02 January 2014

Go now! Kidd's book a wonderful intro

Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks said that when he wanted to do research on a subject for a script, he would head to the library, and go straight to the kid’s section. Books for kids or young adults, he found, gave him all the major information he needed, but in a much more approachable and concise form than books for adults.

With that in mind, a lot of academics might want to have a look at Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd.

What you can’t see from the cover image at right is that this is a big book, with big text. It has a cardboard cover, like you associate with young kid’s books. And the interiors look gorgeous, a real kaleidoscope of different images and looks.

This book is playful. When you open up the cover, inside it reads:

Congratulations, you have decided to open this book, even though you have no idea what it’s about because the cover doesn't tell you much. In fact, the cover is weird weird and seemingly at cross-purposes with the message and possibly even a bit pretentious. And you know what? That was a design decision. Yes, indeed. Whether you realize it or not, most of the decisions you make, every day, are by design.

It’s friendly. Early on, Kidd asks the reader,  “Why should you  believe me?”, and gives a self-deprecating answer:

Overall, I think I’ve done over 1,000 book covers to date. That fact alone, of course, doesn't necessarily prove that any of them are good.

It’s informative, for a new reader who has never thought about design before. Make no mistake, this is an introductory book.

Chapter 1 lays out a lot of basic elements that go into graphic design, like size, colours, negative space, and image quality. There are a lot of concepts, each given 2-4 pages or so.

Type gets a chapter all to itself, in Chapter 2. As with Chapter 1, you get briefly introduced to the lingo (points, leading, etc.) through a lot of examples.

Chapters 3 and 4 are short, asking, “What are you trying to communicate?” (content) and “How are you trying to communicate it?” (concept).

Chapter 5 provides a series of short projects to get the creative juices flowing. They range from “start a collection” to “remake something you love” to “make a logo for a cause you believe in.”

Most of the stuff in this book I have covered in the last few years writing this blog. But even though all the material here is basic, and I already knew it, the book is so engaging that I was never bored revisiting material I already knew. I wanted to see how Kidd would explain it to me.

Go is allegedly aimed at young people, but it’s perfect for a novice of any age. It never feels condescending, and never feels like the good stuff is being held back for when you’re older. Go is a great place for anyone to start thinking about design, even a grown-up working towards a Ph.D., or a grown-up who got one years ago.

Bonus quote from this interview:

Your book talks a lot about fonts. Why do you have such strong feelings about them?
I want everyone to educate themselves more about typefaces – a lot of them won’t hold up to the test of time, and will look super dated in 10 years.

Like Comic Sans?
Yes, I think it’s terrible. It’s the 8-track tape of typefaces, but you see it everywhere!

External Links

Go: The book
Good is Dead: Chip Kidd’s home page

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