVE your work, and my question to you is:
Do you design ultimately for a soft cover book first? Or do you design for a hard cover (with all its fancy features) and then go into a process of elimination?
Thanks! I mostly design for hardcover first editions, but I've done plenty of softcover designs too.
Hi Chip! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm an aspiring freelance graphic designer and I was wondering if you had any tips for getting started? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started freelancing?
PS - I loved your book "Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design"
Thanks, and I hope you like the new book, 'Judge This,' too. In a way it sort of takes up where 'GO' left off.
As for getting started in the business of graphic design, it's thirty years since I've had to do that, ie it's also a different world. One thing I can say, and it may sound like comment sense, but: if you have a website of your work (which you should), please make it as clear to navigate as possible. You might be tempted to make it too clever for your own good. I understand the impulse, but think about potential clients who know absolutely nothing previously about your work.
What inspired the design of your book cover?
If you mean of 'Judge This,' it's really just matter of me getting so tired of being asked "Can you really judge a book by its cover?" Plus, I've always loved primary colors.
Hey there! I saw your TED talk and was enamoured, but I just want to know your thoughts on Jurrasic World and if you've had any involvement at all? Thanks!
I've had no involvement in JW, other than that my essential contribution to the logo appears to remain intact. It just looks etched out of metal now, which is cool.
Personally, I think at this point the franchise would work much better as a TV series. Anyone remember 'The Land of The Lost'?
Any new Bat-Projects on the horizon?
As you may or may not know, I did all the variant covers for DC's Convergence series (82, collect'em all!). Other than that, I have been on a mad quest to amass the world's most amazing collection of Batman sketch covers for the blank variant of 'Batman: Black and White'. I am up to 85 of them, and occasionally I tweet or post them on FB. There is going to be a show of them that opens at the Society of Illustrators in NYC on October 7. If you're coming to NYCC this fall, come a day early and check them out! An amazing roster of artists!
I love how you discovered your work in a random cafe! Would you tell me about that first interaction with the cafe owner and how he/ she came to use your book covers?
That's funny, it was in Barcelona, and the cafe is called QuQu. But other than that, I don't have an answer, as I was never able to locate the manager (!!). But yes, they had enlargements of my book covers plastered all over the walls and I was as flattered as I was surprised to randomly discover it.
What is the stupidest way you almost died?
Wow, what a question. I can't really think of anything specific, but here is a thought: it never ceases to amaze me how completely vulnerable one is on an NYC subway platform. There are no railings between you and the oncoming trains!! After 30 years no one has been able to explain that to me. I assume it's a matter of money, but that doesn't make it any less appalling.
I am a new designer and what's a good starting point for designing after learning the programs ? making yt banners ? ad Design? By the way , I have learned the programs..
Designing something you love, even if it's just for yourself, usually helps. And remember, the programs can't design for you, they are just tools. You have to provide the ideas.
Have you designed (or have an interest in) non-book product design? Would you want to design a wine/beer/soda or some other thing?
Yes, I always love a design assignment that's something other than a book cover (though I still love them too). I'd love to do a wine label, hope springs eternal...
I met you several years ago at a book signing in New York to promote The Learners. Any more novels in the pipeline?
Oh, and you're the greatest graphic designer ever. Which you probably knew already.
Blush ;-)) Oh, if only it were true.
I am working on a new novel, which is a total departure, but at this rate it will take me quite a long time to finish a first draft. And I will never sell a novel based on the first chapter again (as I did with The Learners). The first chapter is always the easiest, and it gets harder and hard from there. At least for me.
Ah, the legal questions. And relevant they are. In short, if you are a freelancer, look at your contract—usually you own the copyright and the publisher gets one-time use. It is rare for a freelance designer to get royalties unless he/she is also a co-author.
If you are an in-house designer, unless your contract specified otherwise, the publisher owns your designs. The trade-offs for this are steady work (and, ahem, paychecks) and whatever health benefits and rent-free workspace you get. I have found it is not a bad deal at all, especially if you love the work, as I do.
Do you have a favorite fake Chip Kidd cover? (Thinking of the one in the montage in Listen Up Philip - there must be others.)
Ha, that's funny. Not familiar with Listen Up Phillip. Otherwise it's not really for me to say.
I've been a big fan of yours for my entire career. Your designs and love of popart and Lichtenstein style drove my interest in design.
What do you think of comments like "Don't judge a book by its cover, considering all the work you put into book covers?"
How do you see technology impacting design? I now see a shift in web and digital design into template filling for clients who just want cheap-fast and not good, original or even inspired, even if there's a risk to them being seen as identical to their competitors using the same machines solutions.
You raise a lot of relevant questions about graphic design as it is perceived and practiced now—and who knows, perhaps for the foreseeable future. Not that it will make you feel any better, but the whole "template-filling" for clients thing has existed as long as graphic design has, it's just that it's so much easier to do now with web design. One model that's also always existed is to do work that pays well but doesn't thrill you, in order to fund doing low-paying jobs that do. Note that doing meaningful pro-bono work is NOT the same as working on spec in order to try and land a big client. But that's a whole other subject.
Re "Don't judge a book . . .", that's why my new book is called "Judge This."
I've always been a 'print guy' in all my work, and my mind hasn't changed about that at all.
Who do you think should be the next president of the United States?
Ha! 'Should' or 'Will'? I can't imagine it being anyone other than who we all know it will be, and I am mostly fine with that. At least she has good design sense (seriously, not a joke).
Wow I did not think Chipp was a republican
Uh, I don't think so . . .