Chip Kidd Offers Book Designing Tips

By Maryann Yin 

Random House book designer Chip Kidd gave a TED talk called “Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.” The video embedded above features his entire talk.

Many publishing executives feel that the cover design is the number one marketing tool in their arsenal. Kidd drew on stories from his twenty-five year career working at Alfred A. Knopf where he creates book covers with “a wicked sense of humor.”

During the talk, Kidd discussed the conceptual processes behind the iconic book covers for Michael Crichton‘s hit novel Jurassic Park (1990), Augusten Burroughs‘s memoir Dry (2004) and the English translation of Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84 (2011). He shared the following tips on book designing:

(1) “A book cover is a distillation.” It’s a “haiku” of the story. Ask yourself this question, “What do the stories look like?”

(2) “Once the book designer has read the text, then he has to be an interpreter and a translator.”

(3) Finished books need a “face”–the book cover provides a first impression on what the reader “is about to get into. A book designer gives form to content.”

(4) “The book designer’s responsibility is three-fold: to the reader, to the publisher and most of all, to the author.”

(5) “Even though we love publishing as an art, we very much know it’s a business too. And that if we do our jobs right and get a little lucky, that great art can be great business.”