According to Chip Kidd, the use of images such as this one--me at age 5, in my first grade school picture--is "a shameless way to gain immediate sympathy from readers. It's also very effective." And that's just the first thing I learned from Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd (Workman, 2013)--you'll have to tell me if it worked. The second is that Go is an eye-opening introduction to graphic design for anyone, not just kids. It makes you aware that (almost) everything needs to be designed. Kidd himself illustrates and designs book covers, and uses his own and others as examples of various design elements throughout this guide (you'd recognize a lot of them, or at least one--the T-rex skeleton on the cover of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park is Kidd's handiwork, and authors such as Oliver Sacks have it in their contracts that Kidd design their book covers, too). After reading Go, I have lots (more) to say about book covers--watch this space. I might even try to redesign a cover or two myself. It's that kind of book, both informative and inspiring. Check it out:
[Informative.] Following a short introduction ("Okay, So Just What Is Graphic Design?"), Go covers the fundamentals: Form (the longest chapter, including everything from scale and symmetry to contrast and color theory), Typography, Content, and Concept. Kidd defines concept as your idea of what to do (metaphorically, it's "a bridge between content and form"). Which begs the familiar question, Where do ideas come from? (Don't worry, Kidd has answers.)
[And inspiring.] The last chapter offers 10 Design Projects such as Redesign Something That You Love and Create Your Own Visual Identity or logo (I'm still working on that one). I had to stop myself from inviting all of my ten-year-old's friends over for Graphic Design Camp, but someone else might want to try it with their kids.
My one complaint about Go is that it doesn't focus on many children's book covers (only two, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Wonder). For more on those, see "What Makes a Good Book Cover?" by Thom Bartholomess in the March/April 2014 issue of the Horn Book (including one of my favorite books and covers from last year, The Golden Day), which also provides a useful framework for evaluating covers. I might try using it to talk about some of this year's middle grade and YA covers here. What are some recent covers you love--or hate?