Chip Kidd demonstrates that first impressions count, that we do judge a book by its covers and that we need both clarity and mystery in our lives

Chip Kidd, Judge This

Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster, 134p


Chip Kidd is a master of book design. His portfolio includes book covers for Haruki Murakami, Oliver Sacks, John Updike, Orhan Pamuk, Elie Wiesel and Boy George to name only a few and also the well-known cover for Jurassic Park. As all stories need a face, he tries to be the translator of the content using the language of visual design.

Of course we should not judge a book by its covers. But we do, as studies say.

We are the subjects of our senses and we elaborate judgements according to our first impressions.

First impressions are key to how we perceive the world, and are perceived by it. They are our introductions to everything: acquaintances, the workplace, products, experiences, retail stores, the Internet, entertainment, relationships, design. And based on our first impressions, we judge things. We can’t help it. Does that sound terrible? We all heard it as children: “Don’t judge by appearances.” But we do, because we live in a visual culture, and our minds instantly react to what we see.

What really matters is not that we judge, but how we do so. Is it with intelligence? Empathy? Compassion?

Judge This is a book that uses design to illustrate the importance of first impressions and the way we should use them constructively when perceiving the world.

There are two aspects of first impressions: Clarity and Mystery.

Clarity is sincere, direct, reasonable, basic, honest, perfectly readable. No-nonsense.

Mystery is: a puzzle that demands to be solved, a secret code you want to crack, an illusion that may not be an illusion at all, a dream you’re trying to remember before it fades away.

From movie posters to nice packaging, from elegant yet functional pieces of furniture to toys, books, fortune cookies and even our own image in the mirror in the morning, Chip Kidd finds the functionality of first impressions. We have reactions and a certain sensibility to everything we see. Sometimes we decode the message, sometimes we don’t. And that is when we use mystery – to help us deal with things we do not figure out.

Chip Kidd’s TED Talk on first impression in design and in life is amusing and intelligent:


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