Posts tagged ‘Chip Kidd’
To describe him merely as a designer of book jackets is pretty inadequate—something I discovered some years back when I was speaking to a group of Lion Ambassadors and telling them about some famous Penn Staters. I said, “And then there’s Chip Kidd, probably the world’s foremost book-jacket designer,” and they all looked at one another as if I had scraped pretty far down the barrel to come up with that one.
But the reality is that he’s pretty much legendary in the design world, and that in his career at Alfred A. Knopf he’s worked with some big-name authors (including Michael Crichton, John Updike, and Oliver Sacks), and that he’s a terrific speaker—not only inspirational but also funny as hell. If you’ve got 17 minutes to spare, watch his 2012 TED talk and you’ll see.
Anyway, I went out to the Penn Stater conference center last week to hear Chip speak at the Forum Luncheon, and he didn’t disappoint. I’m not going to try to give you a comprehensive overview of his talk, but here are a few nuggets:
—He referred to his more-than-25-year career at Knopf as “technically, still my first job out of school.”
—He summed up his philosophy of design in a quote from Samuel Beckett: “Try. Fail. Try Again. Fail Better.”
—He showed the evolution of some of his book-jacket designs and talked about the many layers of people who have to approve the design. He was surprised that his design for Oliver Sacks’ The Mind’s Eye (shown here) wasn’t shot down by the reps who would be out selling the book: ”All it takes is one sales rep to say, ‘It looks like O. Liver Sacks,’ and it’s dead.”
—Someone asked where he got his loud striped jacket. “Four British schoolboys gave their lives so I could have this jacket,” he answered. “Well done, lads.” (Actually, he said, he saw it hanging in the window at a Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.)
—He talked a lot about the education he got at Penn State, and one piece of advice from Lanny Sommese, head of the university’s graphic design program, stood out for me: ”Lanny taught me that the better you understand a problem, the closer you are to the solution.”
—Asked if he ever met Julia Child (one of the authors Knopf published), he straightened his shoulders and said, proudly, “I once got Julia Child a Diet Coke.”
—He talked about two upcoming projects: One is a book about design for kids, the other is a book version of author Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, a commencement speech last year at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. And Kidd quotes a thought from Gaiman’s speech that really jumped out at me. It’s about freelance designers, but it applies to all of us in the working world, I think:
People keep working, in a freelance world … because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.
Kidd talked about the challenge of turning a graduation speech into a book, especially when you can already watch the speech on YouTube or read a transcript of it online. But, judging from the images he shared from the book (which is due out in May), I suspect it’ll do just fine.
One of Chip Kidd’s next speaking engagements is an Alumni Association “City Lights” event in New York City on May 9. Information about that is here.
Tina Hay, editor
Cambridge University Press has just published the first volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907–1922, edited by Penn State English department faculty member Sandra Spanier ’76g, ’81g.
Our upcoming Nov-Dec issue includes a feature-length interview with Spanier on what it’s been like to track down Hemingway’s unpublished correspondence—thousands of letters, telegrams, postcards, short handwritten notes—and what those writings tell us about a very complicated man. That next issue won’t be out until the end of October, but in the meantime you can also hear Spanier talk about the letters in this four-minute video, which also includes a conversation with Hemingway’s son Patrick.
If you end up missing the mark with a certain someone’s Valentine’s gift, or forget it all together, you are in luck. The Lady Lion basketball team launched the Pink Zone Auction this week, which is being hosted on charitybuzz.net. There is a wide array of auction items, 46 in total. You could bid on a chance to meet Tony Bennett, spend an evening with ex-CIA spy Valerie Plame Wilson ’85 and her husband, experience a taping of Saturday Night Live in New York with Penn State President Graham Spanier and his wife, or collect a few signed (and used) Paterno items. My favorite item in the bunch is the chance to have Chip Kidd ’86, famed book jacket designer, design a cover just for you.
The goal is to raise $150,000 with proceeds benefitting breast cancer charities. There is still plenty of time to bid. The auction opened this past Monday and goes until March 2.
To view a full list of auction items click here.
If one auction isn’t enough for you, another Pink Zone online auction is taking place at gopsusports.com. It also runs until March 2. Happy bidding.
Jessie Knuth, graphic designer
So that’s why his book covers look so snazzy. Chip Kidd ’86, book cover designer extraordinaire for the likes of Michael Crichton, Cormac McCarthy, and David Sedaris, is reviving the preppy style he loves in a not-quite-sequel to the 1980 classic The Official Preppy Handbook.
The not-quite-sequel, True Prep, is slated for release in September, and a story about it graced the front page of Sunday’s New York Times (as did the very funny photo you see above). Kidd told the Times that the first handbook “changed my life,” so when he met with writer Lisa Birnbach last May, the idea for a spruce-up sprung up naturally.
The update will hold true to eternal prep language and style (i.e. using “summer” as a verb), but will keep pace with society by adding technological advice — like no texting at the table.
Add one more book cover to Kidd’s already laden shelves –- and this one should be stylin’ from within, too.
Amy Guyer, associate editor
If you’re an avid Rolling Stone reader like I am, you’ll be excited to see that the latest RS cover was conceptualized by Chip Kidd ’86. Kidd’s simple and smart design concept is refreshing to see in place of some of the magazine’s recent cover solutions.
Jessica Knuth, graphic designer
Chip Kidd ’86, who is something of a legend in the design world, is in Minneapolis today to sepak at the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable. Kidd designs book jackets—which may sound like an odd little niche, but he has created some memorable and iconic book covers for authors like John Updike, David Sedaris, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, and others.
Anyway, he’s the subject of a fun Q&A in yesterday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in which he talks about his collection of comic book memorabilia and about two of his toughest teachers at Penn State—Lanny Sommese and the late Bill Kinser (though he doesn’t mention them by name).
Tina Hay, editor
His work was just in the New York Times Sunday Book Review yesterday. Now Chip Kidd ’86 has a piece in this week’s Newsweek. Kidd, who designs book covers for Alfred A. Knopf, takes a look at seven book covers by other designers that he thought were especially memorable.
The piece—which is more of a slide show than an article, or at least online anyway—is called “My Favorite Covers.” Thanks to Joyce Hoffman, the alumni director for the College of Arts & Architecture, for calling my attention to it.
Tina Hay, editor
Chip Kidd ’86, who once was called “the closest thing to a rock star” in the graphic design world, spends most of his time designing jackets for books by the likes of Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, Michael Crichton, and others.
But once in a while he gets pulled into another project. He did the illustration that will grace the cover of this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. The illustration is for a story about the new book by Robert Wright called The Evolution of God.
In his blog, Chip Kidd explains how the project came about, how he tried to wiggle out of it, and how he ended up doing it after all.
Tina Hay, editor
Chip Kidd ’86 is the subject of an entertaining two-minute video on the New York Times Web site today.
And if you find that appealing, you’ll love this video Chip put together a while back to advertise his book The Learners (Scribner, 2008). The guy has an offbeat sense of humor, to say the least.
Tina Hay, editor
Our favorite book designer, Chip Kidd ’86, has designed some great book jackets, written a few books, and now has an article in today’s New York Times Magazine. It’s their annual “Great Performers” edition, pegged to the upcoming Academy Awards presentations, and Chip contributes an article about Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in Iron Man. The character of Iron Man had his start in Marvel Comics, and Chip is kind of the quintessential comic-book fan, so he’s perfect for the assignment.
In the article, Chip talks about the reaction of comic-book fans when they heard Downey would be playing the title role: “This was too good to be true. Why? Well for one thing, he’s a real actor. If there’s anything die-hard comics fans want it’s for their fantasies to be taken seriously. We have an insatiable ache for credibility so we can continue to play with our toys.”
And he offers an observation about Downey’s well-publicized battle with substance abuse: “It was public and prolonged and excruciating to watch, mainly because we genuinely liked him so much. He was the über-cool son of your arty uncle who had so much potential and just couldn’t get his act together.”
Downey wasn’t nominated for any Oscars for his role in Iron Man, by the way, though the movie itself received two nominations: in Movie Editing and in Special Effects. You can see a list of this year’s Oscar nominees here.
Tina Hay, editor