Peter Mendelsund NPR Interview Reaction


(Photo from New Yorker:

“I’m very heartened these days to find, in fact, people still really want physical books.”

“I’m very interested in what the authors project is.” From the beginning of this NPR interview, Peter Mendelsund is describing how he designs a cover for a book. Mendelsund is very articulate in the interview, describing how a book designer needs to make a visually appealing cover in order for the book to be sold. I agree with his statement that a book cover needs to be like a movie billboard or an advertisement billboard. The book cover represents how the book will look to the people that are purchasing the book, and it needs to be visually appealing to stand out in a store/marketplace.

“Dead authors get the best book jackets.”

“I make the design. I print it out. I wrap it around a book. I leave it on my bookshelf face out, and then I willfully try to forget about it. One of the things about making anything is in order to discern whether what you’ve made is working or not, you need some objectivity. You need some distance from it.” I feel that this sums up the whole interview because as a book designer, Mendelsund gives some basic advice on how to design a book cover, and how he has to print it out and look at it on a shelf, like someone purchasing the book would.

“I think there are two primary jobs that a jacket has to do: It has to represent a text and it has to sell it.”

I enjoyed listening to this interview, it gave me a whole new perspective on looking at book covers.


Chip Kidd: Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is. (TED Talk Reaction)


(Image source: YouTube)

Chip Kidd is a unique character. It is clear from the beginning of the video from the way he dresses, speaks, and his personality, he is a very unique person. But, he makes some excellent points about book design and graphic design. At the beginning of the talk, Chip asks the audience this question: What does the story look like? Chip then goes onto state about how the book designer needs to give balance to the content in the book.


The first example Kidd gives are two biographies he designed (photo below). One of them was Marlene Dietrich, and the other was Katharine Hepburn. He describes how Dietrich’s book was written as an observational style, while the Hepburn biography was written in a style that made it sound like she was sitting across from you having a conversation.



(Image source:

I think this design is very clever because of the way he used the photograph of Dietrich, and the simple text on the cover of Hepburn’s book makes it seem like it is a very text heavy book. The photo on the Dietrich book is probably one of my favorite features in this series of designs because in a way it looks slightly faded, which gives the element of aging.

One of my favorite designs Chip Kidd did was the Jurassic Park book cover. The design was so well done it was used in the movie logo. The typography could be slightly improved in my opinion, but thats only a small detail. The tracing of the dinosaur adds to the book, making it pop out to someone wanting to buy it.


(image source: Wikipedia article about Jurassic Park)

Kidd may come off to some people as a bit over the top and crazy, but his personality is clearly reflected in his designs. I feel he is an excellent designer due to his personality. For more on Chip Kidd or to check out his designs, click here! 




Otl Aicher: Poster Designer

Otto “Otl” Aicher was a German poster designer who was famous for creating posters and pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Rotis typeface, and pioneering the usage of stick figures in everyday signage. Aicher was also the founder of the Ulm School of Design. His pictogram designs are very unique because they show so much movement in such a simple way. The Olympic posters are also interesting because they use a unique color palette. Aicher also used the typeface to his advantage in the Olympic posters because of how clean and simple it looks on the poster, and it isn’t too distracting from the poster, as it shows what event is being sponsored and promoted for people to go to.


I think Aicher’s work is very interesting and simple. Very clean designs, crisp use of typography, unique usage of color, and the usage of a stick figure is very clever because it shows a person actually doing the thing the sign/poster is promoting (walking, running, etc).



First Image

Second Image

Third Image

Source for information:

Demystifying Graphic Design: How Posters Work: Ellen Lupton

Within the first few minutes of the video, Ellen Lupton explains how to make a poster look better to the eye. The first lesson of the class has you looking at examples of political posters, which are extremely effective in portraying a message. My favorite example was the Peace March in New York City because it is an extremely effective but simple poster. It shows the peace dove with different sets of legs in different clothes.



Lupton stated that telling a story within the poster makes it an effective poster, and that imagery helps as well. I feel the imagery in the poster above works because it shows all walks of life walking underneath the same message of peace.  Another interesting example from the first lessons were the World War II posters. The poster below is very powerful visually and emotionally because it shows a drowning sailor pointing at you. He’s pointing at you because someone talked about his ship and the Germans sank it. Very simple, but very powerful.


The diagonal effect on a poster is also an effective tool because it adds a sense of energy and a more dynamic feel. The depth also is effected in a positive way. She states that the viewer of the poster needs a path to travel visually, and I feel this is an extremely effective tool because you can use it to your advantage when designing a poster. Narrative is also another important tool because it creates a “journey”, as she states.


I feel the poster above is an excellent example of making a sense of depth in a poster. The artist spelled out the name Jonathan Jones, and your eye travels along the white lettering and the black lettering. The sense of depth is used in such a unique and clever way here it makes the poster stand out from the other ones I have shown here. Another way this poster stands out from the rest is the simple use of colors here, which are blue, white, and black, but it is used in a way that is so interesting it makes it visually appealing.

Overlapping is another point she gives emphasis on. Overlapping adds even more depth with a layering system. The poster below is an example of attempting to overlap, but I feel it isn’t very effective.



I feel that the poster above shows layering in an excellent way. The sense of depth in this poster is fantastic because there is a lot going on that the eye has to see. Different colors of text, different languages, and the color of the background are a few of the strong points for this poster.

I enjoyed this video! I thought that it was fantastic, and that it helped a lot in creating some ideas for this project. I never knew there was so much that could be added/deducted from creating a poster, and I feel that some of these techniques can be used to the designers advantage.