I believe the answer is both. Last week I attended a talk given by Chip Kidd at Indiana University, my ama mater. His talk elicited side-splitting laughter, groans of disapproval for examples of extremely ugly book jackets, and cheers when his locally-brewed beer was refreshed, on stage, mid-sentence. The more I listened to his anecdotes the more I realized something: He was only talking about the book jackets that were cancelled or rejected by author or publisher. Here is Chip Kidd, a man that is considered a rock star in graphic design, only showing his failures. Why?
I’m not sure of his reason, but my theory is this: Kidd stated that graphic designers are “problem-solvers.” The problem is posed to us where we are given restrictions, images, perhaps some copy and told, “Make this work.” So how do we get better at problem solving? We have to fail, be rejected, and told no. It’s at this point that we pick ourselves up, dig deeper into our creative brains, and try something different. It’s the only way, and every graphic designer goes through this every day. From a design student trying to get through a class crit to Chip Kidd, a rock star in the graphic design world, being told the publisher “the opposite of liked it.”
So I’ll leave with you a few quotes that I loved from his talk. He really is a comedian…
Q: What should go on this book jacket?
A: How about some type? Type is nice. You can reeeeaaadddd it… (Note Chip Kidd’s sarcasm here.)
Q: Do you sketch your ideas before heading to the computer?
A: I don’t have the sketch gene, the notebook gene, or the drawing gene. I just don’t. So…yeah.
Q: How do you come up with successful design ideas?
A: I rely on serendipity a lot. A LOT.
Go and see Chip Kidd talk the next time he’s near you. He’s a real hoot to see and his personality is just infectious.