Charles Kidd (born 1964) is an American graphic designer, best known for his book covers. Based in New York city, Kidd has become one of the most famous book cover designers to date.
Kidd at a June 2012 book signing at
Midtown Comics in Manhattan
1964 (age 54–55)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Occupation||Graphic designer, writer|
|Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits,|
The Cheese Monkeys,
Born in Shillington in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Kidd grew up being fascinated and heavily inspired by American popular culture. Comic books were his gateway into graphic design, with Batman and Superman populating some of his earliest childhood memories. Kidd attended Pennsylvania State University, where he graduated in 1986 with a degree in graphic design.
Throughout his career, Kidd has been a graphic designer, book designer, editor, author, lecturer and musician. According to Graphic Design: American Two, he has been credited with “helping to spawn a revolution in the art of America book packaging in the last ten years.” One of the most consistent characteristics of Kidd’s style is the fact that his book covers don’t carry one signature look, as he states: “A signature look is crippling… [because] the simplest and effective solutions aren’t dictated by style.”
Kidd is currently the associate art director at Knopf, an imprint of Random House. He first joined the Knopf design team in 1986, when he was hired as a junior assistant. Turning out jacket designs at an average of 75 covers a year, Kidd has freelanced for Amazon, Doubleday, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Grove Press, HarperCollins, Penguin/Putnam, Scribner and Columbia University Press, in addition to his work for Knopf. Kidd also supervised graphic novels at Pantheon, and in 2003 he collaborated with Art Spiegelman on a biography of cartoonist Jack Cole, Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits. His output includes cover concepts for books by Mark Beyer, Bret Easton Ellis, Haruki Murakami, Dean Koontz, Cormac McCarthy, Frank Miller, Michael Ondaatje, Alex Ross, Charles Schulz, Osamu Tezuka, Gengoroh Tagame, David Sedaris, Donna Tartt, John Updike and many others. His most notable book cover design was for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park novel, which was so successful that it carried over into marketing for the film adaptation. Oliver Sacks and other authors have contract clauses stating that Kidd design their book covers. Kidd’s influence on the book-jacket has been amply noted—Time Out New York has said that “the history of book design can be split into two eras: before graphic designer Chip Kidd and after.”
Publishers Weekly described his book jackets as "creepy, striking, sly, smart, unpredictable covers that make readers appreciate books as objects of art as well as literature." USA Today also called him "the closest thing to a rock star" in graphic design today, while author James Ellroy has called him “the world's greatest book-jacket designer.”
Kidd is often asked about his creative process. On the source of his inspiration, Kidd told Matt Pashkow in Inspirability that “for the most part I’m inspired by whatever the book is, or by the manuscript itself.” For the USA Today, he outlined his process for creating a cover. After closely reading the work he contacts the author, who “has final say, so it’s a logical starting point.” “Along the way, I may or may not involve photographers or illustrators or any amount of ephemeral detritus that washes up on my shores in the pursuit of solving the problem. And that is what it always amounts to: visually solving a problem.” He says that this solution can take up to six months to find.
Kidd has often downplayed the importance of cover designs, stating, "I'm very much against the idea that the cover will sell the book. Marketing departments of publishing houses tend to latch onto this concept and they can't let go. But it's about whether the book itself really connects with the public, and the cover is only a small part of that." He is also known to be humorously self-deprecating about his work with statements such as "I piggy-backed my career on the backs of authors, not the other way around. The latest example of that is The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I'm lucky to be attached to that. Cormac McCarthy is not lucky to have me doing his cover."
Kidd is a huge fan of comic book media, particularly Batman, and has written and designed book covers for several DC Comics publications, including The Complete History of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days, and the aforementioned Jack Cole and Plastic Man. He also designed Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross and wrote an exclusive Batman/Superman story illustrated by Ross for the book. Kidd once stated that the first cover he ever noticed was "no doubt for some sort of Batman comic I saw when I was about 3, enough said. Or maybe not enough said: the colors, the forms, the design. Batman himself is such a brilliant design solution." Veronique Vienne, who wrote an eponymous book about Kidd in 2006, described Kidd's Batman fandom as a "childhood obsession and lasting adult passion".
His first novel, The Cheese Monkeys, (Simon & Schuster, 2001) is an academic satire and coming-of-age tale about state college art students who struggle to meet the demands of a sadistic graphic design instructor. The book draws on Kidd's real-life experiencess during his art studies with Lanny Sommese at Penn State.
Kidd's second novel, The Learners, finds the protagonist of The Cheese Monkeys drawn into the infamous Milgram experiment, thanks to an incidental newspaper ad assignment. The novel uses the experiment as an extended metaphor for advertising, wherein the "content" is masked and fed—sometimes unwillingly—to its consumers.
In 1996, Kidd designed and wrote Batman: Collected. Kidd also worked with fellow Batman collector Saul Ferris on another book of a more particular subject, Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, which was released for sale in October 2008.
In early 2008, Kidd started a new wave/alternative rock band, writing and recording music under the name Artbreak. He takes the role of song writing, vocals, and percussion, and while the group began as hobby, Kidd has expressed interest in making a serious project out of it. As of 2008, the group performs across the United States and has a tour schedule on their MySpace. They plan to record their original songs for an album entitled Wonderground.
In 2010, Kidd collaborated with the writing staff of the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold on the episode "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases!" The episode contained a segment that was heavily inspired by the Batman cartoon from the 1960s.
Kidd has presented lectures at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, RISD, and numerous other institutions, including the 2012 Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference, resulting in a TED Talk web video: “Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is,” that has over 2,000,000 hits and counting. He also returned to Penn State recently, where he presented his lecture, “Fail Better.”
He continues to edit comics at Pantheon and frequently writes about graphic design and pop culture for publications including McSweeney’s, The New York Times, Vogue, and Entertainment Weekly.
- The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters (2001)
- The Learners: The Book After "The Cheese Monkeys" (2008)
- Batman: Death by Design (2012) – art by Dave Taylor
- "The Bat-Man," in Bizarro Comics (2001) – art by Tony Millionaire
- "The Trust," in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross (2003) – art by Alex Ross
- "Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder," in Bizarro World (2005) – art by Tony Millionaire
- Chip Kidd: Book Two: Work: 2007-2017 (2018). ISBN 978-0847860081
- Only What's Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts (2015)
- Judge This. Simon & Schuster/ TED. 2015. ISBN 978-1476784786.
- Massive: Gay Japanese Manga and the Men Who Make It (2014)
- Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design (2013)
- The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: Master of Gay Erotic Manga (2013)
- Shazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal (2010)
- Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross (2010)
- True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World (2010) – co-authored with Lisa Birnbach
- Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan (2008)
- Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006 (2005)
- Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross (2005)
- Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits (2001) – co-authored with Art Spiegelman
- Peanuts: the Art of Charles M. Schulz (2001)
- Batman Animated (1998) – co-authored with Paul Dini
- Batman Collected (1996)
- Gordon, Amanda. "Out and about: A Chipper Launch For Chip Kidd," New York Sun (February 21, 2008). Accessed September 18, 2008,.
- Chip Kidd Bio HarperCollins.com. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
- "Chip Kidd - Biography - People - Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum". collection.cooperhewitt.org. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- "Chip Kidd - Graphic Designer TED Talk, Work, Quotes & Biography". inkbotdesign.com. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- Vienne, Véronique (2003). Chip Kidd. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-300-09952-5.
- Somaiya, Ravi "Warning: graphic material" Telegraph.co.uk (November 4, 2007). Retrieved on April 2, 2008.
- Rich Motoko "Rejoice, Muffy and Biff: A Preppy Primer Revisited", The New York Times (April 3, 2010). Retrieved on April 3, 2010.
- Quoted in Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986–2006 Rizzoli New York (published November 1, 2005).
- Minzesheimer, Bob (September 3, 2003), "Chip Kidd, book cover designer, unmasked; Prolific artist is on the front of a new book – about him", USA Today
- Heer, Jeet (September 18, 2003), "In his good books: Asking us to both see and read, Chip Kidd's book jackets contain the essence of comics", National Post
- Heer, Jeet. "Chip Kidd" National Post (September 12, 2003)
- Minzesheimer, Bob "Chip Kidd, book cover designer, unmasked" USA Today (September 3, 2003). Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
- Miller, Frank. Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Tenth Printing ed.). DC Comics. ISBN 978-1-5638-9929-4.
- "Hot Chip". CBC News.
- "NYCC BAT SIGNAL: Chip Kidd Writes "Batman: Death By Design"". Comicbookresources.com. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
- Batman Collected (Paperback) Amazon.com. Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
- Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan (Hardcover) Amazon.com (2008). Retrieved April 2, 2008.
- Aoki, Deb Interview: Chip Kidd and Saul Ferris Archived October 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Manga. About.com (February 2008) Retrieved on April 2, 2008.
- Eberhart, John Mark "Author/designer Chip Kidd has a new novel and a long resume of impressive artwork" PopMatters.com (February 27, 2008). Retrieved April 2, 2008.
- "Learn how Superman, Wonder Woman and Scooby Doo will appear on Batman: The Brave and the Bold!". Io9.com. September 16, 2010. Archived from the original on October 11, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
- Kidd, Chip, Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is., retrieved March 31, 2018
- "Chip Kidd". Retrieved May 3, 2014.
- Kennedy, Sean (November 22, 2005), "Kidd dynamite: the first collection of book jackets by Chip Kidd prompts the question "would there be books without him?" An exclusive talk with the out designer.", The Advocate, retrieved January 22, 2016
- "J. D. McClatchy and Chip Kidd" wedding announcement in the New York Times
- Foreword by Chip Kidd to Just My Type by Simon Garfield, Profile Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1846683022
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