Review: Chip Kidd, Graphic Historian

By: Dave Wielgosz

Chip Kidd himself is a product of his own brilliant sense of design.  He walked up the steps at the WAMFEST event on Tuesday, October 23rd wearing an intricately composed outfit made up of a brown canvas jacket, a cap out of the 1940s, and khaki pants that looked average at first glance but were actually littered with tiny, black, jolly rogers.  The whole outfit was accentuated by wire-framed, coke-bottle glasses that immediately made clear this was a man of character.  I, as usual, was wearing my black t-shirt and blue jeans outfit that only Louis C.K. would appreciate, and had to stand in front of the crowd and introduce this man.  Other than helping put together a function that was befitting of Kidd’s body of work, my goal was to come off as a fan with a certain amount of intelligence and class that he could respect.

Chip Kidd’s work has meant a great deal to me.  I’ve been captivated by his book designs and by his sense of getting to the heart of whatever it is he’s designing.  However, I’d be lying if I told you this is the part of his career I appreciate the most.  As an avid comic book reader, I think of Chip Kidd first and foremost as the man who packaged graphic novels in a way that allowed them to stand out and pop as the beautiful works they are.  After collaborating with luminaries of the medium like Frank Miller, David Mazzuchelli, Dave Gibbons, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and plenty more, Kidd has now joined their ranks after the premiere of his first graphic novel, Batman: Death by Design (beautifully illustrated by British artist Dave Taylor). Furthermore, Kidd’s work as a historian of the medium, focusing on the creation of exceptional coffee table books that reflect the rich history of the medium’s global impact, has meant the world to me and many of his fans.

When David Daniel, the godfather of WAMFEST, asked me if I would participate in putting together this event, I jumped at the opportunity.  I tried to perfectly encapsulate Kidd’s life in the biography I wrote of him, but more importantly, I was given the very significant task of setting up a display of his work.  I spent two days selecting the perfect books, arranging them in the right order, talking it all over Denise the librarian, and generally stressing out a great deal about it.

“I think the display looks great,” Kidd said to me before the event.

My favorite designer thought my display looked good?  I was over the moon.  And, more than that, my favorite designer was incredible in every way.  Accompanied by a beautiful PowerPoint presentation, Kidd spoke eloquently about his body of work, ebbing and flowing with the requests of clients and the criticism of others, being an author, being a comic writer, and generally being a creative person.  Even when he told stories about how his designs didn’t get off the ground for certain projects, he expressed no anger or sorrow.  He just let it roll off his back and kept working.  The passion and humor he exuded as he talked was inspiring.  When I walked around the room after the event, everyone, even people I had begged to come, were really happy they made it out.  Chip Kidd is a good man but more importantly, he’s an incredible role model for creative people everywhere, someone whose work ethic and ability to roll with the punches is admirable, and impeccable.

Dude also has pants with jolly rogers on them.

WAMFEST Fall Festival, This Tuesday the 23rd – Thursday the 25th! Robert Pinsky, Chip Kidd, Donald Harrison Jr. and More.

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s WAMFEST returns on Tuesday, October 23rd, Wednesday the 24th and Thursday the 25th with its first fall festival featuring three days of music, readings, interviews and conversations.  This year’s impressive lineup includes world-renowned poet Robert Pinsky, celebrated graphic historian Chip Kidd, the highly acclaimed and regarded filmmaker Jonathan Demme, incredibly talented and influential musicians Donald Harrison Jr. (pictured) and Ben Allison, plus many other remarkable performers.  We’re also very excited to provide a few of our students with their first opportunity to perform on a WAMFEST stage at Readin’ N Rhythm’s Move On Up Showcase, featuring Brooklyn-based artists the Yoni Gordon Orchestra and nonfiction author Melissa Faliveno.  All events are, as always, hosted by WAMFEST’s dynamic Artist in Residence Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding.  See the full schedule below and learn more about each of our performers here.

Many thanks to our founder and curator David Daniel, and to our amazing sponsors Bob and Patricia Pures; WAMFEST would not be possible without their extraordinary generosity.

Tuesday, October 23rd
2-3 pm in Hartman Lounge (the Mansion): “WAMFEST Presents Chip Kidd: Graphic Historian”
A presentation by, and conversation with, the celebrated editor, novelist, lecturer and reigning superhero of design. Please see his extraordinary website, GOOD IS DEAD. GO FOR GREAT. 

7-10 pm in Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents Readin’ N Rhythm’s Move on Up Showcase,” featuring New York artists nonfiction author Melissa Faliveno, rock bands The Yoni Gordon Orchestra and The Brooklyn Players Reading Society, plus student and faculty performances.

Wednesday, October 24th
3-4:30 pm in 
Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents The Fight for Home (A New Orleans Story) with Donald Harrison Jr.Daniel Wolff and Jonathan Demme”  Demme and Wolff will screen a 20-minute clip that serves as a blueprint for the next movie of their series of NOLA documentaries. It features Herreast Harrison and is scored by her son, Donald Harrison, Jr.  Wolff will read (or do something, who knows?) from his new book, The Fight For Home: How (Parts Of) New Orleans Came Back.  A conversation and performance of some sort!

7-9 pm in Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents Jonathan Demme’s I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, And The Beautiful, with Jonathan DemmeDonald Harrison Jr. and Daniel Wolff.” A screening followed by a conversation with creators Jonathan Demme and Daniel Wolff and composer Donald Harrison, Jr.

Thursday, October 25th
3:30-5 pm in Lenfell Hall (the Mansion): “WAMFEST Presents POEMJAZZ with Poet Robert Pinsky, Bassist Ben Allison, Guitarist/Composer Dave Stryker and Saxophonist Steve Slagle”  Three-time US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will perform his poems with an all-star jazz trio brought together for the first time.                                                 

All events are free.  Non-students are strongly encouraged to make reservations by emailing  Learn more about the performers here, and view a map of FDU’s campus here.

Check Out Our Student Performers and a New Song by The Yoni Gordon Orchestra

yonigordonWAMFEST is very excited about the Readin’ N Rhythm Move on Up Showcase this Tuesday the 23rd at 7 pm in Dreyfuss Theater.  For the first time ever, current FDU students will be performing in a variety show of sorts, hosted by Artist in Residence Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding.  Brooklyn artists nonfiction author Melissa Faliveno and rock bands Brooklyn Players Reading Society and the Yoni Gordon Orchestra (pictured) will also be performing.  Learn about our incredibly talented students below, and enjoy the Yoni Gordon Orchestra’s song “Cecilia” from their brand new album, The Hard Way.  See you next week!  Full schedule here.

Ashley La Selva is a senior acting and education major. She was recently seen as Annie in Henry’s Law by Stacie Lents, FDU’s first touring production. Other favorite roles include Sunny in The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Miss Cratchitt in Gypsy.

Danielle MacMath is a sophomore musical theater, literature, and QUEST major from Bridgewater, New Jersey. She recently worked on Henry’s Law by Stacie Lents as the Dramaturg and Production Coordinator. Previous shows include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Muriel),Thoroughly Modern Millie (Miss Flannery), The Wizard of Oz (Aunt Em), and Anything Goes (Reporter). Danielle is honored to have the opportunity to perform in WAMFEST.

Frederick “Freddie” Bourne is an American singer-songwriter and keyboard player from Jackson, NJ. Bourne was the winner of Liberty Idol of 2010 at Jackson Liberty High School, 3rd place finalist of Freehold Idol in 2008, and was a Top 20 finalist in New Jersey Idol in 2012. As a solo act, he has opened for artists such as Tyler Hilton, M.R. Smith, and Patent Pending and playing at venues like Gavin DeGraw’s The National Underground, Coffee Works, Starland Ballroom, Le Grand Formage, and the Stone Pony.

Matthew Long
is a freshman psychology major at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is a mainly self-taught guitarist who has been playing for four years now. Previously, Long performed in two bands and played a handful of concerts across New Jersey.

Frankie Lopes
recently transferred from Brookdale Community College to Fairleigh Dickinson University for his junior year to continue his study of creative writing. He is a contributing journalist to Steez Magazine and Garden State Skate Magazine. His work has also been published in Trans-Portal literary journal.
“Cecilia” by the Yoni Gordon Orchestra: