Introduction to Book Cover Design: Making Stories Visual | Chip Kidd | Skillshare

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Introduction to Book Cover Design: Making Stories Visual

teacher avatar Chip Kidd, Graphic Designer at Alfred A. Knopf

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      History of Book Design


    • 3.

      Typography, Content, and Form


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Inspiration: Brazzaville Beach


    • 6.

      Inspiration: Savage Art


    • 7.

      Series Design


    • 8.

      Managing & Preparing for Rejection


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Explore Design on Skillshare


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About This Class

What do stories look like? This is the question that book designers ask with each and every project, and Chip Kidd knows the answer better than anyone.

In this 60-minute class, legendary book designer Chip Kidd will take you through the fundamentals of book cover design, his way. With lessons on the history of book design, typography best practices, and Chip's personal design philosophy, you'll gain insider knowledge to take your design instincts and skills to the next level. You’ll learn how to:

  • Individualize your projects to match the book you’re working on
  • Develop concepts and sketches for your book
  • Incorporate key design elements to make your book covers stand out

After taking this class, you’ll be ready to design your own book cover and answer the question: what do stories look like?

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Chip Kidd

Graphic Designer at Alfred A. Knopf


Chip Kidd is a Designer/Writer in New York City (and Stonington, CT, and Palm Beach, FL). His book cover designs for Alfred A. Knopf, where he has worked non-stop since 1986, have helped create a revolution in the art of American book packaging.

He is the recipient of the National Design Award for Communications, as well at the Use of Photography in Design award from the International Center of Photography. And a bunch of other stuff.

Kidd has published two novels, The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners, as well as Batman: Death By Design, an original graphic novel published by DC Comics and illustrated by Dave Taylor. His latest book, is Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design, was released in October, 2013.

A distinguished and prolific Lecturer, Kidd has spoken ... See full profile

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1. Trailer: Hi my name is Chip Kidd, and I am a graphic designer and a writer, but, primarily I'm a book cover designer. I'm going to take you through some examples of some covers that I've done and what the origins of them were. We're going to go into the history of book cover design, some of it is really good and sometimes of it is not so great. You're creating a piece of visual material or parts but it's a piece of art that's in service to another piece of art. Pick a book preferably, that you love, and look for clues about what could and should be done with the design that perhaps was overlooked before. It's very important to try and create fresh work. You are only as good as the next thing that you're working on, and I think that's actually a pretty healthy attitude to have. 2. History of Book Design: Okay. So, we're going to look at a little bit of the history of book design, certainly a little bit of the history of book design that's meant something to me. One of the first well-known book designers was William Addison Dwiggins, who coined the term graphic design in 1928. He did this edition of the Time Machine for Random House. One of the things he does here, and if I don't know if you've ever read the Time Machine, but if you haven't you should, it's very good. Again, we were talking about the tropes of science fiction. First, he's reinterpreting the Random House logo to look like the home of the professor in the book who invented the Time Machine, and that's just a really cool stylistic thing that you may get or may not get. But then what he does, is he actually illustrates the Time Machine itself in an extremely intricate and intimate way, but not in a way that dominates, which I think is good. Trying to visually interpret something that would have been so practically impossible to do and to pull it off, is really really interesting. There's lots more about this edition that are great. In the design for the preface page is fantastic, and then, he switches colors for different sections. Again, it doesn't seem like it could be a hugely innovative thing, but it really really was at the time, and the way he's illustrated scenes that break up the pacing of the book but are also bordered by ornamentations. So, they are very much bound by the visual set-up that Dwiggins has already made. He did all the illustrations himself, he designed the typeface himself, and it's really just a stunning interpretation of this writer's work. This certainly is not the first edition of the Time Machine, I do think it's the best edition because of the way it's designed. This is a gentleman named Arthur Hawkins Junior. This is a wonderful book by James and Cain. This is an example of typography that sets a certain kind of mood. It looks great, but there's just enough mystery going on here, it's a very strange title. What does that mean? The designer here is letting the title really be the star of the design, and just setting it up and staging it just enough so that it doesn't look generic, but we're not literally depicting a postman coming through the door twice. This is a great book. In the book design era of the first half of the 20th century, was A, the introduction of the paperback, and then B, the introduction in Britain, and then eventually in the United States of the Penguin paperback. The basic setup you see here for this classic by E.M. Forster, a designer named Young Chick Old had a lot to do with this and it's kind of what I would call a genius of compartmentalization. We have the logo of the publisher, which again I was talking about this earlier about comics and comic book panels, and the way the type and the images are separated is very much in evidence here. You get a visual hierarchy, you read the title first, then you read the author's name, and then you realize who published it. Then, once this series became established, they rift on it exponentially. So then, in the States, vintage does this. This is a wonderful designer named E. McKnight Kauffer. Both of these covers are strong, but they are different eras and there are different ideas about how to present the same work. This is establishing Penguins identity. This is basically saying, okay, well now, we're vintage, we're in America, we're publishing it, so we're going to visually separate it from the British publication, but also with a sense of mid-twentieth modernism, minimalism. Certainly one of my favorite books and one of my favorite examples, Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger. This came out in 1953, the design is by a woman named Miriam Woods. At this point, Salinger was very very much in control of his book design. So, while he didn't really fancy himself a designer, he also very much had a heavy hand in how the typography was going to be handled. For the first publications of the rest of his books, they followed this lettering and not this coloring. The paperback was a different affair altogether formally. Personally, I like this much better. But again, it's a very personal thing, we could get into detail about design scheme, and shape, and color. I would say it just looks like there's a lot more that's interacting here. Whether or not Salinger liked this, I don't really know, except that by the 60s it changed, and it changed to this. Formally, I still prefer the other one that I just showed you but now at least we get the idea that there are nine distinct stories in this grid, and we get the titles on the front, which was pretty unusual at the time to put all the titles of a short story collection on the front as well as the back cover. In the mid 90s, there was a magazine called Speak, that was art directed by a wonderful designer named David Carson. I was asked, I could basically do whatever I wanted. So, I took some of my favorite stories or favorite books and reinterpreted them as magazine pages. So, for Salinger, I did my version of Nine Stories, it's very minimal. We're going to talk about minimalism in a minute, and it's basically just taking the word story and typesetting it nine different ways, and then putting the author's name there. In this particular assignment because it was a magazine and because it wasn't the cover of a magazine, I took a lot of liberties with the way I could present this work. One of the other stories that I depicted was, To Kill a Mockingbird. The original cover for that which you are probably well aware of, is this. The original cover was designed by a woman named Shawley Smith. I would say that, in my opinion, this is neither good nor bad but regardless, it's iconic. This is a phenomenon that happens with a book like this. If I were to see this cover without having read the book or knowing anything about it, I'd probably look at it and say, it looks all right, or it looks like it might be interesting. But, because the book is so good and as I said, so iconic, and we're so used to it and the cover never changed, it becomes unforgettable under the circumstances. 3. Typography, Content, and Form: In terms of typography, I was influenced by a lot of the early modernists from the 20th century. So, you had Destil from Poland, Russian constructivism from Russia, the Futurists from Italy, Art Deco from France, the Machine Age in America. This is a magazine called Wendingen and it was produced in the '20s and I saw it in history books before I ever was able to get a copy, but this influenced me tremendously in terms of just typographic purity but also mixed with complexity. So as I said before, I was going to be talking about minimalism. I love minimalism. I've used it a lot in my design but I'm also a great believer in that if things get too minimal, there's not enough. But anyway, here's their idea of ads that are in the back of this magazine and everything's perfectly ordered. The fact that we can't read it probably helps because it makes it seem more interesting and we can appreciate the typography just purely formally. So, I've always tried to keep that in mind when designing typography. We were talking about minimalism earlier. Certainly, one of my favourite examples of this from when I was a design student is this album cover by Peter Saville for the band, Joy Division and at the time, I didn't even know who they were. This would have been around 1982, no 1980. Visually, you would get no clue about what the content actually was. The F stands for factory because that's the record label, Factory Records and the name of the group is Joy Division. The title of the album is actually Still, which you don't get until it's on the back. You buy it, you take it home and there's even less there than you thought there was going to be. Part of why it works is that the music is so full and totally overwhelming and so the idea was the design didn't have to be. It's still beautiful but it's the idea of taking the content and then you have the form and then you put them together and you get the full picture. But you don't get the full picture from the album cover until you listen to the music, which is really inspiring but very like driving and staccato and it was a transition between punk rock and new wave. Later on, I was asked to design a cover for the diaries of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, who also killed himself tragically young in his later 20s. He kept a notebook and otherwise, the notebook is completely preserved. But for the jacket, the publisher actually really wanted something very stark and so in my own way, this was a response to this which is where homage comes in. You have to be very careful about that. It's one thing to pay tribute to something else without copying it completely. So, the differences here are significant. It's literally very dark. We go from a shade of pink to a shade of red, which is a very subtle way of saying going from life to death, from flesh to blood, and all the type is relatively small to the amount of space that we're working with around it. That's an important thing to consider when designing a book cover, it's what what is the format. This is something like 8.5 by 11 so, to make the type seem smaller, you give it that amount of space around it for it to basically float in or drown in, depending on how you want to look at it. Backing up a little bit, different ways to depict the same text, certainly one of my favourite books of the 20th century is "Lolita" by Nabokov and this has been pretty much in publication for the last something like 80 or 90 years. It's a great book but it's very shocking and deals with themes that to this day, are very shocking. But the point in terms of the design is that again, if you research, you will see there's-I think there's at least one website devoted to it. Ditto the "Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you can see all the different visual interpretations of this cover and this edition came out in 1987. You can tell this printing is from 1986 and we can see that because now the bar code is starting to be introduced for better or for worse. I remember, for book designers, it was very much for worse that we've had to deal with this ever since but certainly for the book buyer and seller, it was an utter innovation. The only time I've been asked to interpret "Lolita" was for a Brazilian publisher named Companhia das Letras. This was in the mid '90s. Now, as you may know, this book is about an illicit affair with a much older man and a much younger girl, she is a minor. She of course is Lolita and the gentleman is named Humbert Humbert. What I was allowed to do here was play with the form a little bit so that in the Crassus terms, you're attracted to the cover for the same reason that Humbert is attracted to Lolita. Now there's a reveal here, this separate piece of paper which is what's called a belly band or an OB, which is a Japanese word for sash, and if you take that off, you get Humbert Humbert staring at you and not very approving way, as in cover it back up. So, this was a lot of fun to do for one of my favourite books ever. So, maybe you want to interpret "Lolita" your own way. Certainly, everybody else has. So, that could be one of the assignments if you want to do it. 4. Homage: Getting back to homage, for this book, it's called The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This came out in the late 1991 or 1992. I designed this book with, at 92, with another woman in our office at the time, Barbara De Wilda. We love this book. It's about a group of classic Greek students at a small private college up in New Hampshire. A murder takes place and they try to cover it up then, et cetera. This was the first book by this author, Donna Tartt, who's now very distinguished. Her third book is just about to come out, and what we wanted to try and do with the cover was introduce a material that we hadn't seen before for use on what would hopefully become a commercial novel, which it did. The inspiration for doing it on clear plastic, was that if you go to an antiquarian bookshop, which I hope that you do, you will see as in back with the J.D. Salinger book, what they do to preserve the jackets is they wrap them in clear plastics. So, most antiquarian book sellers are going to do this. So, we thought, why not beat them to it and we'll do it, and already make it look like a classic in an antiquarian bookstore before it even comes out. So, this actually worked really really well. It went into multiple printings, and the interesting thing to me about it was, frankly, the title and the author's name are not all that easy to read, which didn't really seem to faze anybody. I think they were just more enamored of this as an object, and that's really what the goal was, and that's been a big part of what the goal has been for me for many years. Is that we love the text, we love the stories, but we want you to buy the book also because it's beautiful and it's something that you want to keep. So which brings us- so, here's sort of all- this is minimalism, historicism and homage together. First of all, this is a book that was done in the 20s by the De Stijl movement, which means the style from Holland in the 1920s. One of the great designers of it is named Petes Van, Theo van Doesburg, and of course, the best known was the painter Mondrian. The way the topography of Stijl works together through over printing was very modern for its time, and influenced a lot of other designers, one of whom, again, the same designer of the Joy Division Stijl album cover. This is the album cover for the group that Joy Division became, which is New Order, and there's a couple of things going on here. This is a vellum wrapper over printed cardboard. But the way that the Stijl printing is happening with the title of the band, it's clearly inspired by what's going on here in the Stijl. Kind of what's hilarious about this though, I mean again, it's very minimal. The name of the album is Low Life, and so, you don't really get that until you take the record out. On the back, it's just the names of the songs, and then the the credits are sort of in the edge there, which is really very hard to see. The band had never been depicted on an album cover before. So, they asked that that could happen with this time. But rather hilariously, the way it was done, is they put the drummer on the front, which is kind of funny because that's the last thing that you do. Then, the keyboard is this on the back, and then you don't get the lead singer until you take the sleeve out, and then you get the basis on the back. So, what was important to me about this not only with the design is I love this album. I love the music. Again, this came out in 84 I believe, and so, I was still in college. So, I loved the connection between doing great design for great music. Although, they both seemed to be independent of each other until they come together this way. Then, many years later, I was asked to do the cover of a book called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I've talked about this in my TED talk and you can look at it there, but there's a couple of aspects of it that I didn't really get to talk about in that talk. First of all, the spines are very important for physical books. Because often, books get shelved and after they are bought and read, this is how they live visually, most of them. So, it's important to make a spine as distinctive as you can when dealing with physical books, because it gives them, you know, it helps to make this unique when it's on the shelf. So, as I explained in the previous talk, really what's going on here is about the consideration of two different planes of existence that then make up one. So, if you take the cover off, you get part of the story but you don't get the whole story. Likewise, just through that, you get part of the story but you don't get the whole story, and then when you put it together, you visually get the whole story. But of course, this isn't really giving anything away in terms of what happens. It's just to intrigue you to get you into the book. But for me personally, this was my homage to this, which if anybody got that, fine. If they didn't get it, fine. I did this more for myself, than I did for anybody else. But again, I think there's a fine line between homage and just simply ripping something off, and the former is a lot better than the latter. Okay. So, I invite you to pick a book preferably that you love, not really at this point, much point in working on a book that you hate, and look into its design history if it has one. See what people have done before. You can upload images of that to the Skillshare website, and then start to read, even if it's a book that you've read several times. Read it again, and look for clues about what could and should be done with the design that perhaps was overlooked before, and that you find, and you find important. Then, share those with us as well. 5. Inspiration: Brazzaville Beach: Now in the second lesson, we're going to be looking at where you're going to get your ideas for the covers of the books that you want to work on, and of course, they are going to come from the text. I'm going to start with two very different books. One is a novel, the other is a biography. The first novel is called "Brazzaville Beach" by a writer named William Boyd, who coincidentally, was just picked to write the new James Bond novel, which will be out soon, he's a wonderful writer. This project goes back a good many years ago, early in 1990s, and it's called "Brazzaville Beach." It's about a woman who works with chimpanzees in the title place, which is fictitious, but is in Africa. It's cross cut with the present and the past and obviously something very wrong went with the past and she's reflecting on it now in Brazzaville Beach, and then there's a side story about her husband who is obsessed with math and numbers and calculations. So, because so much of it is about her work with these animals, with these chimpanzees, it would have been very tempting to try and depict some aspect of the animals on the front, I resisted this impulse. Sometimes, your first idea exists to be thrown away, and sometimes you get to the point where you realized your first idea was the best idea. So, we're going to throw away the idea of showing chimpanzees. Okay, so what else is there? There is Africa obviously, which has a very particular color palette, very warm, very hot. Then there's a detail about this woman has taken to a local brand of cigarettes called Tuskers, now these are also fictitious. I remember at the time trying to research actual Tuskers, this is before the Internet and I came up with nothing until I contacted the author directly, and he said, "Well yes, that's because I made them up." So okay, I've always been obsessed with cigarette packagings, particularly, vintage and foreign cigarette packaging. I find it very unfortunate that such wonderful packaging exists for a product that is frankly very, very, very bad for you. But I've collected various cigarette packages over the years. Most designers I know are also avid collectors. The collecting impulse comes from a need for the never-ending quest, but also constantly being on the search for visually inspiring objects, and packaging, and such. So, I've got dozens of things like this. This always cracked me up that these cigarettes are called "ALAS", which is an expression for, "Alas, I have cancer now that I've smoked the Alas cigarettes. " But wonderful visual iconography of the red thing that you have to pull off to take the cellophane off and the way they're packaged up. So, I'm thinking about making the book look like this. Now, the other thing for inspiration is, I go to a lot of flea markets and now of course everybody goes to a lot of eBay. I think that one of the problems with eBay is it's very hard to find serendipity. This I bought, what these are, these are cards that were used for ham radios operators in the mid-20th Century. The problem with eBay and I use eBay all the time is, I found this by accident and I found it typographically, hugely inspiring, and the thing about it is, I would never find this on eBay because I wouldn't even know how to search for it because I didn't know that I wanted it until I saw it. But what would happen was, these ham radio operators would print up these cards and then they signal each other and if they got through to each other, they would get the address of the person and then send them a card. So, this was one of the precursors to the Internet. But the typographic variety on these is really quite wonderful. So, it brought to mind the idea of calculation, which her husband in the book is very, very obsessed with. So, I have tons of this kind of material on hand to help guide me through the process of a visual vernacular for a particular time in place that also happens to look great. Actually, there's a wonderful designer named Paul Sahre, who did a whole book about ham radio graphics called "Hello World" and it's quite wonderful. Anyway, and this person obviously, didn't even get a chance to paste them all in, but they really are quite fabulous and they're from all over the States and all over the world. So, I'm going to put these two things together and work with it. Again, this is pre-computer so I was doing all this by hand and came up finally with this, which suggests both the pack of cigarettes of what Tuskers might look like, but also there's bits of mathematic calculation implied and just enough asymmetry to keep it interesting. The author loved it, the publisher loved it, and I was their second choice. Their original choice used chimpanzees, and tropical trees, and all this kind of thing, and they wanted something different. Again, on the spine you still get enough of its personality so that when it's on the shelf, it still holds up in its uniqueness. So, this is also called dealing with the vernacular, dealing with a certain kind of visual information that's used for something else applied to, in this case, a book. So, we're adapting a certain kind of cigarette packaging visual language to a book cover. 6. Inspiration: Savage Art: All right the other book that I want to talk about in terms of getting your source material is a biography of a writer named Jim Thompson. Jim Thompson was the premier pulp writer of the mid 20th century. If you see the movie Pulp Fiction, a lot of the ideas for that came from his kind of writing. The book he's probably best known for is called The Grifters, which is also a film, an amazing film with Angelica Houston. Just Google it, The Grifters, it's really, really, really good but it's, we're talking the underbelly of society in terms of people who are con artists and are con artists for a living and there's a whole sort of like food chain of these people and so using covers of Pulp Fiction books as inspiration for how the cover of his biography should look. Now, this is unusual because most of the time if you're doing, cover for a biography, you're going to just take a photograph or an illustration of the subject themselves, put it on the front and that's pretty much it. I mean if I say it's a biography of Frank Sinatra, you picture Frank Sinatra or you picture any kind of TV star or whoever it is, movie star. For Jim Thompson, I wanted to go further than that because nobody- he was rather unsung in his day. I mean the book sold well but you're not going to buy a book about Jim Thompson or want to read it because of the way he looks necessarily. Your visual acumen with his work was from the covers of the original books that he worked on i.e the pulps. So, I love to collect pulp covers. It's also especially funny to me when there's a pulp cover for an actual legitimate book. So this is James Michener's Tales Of The South Pacific which is actually, it's not a pulp novel at all it became the basis for South Pacific, the musical. Wonderful wonderful book. This is just a really random collection here. Lani, a passion of historical romance of old Hawaii by somebody named Margaret Widdemer and then you get the sketchier things by people who have just a pseudonym. Ken Gardener probably didn't exist. Tight Fit never really won the Pulitzer Prize and you can especially tell that this is an elicit piece of pseudo pornography because the back cover has absolutely nothing on it. This is only marginally more believable, Carnal Intrigue by Clark Connor who also doesn't exist. She was quiet and beautiful and crammed with passion for me. So, the visual vernacular for these books is very distinctive but again, I don't want to just use this straight away and adapt it literally because it should look like it's progressed from here and I'll show you what that means in a minute but Prison Nurse, thieves, drug addicts, murderers, these were her patients which makes sense because they would need a nurse but anyway. This is really weird because it's William Faulkner, who was a very serious good writer and who knows maybe he was just so drunk by then that he thought this was fine but it's not even a good drawing but there we go and this is Graham Greene. Again another totally legitimate writer who obviously said okay to a pulp version of one of his books. So, these really thrived in the 50's, 60's into the 70's. So, now I'm going to take two Jim Thompson covers and deconstruct them and put them back together again. Now, the name of this book is Savage Art and then the subtitle is a biography of Jim Thompson. So, this is right away a little bit different because most biographies are very conventional in the title and that it would be Jim Thompson a biography but no this is Savage Art which is fine and describes what he did and so again, I'm taking two bits of his covers, blowing them up, taking them apart and putting them back together so that you get a narrative but it's not like you're used to seeing it. So, this is a lesson in scale, it's a lesson in cropping and enlarging images to give them a stronger power than they had previously. It's a lesson in juxtaposition. This is something that we're not used to seeing this way. When you cut off parts of people's faces, well, it can imply a lot of things but in this case it implies this sort of desperation and you put it together with the title and something very intriguing and very frankly horrifying is going on here. Then again, the lesson with the spine so here he is. This is Jim Thompson and it's almost by putting him on the spine, it's like a statement that he's behind all this and he is what you will see on the shelf. Then on the back, there's just enough of the iconography of the back cover of a pulp novel and yet gives us plenty of room for the praise and the credits and all that. So, here's frankly a different way of going about designing the biography of an artist based on what they do rather than what they look like. 7. Series Design: I'm going to show two examples of series design which usually happens in paperback. There's a whole mindset about books come out in first editions, in hardcover, then they go to paperback and actually, paperback is where they have their real life because that's how they get reprinted and live on. So, Larry Mcmurtry, the great writer mostly of Westerns best-known for "Lonesome Dove," and the domestic drama, "Terms of Endearment." I was asked to give a group of his books a redesign to our westerns and to our domestic dramas. So, what I decided to use to tie them together, which I know sounds odd but examples of clothing that the characters would wear, coupled with iconic images that give you a sense of the emotional experience that you will be in for by reading these books. So, I was able to do four of them, we'll start with the Westerns. This one is called "Moving On," one of his less known western books, but you get the flannel plaid, It's about a rodeo performer. So, this gives you a sense of what he would be wearing, and then the image invokes him just about to jump onto a bronco. So, then you get the title which gives you the idea that there's action about to ensue. The lettering was adapted from a certain brand that was used on a ranch. I took a couple of the letters and then adapted them to the rest of the alphabet to make his name. The other Western, this is text fill, and this is the sequel to a wonderful book that he did called "The Last Picture Show," which was made into a film, and now we're into denim, and this image basically, tells you where in Texas. Well, the title tells you we're in Texas, sorry. But it gives you a sense of the desolation, and how isolated this small town really is, which is very very small. Then, the two others in this series are "Terms of Endearment," which was made into an incredible, Oscar winning film, and is much more bound to a contemporary life outside of a Western theme. It's hard to explain, but it's very heartwarming and tragic and sad. The clothing invoked here is something that the one of the lead characters, a woman played by Deborah Winger in the movie, who's dying of cancer might be wearing. This is the sequel to that, called the "Evening Star." It takes you back to the characters of "Terms of Endearment" and tells you a lot more about them. These are designed to all go together in more ways than one, the fronts, but also when they're on the shelf you're getting a sense of visual continuity. I think this is very important when you're doing a series design. The other series design that I was able to do is for a wonderful writer named Elmore Leonard, who sadly just died. But I got to work very closely with him for many years, and starting with this book, which is called "Cuba Libre" and it's actually a historical novel. What I wanted to do with the typography for him, this series was going to have to tie together several generations. "Cuba Libre" is about the USS Maine, which was docked in Havana Harbor, and then blew up in 1898. I knew that other books in this series were going to be set contemporary. The typography was going to have to be what ties it all together, and it's literally, a typeface that is used by the New York Post for their headlines at the time, that I actually really liked very much. So, I would cut them out, and I would distress them by erasing them, and then scan them back into the computer and then take it to super high contrast. So, that it is customized for these books. It can hold up for something like this, which is you can see a newspaper headline from 1898 actually using this. This is what's called the mass-market paperback version of a book. It originally came out in hardcover but then we used basically the same design for the mass-market paperback and then they slap the New York Times bestseller on the top, which is fine. So, here's another book in its series, and this is one of my favorites. This is actually a study in juxtaposition. So, you have this title, which is meant to evoke glamour, and sequence, and all this nonsense. It mostly takes place in Atlantic City and Miami in the gambling world. So, this young woman gets swept up to become this big, fat, rich gambling tycoons. What do you want to say? Then she commits suicide early on, and the guy she was with before is determined to figure out what happened and get this guy. But this is from her point of view of what she was promised, and then what she got, which was a life glamour, which turned out to be not that at all. So, again, the same topography as "Cuba Libre," but now it's being applied to an entirely different and contemporary situation. There were at least 20 books in this series that spanned from hardcover, to trade paperback, to mass market paperback, and they all had to hold together with this typographic solution. So, again, it's about using the text, using clues from the text, to inform how you're visually going to approach the subject matter. I think the other thing I should mention with this is, all of these books are illustrated with photography. There's no drawing, and that holds to a lot of the work that I did in the late 80's, through the 90's, which is illustrating fiction with photography. I think if you do it right and you crop it right, it gives you a harsher sense of realism to the story. Certainly, that's what Elmore Leonard was all about, regardless of what he was writing about. It was very very greedy, down and dirty, there was nothing fantastic about it, it was very much about the underbelly of whatever milia he was writing about, whether it was Detroit, or Miami, or Atlantic City, or even the westerns that he did very early on. 8. Managing & Preparing for Rejection: Okay. So, now, finally, we're going to talk about rejection and ideas that may or may not be bad. At the end, remember, you're going to be posting your solutions to things on the Skillshare website, so try to be kind. So, I'm going to go into some ideas that I had that were rejected and why, and some of them quite deservedly so. So, the first thing I'm going to cite is, might as well start at the top. I did many book covers for the art critic Robert Hughes, which was a bit intimidating considering he was the single-most prominent art critic in America, and probably the world. You would have thought that meant that he was sort of a nightmare to work with, and he wasn't at all. He was really great, and he died a couple years ago, alas. But his great statement on contemporary art was a book called The Shock of the New and which Knopf originally published in the early '80s before I got there. Every couple of years, they would revise it. So, there was going to be a revised [inaudible] trade paperback. I was still in my postgraduate days, and so, I thought, well, if we're going to talk about The Shock of the New, why don't we do something truly shocking and weird and take the word the and make it the biggest thing on the cover, and then, make all the other information [inaudible] smaller? I didn't pronounce that word correctly, but make it much smaller so that this was like a post-modern idea that the word the would be focused on, because it's the least important word. This was the only time he rejected anything of mine, and he basically said, well, nobody's going to buy a book called The. He was probably right, and so, I did this sort of typographic solution, which you can see here, that he inexplicably approved. It's really not very interesting or good. In the meantime, I was asked to design the cover of the annual of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, number 15. So, that they really do let you do whatever you want. So, for that, I was able to try this concept, and you can see that I think Robert Hughes was probably exactly right. The title here is The Annual of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Graphic Design USA: 15. But this really wasn't something that you would buy in a bookstore. It went out to all the members. So, again, the cover really wasn't going to be selling the book, as it were. But I got a second chance on The Shock of the New several years later when we were doing yet another updated version. I felt that I actually really got it right this time, and the only hilarious thing about this cover is that there's a massive typo on the front that the vast phalanx of copy editors and managing editors at Knopf missed, and no, I'm not going to tell you what it is. This was an idea I had. There's a movie critic named Anthony Lane, who writes for The New Yorker, who I think is really one of the best movie critics writing for the past decade. He's just wonderful. So, he was publishing a collection of pieces called Nobody's Perfect, and that's the famous last line of Some Like It Hot. So, my idea, which I thought was very clever, was to make it look like the books were all jacketed incorrectly at the bindery. So, everything is shifted to the right here about an inch and a half, two inches. So, it looks like it's a mistake, and yet, you can read it because of the way the spine was designed. The colors are vibrant so that you pick it up, or what have you. Nobody liked this at all. Everybody thought that it was confusing and literally made it look like a massive mistake had been made, and that was it. Somebody else did the project. So, moving on to movie stars, I've been privileged to do some covers about Woody Allen, mostly by a gentleman named Eric Lax. There's a book called Conversations with Woody Allen that I did a cover for, that turned out really well. This was a book that was going to be called The Illustrated Woody Allen Reader. Given his worldview, my idea was to put just a big, giant, black void on the front, and I thought that this would be very amusing. Now, this was before all the tumult in his personal life, which became very public. So, it was not a comment on that. It was just a comment on the fact that he's got all these neurotic doom and gloom kinds of attitudes towards life. But this was roundly flat-out rejected, which brings us to Clint Eastwood. So, this is my original cover for a biography of him by a movie critic named Richard Schickel, who to this day writes for Time magazines, great movie reviewer. The concept of dicot holes and distressed and this iconic picture of Eastwood so that it looked like somebody had shot him three times in the face, and all it really did was just piss him off even more. Again, made perfect sense to me, and I thought it looked great, and the author hated it. I don't even think Clint Eastwood got to see it. So, we went with something much more conventional, although it's a very nice picture. 9. Conclusion: Really, one of the reject covers that hurt, not the most, but just because I like the author so much, David Sedaris and Naked. The original hardcover design was accepted as was originally presented and that I covered in the TED Talk, so you can look at that there. But then, we're going to go to paperback and I had always regretted using a pair of boxer shorts on the cover of the hardcover of Naked. Mainly because having got to know David a little bit and as anybody feels they have after they've read his writing, he's really not a boxers kind of guy. He's a briefs kind of guy. So, I literally had lunch with him one day when he was still in New York and I said, "Would you do me a favor, and this is not like a weird sex thing at all, but could you bring a pair of your underwear with you to lunch in a bag because I have an idea for the paperback cover", and he very nicely obliged. So, I took it to a photographer, and to put his name on the cover, I wrote it in the waist band of the underwear like your mother would do if you were going away to summer camp so that your underwear would not get mixed up with somebody else's. Then, photographed it on a red linoleum background, which seemed to make sense. He claims to have liked it and he probably did but the publisher just thought it was too off-putting. They thought it was too unsanitary looking and it was too sort of see the least sexual. So, they killed that one and so I regretted that. But, I think the real lesson here is that if you pursue this, especially if you pursue it professionally, I don't care who you are, you will get your work rejected. I get my covers rejected to this day and sometimes I think that they deserve to be rejected and sometimes I think they just didn't. But, ultimately, the author's always right, the client's always right. It's their book, and it's their project, and so it's part of my job to come up with another idea or multiple ideas and I think it also doesn't hurt your thought processes to always have a plan B in mind. Okay, I love plan A. I think this is a great cover, but just for my own mental well-being, I should think of what happens when they say no. It helps to have the alternative plan, at least in here already, before you show the first thing because it's just a mental insurance against falling in love with something that you've done and then having it taken away. One of the axioms that one of our teachers used to tell us at Penn State, which I put into my novel, the learners is never fall in love with an idea and then there's a bit of nastiness after that. But the point is, you can always find another. Often, if you you can fall in love with the wrong idea, as some of us fall in love with the wrong person, and usually that never ends well. So, I would say the same is true for book covers. You should certainly believe in what you're doing but you are also doing it in service to somebody else, and that somebody else will decide the fate of what you were doing. I will end with probably one of my most well-known simultaneous successes and failures. In the mid 1990s, I was given a freelance job in which I was asked, how would you like your dream job? We want you to redesign the Bible. I thought, well, all right. More specifically, it was the New Testament. It was a new translation of the New Testament by a Greek scholar named Richmond Lattimore. The art director said, "We want you to think of this as a great epic work of fiction." I said, "Well, that's good because I've been thinking about this book that way for quite some time." Then, I started thinking about imagery and it's quite a daunting challenge to visually approach this material. Then, I came upon a series of photographs by a wonderful photographer named Andres Serrano. It's called the Morgue series and he got permission from a morgue in New York to hang out, if you will, for a week with his camera and photograph corpses as they were coming into the morgue. He published these and I saw one of them which was called Murder Victim Number 5, and it's quite astonishing to me. It basically looks like this person is alive and dead at the same time, which is definitely one of the major themes of the book. Who can deny? It's a pretty violent book. The image also combines the sense of horror and serenity, which I thought was really, really striking and perfect. I thought, all right, the publisher isn't going to like this but I think it's the right thing to do and that's what I'm going to send them. So, I did and miracles do happen. They accepted it and they said, "We think this is really beautiful and perfect for this project." So, they went out with it and the book itself was an enormous flop, at least the hardcover was, and the problem was guilt by association. Andres Serrano is also the photographer for an extremely notorious work called Piss Christ, which was a photograph of crucifix immersed in a jar of the photographer's own urine and was partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and almost single-handedly brought down that institution when this news came to light. So, even though this photograph has nothing to do with that because it was the same person, no booksellers would carry it. No religious bookstores, which is what they were really counting on, none of the major chains. So, the publisher took a huge risk on this and it failed, but where it succeeded was in all the design competitions and it got a lot of publicity but it didn't help the book. So, ultimately, really, that stuff didn't matter anymore and it really, really was a failure. I mean, arguably I think to me it's one of the best things I've ever done but certainly not commercially and certainly not ultimately in service to the text. So, what is our lesson here? I'm not sure except that you need to just keep trying and trying again. I still love designing books after 27 years. I hope I can do it for another 27 years, and I'm eager to see what you all will do. Okay, thanks. 10. Explore Design on Skillshare: [MUSIC]