May 1, 2007
Chip Kidd answers a few questions on graphic design, inspiration, and process—using his thumbs.
Job description: I’m associate art director and editor at large at Knopf and Pantheon.
Current projects: I just edited a graphic novel called Alias the Cat, by Kim Deitch. The update on the film version of The Cheese Monkeys is that the screenplay is done; I’ve written it with the director. The production company’s still looking for a studio to finance it.
First step on a project: If I’m going to design a book jacket, I’ve got to read the manuscript first. But writing a novel—I just finished a first draft of my second novel, and I’m revising it—is born out of something far more complex and intricate. It’s about having a certain kind of story you want to tell, then figuring out how to tell it. But with design projects, if you can properly define the problem, then you’ve already defined the solution as well.
Last step on a project: Putting it on the shelf
How do you break a creative block? I walk around Manhattan, usually midtown or downtown—Soho or the East Village.
Why do you do what you do? Because it’s fun and it pays well
Education: I have a bachelor’s in graphic design from Penn State University. And twenty years of working at Knopf is like an advanced degree.
Mentor: My mentor for the past twelve years has been my boyfriend, J. D. McClatchy. But he’s taught me nothing that’s printable in your magazine.
First act as “design czar”: To put Donald Trump against the wall
Dream team: I would love to work on something with Michael Stipe. That’s kind of a dream.
Office chair: An Aeron at work, which is sort of standard issue. I mean, I like it, but at home I use a Warren McArthur folding chair from the 1940s. I bought it at the Pier show many years ago.
Office sound track: I usually listen to classical or jazz while I’m working—something that doesn’t have words to it.
Favorite tchotchke: Oh God, I’ve got too many. The book I published, Batman Collected, is an entire volume of my favorite tchotchkes.
Most useful tool: Certainly the computer, the Apple. I actually have a G4 laptop at home;
at work I have a G5.
Bookmarks: Drudge Report, Ain’t It Cool News—that’s about it for anything that’s not porn.
Best place to think: The bathroom
Current read: I’m usually reading something that I’m working on the jacket for. So I’m reading Oliver Sacks’s new manuscript about music and the brain.
Something old: I have an ejector seat from an old military helicopter. It’s been nickel-plated and refitted for use as a chair. If it was ever used, it survived the ejection pretty well—better than the pilot did.
Something new: I would probably say the iPhone, but I don’t have one yet. We’ll finally have a cell phone that’s well designed.
Guilty pleasure: I have too many guilty pleasures. God. One would be copies of the 8th Man cartoons on DVD.
Favorite space: My apartment, on the Upper East Side
Underrated: I guess, pretzels
Overrated: Catholicism. What don’t I like about it? It’s too liberal.
Learned the hard way: Life is short.
Command-Z (undo): I can’t think of much, really—I’ve been lucky that way. But I would have wanted to spend more time with friends who have died.
Dream job: I think I have a dream job.