Sunday, July 1, 2007

Designs I Love: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I quite like both of these (hence, "designs I love"), and it's always interesting to see how two different designers tackle the same assignment. So here's a little compare and contrast of two covers for the same book, Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The hardcover (on the top) is by Chip Kidd, the paperback is by John Gall.

Kidd's version depends more on its subtleties—the photo of the clockwork bird, while lovely, wouldn't hold much symbolic weight without the overlay of the mechanical diagram. (It's tough to make out in this jpeg, but if I remember correctly it's actually a spot varnish overlay?) The stripe of black across the bird's eye is fantastic, though—there's something about it that's both organic and weirdly... mystical? I'm not sure that's quite the word I'm looking for. Anyway, the idea of exposing the mysterious inner mechanics of the bird (and, metaphorically, the world) is an appropriate one for this book, and nicely executed. (Plus, you can't tell from the jpeg, but the way the photo wraps all around the jacket is quite nice.)

Gall's version, on the other hand, is much more bold in its metaphors, and, to my eye, captures a little bit more of the off-kilter surrealism of the book. I think it also fits the book a bit better—here's how Murakami first describes the wind-up bird:

"There was a small stand of trees nearby, and from it you could hear the mechanical cry of a bird that sounded as if it were winding a spring. We called it the wind-up bird. Kumiko gave it the name. We didn't know what it was really called or what it looked like, but that didn't bother the wind-up bird. Every day it would come to the stand of trees in our neighborhood and wind the spring of our quiet little world."

Gall's version goes a long way toward suggesting that it's the world itself, rather than a toy bird, that's being wound. And there's just something very compelling about the image itself—the colors, in particular, are beautiful. It's also surprising how much visual interest can be added by something as simple as flipping the image upside down—which can be gratuitous but here is thoroughly justified by the title and content of the book.

It should be noted also that Gall's version is part of his series of Murakami's paperbacks, which are all pretty great. And I love how the central cut-out circle, which seems so intrinsic to the Wind-Up Bird cover, is in fact a consistent element across the series, but used so differently every time. (Chip Kidd is also doing a series of Murakami designs for Vertical right now, but that Wind-Up Bird isn't part of that.)

And here's a fun thing I found when looking for jpegs of these covers: an interesting short interview with John Gall. Here's a relevant bit (but the whole thing is a good read):

F: What sort of pressure, if any, do you feel when approaching covers that other designers have already treated in a past iteration of the book? This becomes especially poignant when you consider that you share hall space with some of the most talented designers working today.

JG: No pressure from that end really. At first it was a little weird having to redesign these wonderful Knopf jackets but now I just look at the existing jacket as a road not to venture down. It makes things easier in a way. There are many, many possible solutions to any given problem and the existing jacket is just one direction not to go in.

Which is a good a note to end on, I think.

1 comment:

MacGuffin said...

I hate to disagree with you but with all due respect I really think the Kidd DJ is a far superior design. The second is nice enough, very subtle, but in a store the Kidd design grabs your eye from a great distance, and then when you walk over and pick it up, you discover the marvelous wraparound mechanical overlay that's not even visible from just a few feet. Just a gorgeous effect. The other DJ just seems a bit more prosaic. Again, lovely design and colours but..