The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 10, No. 3

Notes on Design

by Chip Kidd

In July of 2005, I attended the Napa Valley Writers' Conference, tagging along with my boyfriend, J. D. McClatchy, who was invited to conduct several poetry workshops. The whole prospect sounded too good to be true and turned out to be even better: a week in the Napa Valley with flawless weather, lovely people, and a reading at a different vineyard every night, with a wine-tasting before each one, of course (which someone should make a martial law at every reading everywhere for the rest of eternity, effective immediately). One of these was at Francis Coppola's vineyard, where I couldn't help but notice the display of Zoetrope: All-Story magazines. And, yes, I thought, Gee, I wish I could design one of those.
     Fast-forward to almost exactly a year later, when Michael Ray contacted me to be the guest designer for this issue. Gulp. Careful what you wish for. I really didn't have the time. My initial impulse was to say, "Sorry, I just can't." Among other things, ironically, I've been trying to finish writing my second novel and had been turning down design commissions left and right in an effort to complete it this year.
     But then something occurred to me. Namely, the photographs of Thomas M. Allen, someone I'd just recently collaborated with; I first encountered his work at the Foley Gallery in Chelsea and then used it on the covers of a series of novels by James Ellroy for Vintage. It all clicked in my head, and I just couldn't resist. Tom very graciously agreed to lend his photographs for the project. And so here we are.
     What Tom does is truly extraordinary, as you will see throughout this entire issue, covers and all. He photographs books, but does so in a way that's never been done before—by selectively cutting out the figures on their covers and interior pages with surgical precision and setting them up in compositions, bringing them into the third dimension. It's as if the characters have suddenly woken up, that what's happening to them is so intense and vivid it can't be contained.
     It must be noted that all of the images in this issue were preexisting. There wasn't time or money to commission new work. Thus, some of the imagery is uncannily appropriate to the text (due to pure luck) and some of it merely evokes a mood or sensibility, responding to the content.
     Regardless, Tom's work truly embodies the concept of "all story," and I'm proud to present it to you here.

To read other stories from the Fall 2006 issue, click here to purchase it from our online store.