Chip Kidd has been called the closest thing to a rock star in the design world, having created over 1,000 iconic covers for books from Jurassic Park to Geek Love and album art for the likes of Paul Simon and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. In his new book, Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, Kidd shares this rock star wisdom with the pubescent set, explaining the basics of typography, form, function, color, branding with playful narration and eye-popping visuals.
"A big part of the impetus for me to do this book was that really nothing quite like it existed previously," Kidd tells Co.Design. "There are certainly how-to books on graphic design for adults, but they’re deadly—humorless, so text-heavy, and overly theoretical. I had a strong point of view that that’s not what I wanted this to be. I didn’t want to make it feel like it’s work, like it’s been assigned to you in school."
Oftentimes, young people interested in graphic design have to teach themselves the basics before being able to study it more seriously in college. "My introduction to graphic design was through reading comic books from an early age, at about 3 or 4," says Kidd, who’s still famously obsessed with Batman, having written the books Batman: Collected and Batman Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan.
His new book builds off the irresistible premise that you, the reader, are already a designer. "Whether you realize it or not, most of the decisions you make, every day, are by design," writes Kidd. It’s written for young readers aged 10 and up, but its witty, direct approach makes it a perfect primer for older design rookies as well. And the design of the book itself is, of course, far too beautiful to be reserved just for children.
"The difficult thing in writing this book was reverting back to thinking like a ten year old in terms of what am I going to understand, but also I had to imagine thinking like a ten year old now, today," Kidd tells Co.Design. "That was harder. That’s where my editor, Raquel Jeremio, really played a big part—she has kids this age and understands design and what they can handle conceptually."
"Everything that’s not made by nature is designed by someone," he writes, and presents annotated pictures of a milk carton, a remote control, a hand-lettered chalkboard sign, and a shampoo label as evidence. A brief tour through the history of graphic design introduces milestones like the illuminated Book of Kells of the 8th and 9th century, the first Coca-Cola logo of 1886, the debut of the New York City subway map, and Milton Glaser’s iconic Bob Dylan poster of 1967. After explaining the Barack Obama "O" logo, designed by Sender LLC in 2007, Kidd asks, "What will come next? Maybe your design?" and presents a blank box stamped with "Your work here." Kids are encouraged to submit their projects to the book’s website, gothebook.com.