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  • Hi.

  • (Laughter)

  • I did that for two reasons.

  • First of all, I wanted to give you

  • a good visual first impression.

  • But the main reason I did it is that

  • that's what happens to me when I'm forced to wear

  • a Lady Gaga skanky mic.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm used to a stationary mic.

  • It's the sensible shoe of public address.

  • (Laughter)

  • But you clamp this thing on my head, and something happens.

  • I just become skanky.

  • (Laughter) So I'm sorry about that.

  • And I'm already off-message.

  • (Laughter)

  • Ladies and gentlemen,

  • I have devoted the past 25 years of my life

  • to designing books.

  • ("Yes, BOOKS. You know, the bound volumes with ink on paper.

  • You cannot turn them off with a switch.

  • Tell your kids.")

  • It all sort of started as a benign mistake,

  • like penicillin. (Laughter)

  • What I really wanted

  • was to be a graphic designer

  • at one of the big design firms in New York City.

  • But upon arrival there,

  • in the fall of 1986, and doing a lot of interviews,

  • I found that the only thing I was offered

  • was to be Assistant to the Art Director at Alfred A. Knopf,

  • a book publisher.

  • Now I was stupid,

  • but not so stupid that I turned it down.

  • I had absolutely no idea

  • what I was about to become part of,

  • and I was incredibly lucky.

  • Soon, it had occurred to me what my job was.

  • My job was to ask this question:

  • "What do the stories look like?"

  • Because that is what Knopf is.

  • It is the story factory, one of the very best in the world.

  • We bring stories to the public.

  • The stories can be anything,

  • and some of them are actually true.

  • But they all have one thing in common:

  • They all need to look like something.

  • They all need a face.

  • Why? To give you a first impression

  • of what you are about to get into.

  • A book designer gives form to content,

  • but also

  • manages a very careful balance between the two.

  • Now, the first day

  • of my graphic design training at Penn State University,

  • the teacher, Lanny Sommese, came into the room

  • and he drew a picture of an apple on the blackboard,

  • and wrote the word "Apple" underneath,

  • and he said, "OK. Lesson one. Listen up."

  • And he covered up the picture and he said,

  • "You either say this," and then he covered up the word,

  • "or you show this.

  • But you don't do this."

  • Because this is treating your audience like a moron.

  • (Laughter)

  • And they deserve better.

  • And lo and behold, soon enough,

  • I was able to put this theory to the test

  • on two books that I was working on for Knopf.

  • The first was Katharine Hepburn's memoirs,

  • and the second was a biography of Marlene Dietrich.

  • Now the Hepburn book

  • was written in a very conversational style,

  • it was like she was sitting across a table telling it all to you.

  • The Dietrich book was an observation

  • by her daughter; it was a biography.

  • So the Hepburn story is words

  • and the Dietrich story is pictures, and so we did this.

  • So there you are.

  • Pure content and pure form, side by side.

  • No fighting, ladies.

  • ("What's a Jurassic Park?")

  • Now, what is the story here?

  • Someone

  • is re-engineering dinosaurs

  • by extracting their DNA

  • from prehistoric amber.

  • Genius!

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, luckily for me,

  • I live and work in New York City,

  • where there are plenty of dinosaurs.

  • (Laughter)

  • So,

  • I went to the Museum of Natural History,

  • and I checked out the bones, and I went to the gift shop,

  • and I bought a book.

  • And I was particularly taken with this page of the book,

  • and more specifically the lower right-hand corner.

  • Now I took this diagram,

  • and I put it in a Photostat machine,

  • (Laughter)

  • and I took a piece of tracing paper,

  • and I taped it over the Photostat

  • with a piece of Scotch tape -- stop me if I'm going too fast --

  • (Laughter) --

  • and then I took a Rapidograph pen --

  • explain it to the youngsters --

  • (Laughter)

  • and I just started to reconstitute the dinosaur.

  • I had no idea what I was doing,

  • I had no idea where I was going,

  • but at some point, I stopped --

  • when to keep going would seem like I was going too far.

  • And what I ended up with was a graphic representation

  • of us seeing this animal coming into being.

  • We're in the middle of the process.

  • And then I just threw some typography on it.

  • Very basic stuff,

  • slightly suggestive of public park signage.

  • (Laughter)

  • Everybody in house loved it,

  • and so off it goes to the author.

  • And even back then,

  • Michael was on the cutting edge.

  • ("Michael Crichton responds by fax:")

  • ("Wow! Fucking Fantastic Jacket")

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • That was a relief to see that pour out of the machine.

  • (Laughter)

  • I miss Michael.

  • And sure enough, somebody from MCA Universal

  • calls our legal department to see if they can

  • maybe look into buying the rights to the image,

  • just in case they might want to use it.

  • Well, they used it.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • And I was thrilled.

  • We all know it was an amazing movie,

  • and it was so interesting to see it

  • go out into the culture and become this phenomenon

  • and to see all the different permutations of it.

  • But not too long ago,

  • I came upon this on the Web.

  • No, that is not me.

  • But whoever it is,

  • I can't help but thinking they woke up one day like,

  • "Oh my God, that wasn't there last night. Ooooohh!

  • I was so wasted."

  • (Laughter)

  • But if you think about it, from my head

  • to my hands to his leg.

  • (Laughter)

  • That's a responsibility.

  • And it's a responsibility that I don't take lightly.

  • The book designer's responsibility is threefold:

  • to the reader, to the publisher and, most of all, to the author.

  • I want you to look at the author's book

  • and say, "Wow! I need to read that."

  • David Sedaris is one of my favorite writers,

  • and the title essay

  • in this collection is about his trip to a nudist colony.

  • And the reason he went is because

  • he had a fear of his body image,

  • and he wanted to explore what was underlying that.

  • For me, it was simply an excuse to design a book

  • that you could literally take the pants off of.

  • But when you do,

  • you don't get what you expect.

  • You get something that goes much deeper than that.

  • And David especially loved this design

  • because at book signings, which he does a lot of,

  • he could take a magic marker and do this.

  • (Laughter)

  • Hello!

  • (Laughter)

  • Augusten Burroughs wrote a memoir

  • called ["Dry"], and it's about his time in rehab.

  • In his 20s, he was a hotshot ad executive,

  • and as Mad Men has told us, a raging alcoholic.

  • He did not think so, however,

  • but his coworkers did an intervention and they said,

  • "You are going to rehab, or you will be fired and you will die."

  • Now to me, this was always going to be a typographic solution,

  • what I would call the opposite of Type 101.

  • What does that mean?

  • Usually on the first day of Introduction to Typography,

  • you get the assignment of, select a word

  • and make it look like what it says it is. So that's Type 101, right?

  • Very simple stuff.

  • This is going to be the opposite of that.

  • I want this book to look like it's lying to you,

  • desperately and hopelessly, the way an alcoholic would.

  • The answer was the most low-tech thing you can imagine.

  • I set up the type, I printed it out on an Epson printer

  • with water-soluble ink, taped it to the wall

  • and threw a bucket of water at it. Presto!

  • Then when we went to press,

  • the printer put a spot gloss on the ink

  • and it really looked like it was running.

  • Not long after it came out, Augusten was waylaid in an airport

  • and he was hiding out in the bookstore

  • spying on who was buying his books.

  • And this woman came up to it,

  • and she squinted, and she took it to the register,

  • and she said to the man behind the counter, "This one's ruined."

  • (Laughter)

  • And the guy behind the counter said, "I know, lady. They all came in that way."

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, that's a good printing job.

  • A book cover

  • is a distillation.

  • It is a haiku,

  • if you will, of the story.

  • This particular story

  • by Osama Tezuka

  • is his epic life of the Buddha,

  • and it's eight volumes in all. But the best thing is

  • when it's on your shelf, you get a shelf life

  • of the Buddha, moving from one age to the next.

  • All of these solutions

  • derive their origins from the text of the book,

  • but once the book designer has read the text,

  • then he has to be an interpreter

  • and a translator.

  • This story was a real puzzle.

  • This is what it's about.

  • ("Intrigue and murder among 16th century Ottoman court painters.")

  • (Laughter)

  • All right, so I got a collection of the paintings together

  • and I looked at them and I deconstructed them

  • and I put them back together.

  • And so, here's the design, right?

  • And so here's the front and the spine, and it's flat.

  • But the real story starts when you wrap it around a book and put it on the shelf.

  • Ahh! We come upon them,

  • the clandestine lovers. Let's draw them out.

  • Huhh! They've been discovered by the sultan.

  • He will not be pleased.

  • Huhh! And now the sultan is in danger.

  • And now, we have to open it up

  • to find out what's going to happen next.

  • Try experiencing that on a Kindle.

  • (Laughter)

  • Don't get me started.

  • Seriously.

  • Much is to be gained by eBooks:

  • ease, convenience, portability.

  • But something is definitely lost: tradition,

  • a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness --

  • a little bit of humanity.

  • Do you know what John Updike used to do

  • the first thing when he would get a copy

  • of one of his new books from Alfred A. Knopf?

  • He'd smell it.

  • Then he'd run his hand over the rag paper,

  • and the pungent ink and the deckled edges of the pages.

  • All those years, all those books, he never got tired of it.

  • Now, I am all for the iPad,

  • but trust me -- smelling it will get you nowhere.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now the Apple guys are texting,

  • "Develop odor emission plug-in."

  • (Laughter)