Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book by Chip Kidd

I was a little concerned I wasn't going to complete a book for this week, the first time it would have happened since I started this blog. I'm in the middle of two long ones and had just started a third and had been crushed by my schoolwork. Then, on Thursday, I received Chip Kidd's The Cheese Monkeys at work. I had put in a request for it and it had been out a while but lo and behold, it was finally returned.

Chip Kidd is most noted for his work in designing book covers. He's a bit more than that, though, as he has branched out into editing, music, writing. If it's creative he seems to do it. Check out this "trailer" for the sequel to The Cheese Monkeys, The Learners.

or his music video:

As you might know as I have said it before (although whether I have said it here, I don't know), I read a lot about design. It fascinates me. Kidd's book covers are just great. He has a knack for capturing the essence of a book. When browsing his website for this post, I realized I've read at least half a dozen books whose cover he has designed (only a selection of his jackets are on his site), all of them I have enjoyed. Might be a good way to start a reading list.

I don't remember why exactly I decided to request The Cheese Monkeys now, but I'm glad I did. I was completely spent after wrapping up my coursework for the semester (I finished the project for my last of three classes Wednesday night) and when I got home after work, and with the house quiet since the boowahs weren't home, I flopped down in a chair and started reading. Couldn't put it down. Wrapped it up Friday morning.

The physical book itself is amazing. I had signed out the book and put it on a shelf at work. I looked up at it later and saw grey smudges on the edges of the book. Did a double-take and realized that the phrase "Good is Dead" was printed blurrily on the edge of the book. As you read the book, the smudges on the edges of the text become clearer. The "Good is Dead" phrase becomes readable looking at it one way. If you look at it from a different direction it says "Do you see?". Neat effect. The font and text layout are nice, too. Interestingly, the font changes midway in the book, I believe when the main character starts pursuing graphic design.

And that's what the book is about; graphic design. It's a novel about a kid in the fifties who discovers the field of graphic design through his studies in college. The story actually provides a number of lessons on design and in itself is fascinating as a bit of an instructional. Even without graphics, the explanations and written depictions are done well enough that you can visualize the various works the characters create. For a design primer, it's a fun way to learn. The story, though, is really good, too. It's downright hysterical. The characters are quirky yet believable. The book is broken out like a course syllabus which works nicely to move the story along.

I always have to complain about something, though, with my book reviews. My only possible complaint about this novel is that Kidd loves him his similes and metaphors. I noticed it more in the beginning. I think that as the book progresses, it falls into place with the narrator/main character's personality and become less noticeable. It wouldn't be an issue except some of them seem a little too forced.

The Learners isn't in our library system yet but I'll definitely be reading it.

Wrap this up with an interview with Kidd:

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