Chip Kidd’s ‘GO!’ hones young artists’ graphic design skills

Famed graphic designer Chip Kidd, pictured here with his many designs.
Famed graphic designer Chip Kidd has set his sights on the younger creative set with his new book.

Chip Kidd, the reigning star of the graphic design world, is no stranger to new projects. He’s dreamt up over a thousand book covers, written novels, played music and worked on cartoons. His new book, “GO!: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design,” is packed with stunning images and project ideas to inspire the youngest budding graphic designers. Kidd opens readers’ eyes to design in everyday life, and challenges children to think about why things look the way they do.

How did you decide to do a book for kids?
My editor, Raquel Jaramillo, noticed there weren’t any books on graphic design for young learners. She has two kids, and had lots of advice on what’s relevant to them.

It’s surprising that this is the first real graphic design book for kids, given the popularity of arts and crafts.
You just used the C-word! Crafts are great, but graphic design has a lot more to do with problem solving and topography. It’s a different way of thinking.

The book includes project ideas for kids who are just starting out, like designing their own logos and fonts. Do you work with kids a lot?
I don’t have my own kids, but I have plenty of nieces and nephews. We do things like design stationery together, or decorate their skateboards so they don’t look like anyone else’s.

When were you first introduced to graphic design?
When I was a kid, I didn’t know what it was yet. I never heard the term “graphic design” until I was in college. But I think this generation of kids is thinking about this stuff already. We’re so much more technologically advanced now than when I was 10, so I think it’s important for them to start learning about these concepts now.

How is working with kids different from working with adults?
Kids have fresh perspectives on things, which is really important. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and sometimes I forget to be inquisitive – kids help you remember to never stop learning.

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!

Is graphic design a natural talent, or a learned skill?
You do have to have some talent, but the main thing is working on it, honing it and developing it. Design education is really important. That was part of the impetus for doing the book.

Why is design education such a big deal?
Design shapes your world. Unless you’re a hermit that lives in the woods and never see anybody, you’re exposed to thousands of examples of designs every day – whether on a screen, as part of an object, or something you walk past. Design education helps you understand who’s creating the world and how.

The book is intended for kids age 10 and up – why?
The age is relative. It’s for anyone new to graphic design who wants an intro to it – I tried not to talk down to the audience, no matter who they are. But reading and writing is an important part of graphic design – it’s a form of communication.

How can younger kids get into graphic design?
A parent could go through the book and decide what is applicable to their child. Even young kids can talk about color and form – things like big and small, up and down, left and right. If a child doesn’t understand some of the tougher concepts yet, the book can be a jumping-off point.

Any tips for the parents of future designers?
Creative kids are extremely self-motivated. More than ever, kids are creating their own identities at home, in school and with friends. Parents should pay attention to how kids are doing that, and open up a dialogue about it. It’s important that parents encourage them.

Workman, Chip Kidd’s publisher for “GO!,” has created a Book Cover Challenge, inviting readers to redesign the cover of any favorite book using the principles in “GO!” Find out more about the challenge and how to submit your design here.


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