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Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 8:49:36 AM
by daphne lee
Chip Kidd's guide to designing book covers ... and more.
I RECENTLY discovered Texteca, a local online bookstore, and am quite nervous about how it has already caused me to part with money. My most recent purchase was Go: A Kidd’s Guide To Graphic Design. I ordered it without finding out anything about the book – I didn’t read any reviews and I’m afraid I didn’t even pay much attention to the title. I just saw Chip Kidd’s name and I was sold.
Chip Kidd is a well-known book cover designer, but even if you don’t read, you are probably familiar with at least one of his designs: the T-Rex skeleton on the Jurassic Park movie poster. Kidd illustrated and designed Michael Crichton’s book cover, and later, Universal Studios optioned the image for the movie’s promotional use.
Kidd has also designed covers for editions of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim by David Sedaris, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Migraine by Oliver Sacks, A Case Of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif, Black Hole by Charles Burns and many more.
He’s not my favourite book cover designer, but I have always enjoyed reading about him, and I really admire his obvious passion for the work he does, and his dedication to it: it’s Kidd’s practice to always read the book he’s designing so he can understand its themes and use them in his design, and he reads as many of the author’s other work too. This might seem like an obvious and very practical way to approach a book cover designing job, but it’s not at all common practice in Malaysia.
Go is not just about book cover design, but all aspects of graphic design. Actually, I was surprised to find that it’s actually meant to introduce children to graphic design – this is actually obvious from its punny secondary title, A Kidd’s Guide To Graphic Design, but I was distracted by the author’s name, placed in large lime green, widely-spaced capitals below this much smaller title. I’m sure Kidd would agree that his name was designed to distract me. Hmm, I wonder how many graphic design enthusiasts have bought this book without realising it’s for kids?
Well, it might be for young readers, but I think Go is an accessible and comprehensive guide for anyone who is not familiar with the field of visual communication, and, really, that’s most of us, whatever our age.
It’s true that design, as a concept, and the actual physical design of an object is not something we tend to think about or even notice. However, design is all around us. It’s impossible to go through life without engaging in it. As Kidd says, “Everything that is not made by nature is designed by someone.”
Graphic design, the focus of this book, is a “cerebral experience”, a “head trip, from your eyes to your mind”. Just like the way I didn’t realise that Chip Kidd’s name on the book cover was making me “blind” to the title, most graphic design works in a subconscious way – you’re not fully aware of the message being delivered.
Take fonts, for example. I used to wonder why some books would mention the kind of typeface used. I couldn’t understand why the publishers bothered to do this, but now that I’ve worked some years as an editor at a publishing house, I realise that typeface is an important part of book design: a well-designed typeface allows a reader to read effortlessly, without distraction. It’s unobtrusive, clean and clear, and it delivers its message (the story) without drawing attention to itself. So, nothing fancy. It’s the story publishers want readers to notice, not the typeface!
But what about Geronimo Stilton? I know that series of books uses all kinds of different fonts (sometimes several on one page) to jazz up the story.Well, that’s a graphic design decision too, but most books, as you’ll have noticed, don’t use typeface in this way.
What I like most about Go is that it will make any reader look at everything, including books, in a new way. It will make readers conscious of the thought process in the creation of all things, and this consciousness will, hopefully, lead to readers being more aware of graphic designs that work and don’t work, and then figuring out why they do and don’t, and even how to improve on them.
And if you’re really excited about the world that Go has opened up to you and want to get in on the action, the final chapter comprises 10 cool design projects that anyone of any age would have fun with, including designing a personal logo and making a scrap book of favourite images.
Go was a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association in the United States) Award for Excellence in Nonfiction 2014 finalist.
Daphne Lee is a writer, editor, book reviewer and teacher. She runs a Facebook group called The Places You Will Go for lovers of all kinds of literature. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Opinion, Lifestyle, Tots To Teens, children's books, young adult fiction, column, Daphne Lee, Texteca
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Daphne Lee is a writer, editor, book reviewer and teacher. She runs a Facebook group called The Places You Will Go for lovers of all kinds of literature.
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