Video from Knopf Book Cover Designer

I came across this video from TED Talks today, and thought I’d pass it on to those who read this. I think Chip Kidd makes some great points about book and book cover design in a quirky way which, if you like it, might even make you laugh. If you concentrate on what he has to say about design (instead of what he says about technology), then there is a lot of good material here.

He does make kind of snide and condescending asides about ebook, which, for the record, I tend to disagree with. But I suspect that if pinned down he might not be quite as dismissive. He is correct, IMO, that at the moment ebook covers can’t do the kinds of things that he can do with physical book covers–especially since the hardcovers he is working with have both a cover and a dust jacket, while ebooks generally have just a single image. But this is a hurdle that will be overcome, since supporting animated covers would overcome this issue in most situations, and also make ebook covers more flexible than print covers. [Currently only a handful of ereaders would actually show the animation. I’ve heard of one that will crash on trying to present an animated cover. Most will just show a still of the initial image. The most difficult problem will be those that use e-ink, such as the Amazon Kindle, since they can’t refresh the screen fast enough to keep up with the animation.]

Kidd’s style is also a bit odd and perhaps uncomfortable, but that is likely just a matter of style and perhaps some lame jokes.

But if you overlook these, I think Kidd has some interesting things to say about design — things that don’t get said outside of design courses and design books, and that might make a difference for those preparing their own book covers. I particularly love the very first point he makes (the one about the apple). Its simple, but if you pay attention you’ll see that it is violated all the time. To be honest, I’m sure that I’ve erred on that issue.

So, take a look. Unless you are an accomplished designer already, I think you’ll learn something:

Author: Kent Larsen

I grew up in the Washington DC area and served an LDS mission to Portugal. After receiving bachelor's degrees in Accounting and Portuguese from BYU, I came to New York City, where I worked in publishing companies like Henry Holt & Co., Bantam Doubleday Dell (now part of Random House), and North-South Books. I am now the owner of Luso-Brazilian Books (, the largest importer and publisher of Portuguese-language materials for North America. I also run a Mormon-oriented publishing house under the imprint names Mormon Arts and Letters (, Mormon News Books, Latter-day Renaissance and Samuel Lamanite Books (forthcoming).

3 thoughts on “Video from Knopf Book Cover Designer”

  1. One of the small tragedies of my life is that academic libraries regularly discard book jackets, so I rarely get to see Chip Kidd’s work on actual books.

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