GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, by Chip Kidd

Mention the name Chip Kidd to most designers, and you will inevitably get a raised-eyebrow expression of recognition and respect. Kidd is an award-winning graphic designer (and occasional writer) noted for his striking, imaginative, and very clever book covers. In fact, his work has helped revolutionize the art of American book packaging. But now, he has both written and designed a most charming book entitled GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design.

GO is intended to be an introduction to the subject of graphic design. It accomplishes this goal plus a lot more, in a playful, appealing manner. The book is written in a simple, conversational, and sometimes humorous style that almost disguises the author’s years of experience and knowledge of the subject. The body text is mostly set in Century Schoolbook, so you get the feeling you’re reading a Dick and Jane sort of book, yet the content is surprisingly sophisticated.

Early on, Kidd says, “everything that is not made by nature is designed by someone,” and goes on from there. GO includes an entertaining and very visual history of graphic design, from cave drawings to the design of Garamond and Helvetica to computers and the Web. From there, it goes on to a discussion of form, typography, and concept – all in more detail than you might expect from a book intended for children. It ends with ten fun and thoughtful design projects that can be posted and shared on gothebook.com.

The good news (for type lovers) is that there is an entire chapter on typography. I particularly like when Kidd asks, “Which font on the following pages feels like you?” followed by the word “Me” set in 30 different typefaces, as it introduces the concept of typefaces having personalities. But in spite of this charming prelude, the overall content of this chapter is rather elementary and patchy, and does not match the depth of the rest of the book. Nevertheless, the mere presence of a chapter on typography signals the importance type plays in design, which can even be overlooked by some professionals! One error that I cannot ignore is that what is described as kerning is in actuality letterspacing. But I will pardon this typographic transgression for the higher good of this book; at least the audience is being exposed to the concept of the importance of the space between letters at all!

Although this book is recommended for children from age 10 and up, it is suitable for, and can be enjoyed by adult non-designers (such as parents, spouses, and others who don’t understand and appreciate what we graphic designers do!) as well as budding designers, and even design professionals. If you are sick of explaining what you do to family and friends, then this book is for you…or them, actually. GO might appear to be a book in a kids’ wrapper, but it has universal charm and appeal.

Posted on: December 17, 2014

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community.

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