Exhibition to feature graphic designer, alumnus Kidd's archives

December 11, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- “Everything Not Made by Nature Is Design,” an exhibition from the Chip Kidd Archives, on display Jan. 12 through April 24 in The Eberly Family Special Collections Library, features the archives of award-winning graphic designer and Penn State Distinguished Alumnus Charles “Chip” Kidd (Class of 1986). Hours are Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m..

With praise like “the world’s greatest book-jacket designer” (from author James Ellroy) and “design demigod” (from New York magazine), it is easy to forget that Kidd is still in the prime of his career. The Pennsylvania native was born in 1964 in Lincoln Park, a suburb of Reading. After studying graphic design at Penn State with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Lanny Sommese, Kidd went to work at publishing house Alfred A. Knopf in 1986. Twenty-eight years later, Kidd has designed over a thousand book covers for Knopf and other freelance clients, for authors such as John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, Haruki Murakami and Michael Crichton — including the iconic cover of “Jurassic Park.” Kidd is the recipient of numerous awards, notably the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Museum National Design Award, in 2007, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal for lifetime achievement in 2014. 

Kidd is also the author of several books of his own, including two novels: “The Cheese Monkeys,” a fictionalized account of his time at Penn State, and “The Learners,” which follows the autobiographical protagonist to his first job as a commercial designer. Other works include an original graphic novel, “Batman: Death by Design,” and a number of books about comics: “Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan,” “Mythology: the DC Comics Art of Alex Ross” and “Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz.” His most recent book is “Go: a Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design.” 

If all that were not enough, Kidd is also a prolific public speaker, including a popular 2012 TED Talk, and singer-songwriter for the rock band Artbreak, featuring Penn State dorm-mate Mars Trillion. In the additional role of editor-at-large for Pantheon Books, Kidd has worked on projects with some of the most acclaimed contemporary graphic novelists, like Chris Ware (the 2013 Lynd Ward Prize winner), Daniel Clowes, Ben Katchor, Charles Burns and Art Spiegelman. 

Penn State’s Libraries acquired Kidd’s archives last year as more than 250 boxes of material and approximately one terabyte of digital data. The collection, which is still being processed and cataloged by the Special Collections Library staff, contains childhood memorabilia, student portfolios from Penn State, sketches, annotated manuscripts, original art, drafts and proofs of hundreds of designs that illuminate the creative process and the progression of works from concept through production. Remarkable correspondence with authors, artists, editors and other collaborators makes up a large portion of the archives as well. Print material includes rare first edition books, vintage comics and Kidd’s personal reference library on art history, design and typography. Altogether, the scope of the material provides valuable research opportunities for both scholars of literature and of pop culture. 

The exhibition draws from early and late periods of the archive, featuring well-known works and never-before-seen student projects as well as selections from the extensive array of Batman collectibles. A gallery talk at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, by the Kidd Collection archivist Alyssa Carver will discuss exhibit highlights and some of the challenges involved with organizing and preserving the hybrid (analog and digital) archive. 

For additional information about this exhibition and gallery talk or if you anticipate needing accessibility accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, contact Carver at aec26@psu.edu or 814-867-0289.

Last Updated January 12, 2015