Sweet Vernal Zephyr

Succinct Book Reviews
(aka Creating & Whit)

The Learners
by Chip Kidd

Fresh out of college in the summer of 1961, Happy lands his first job as a graphic designer (okay, art assistant) at a small Connecticut advertising agency populated by a cast of endearing eccentrics. Life for Happy seems to be—well, happy. But when he’s assigned to design a newspaper ad recruiting participants for an experiment in the Yale Psychology Department, Happy can’t resist responding to the ad himself. Little does he know that the experience will devastate him, forcing a reexamination of his past, his soul, and the nature of human cruelty—chiefly, his own.
My review guidelines can be found HERE.

  • Illustration speaks to the time (see Era), and the tone (distressed), and the voice (designer).

  • This story is broken into three parts. 1961 - 1961 - 2008

  • I am a graphic designer and I am entranced.
  • By the typographical layout.
  • By the illustrative word play.
  • By the blunt story.

  • The voice is oddly harmonious to my own internal dialogue. Is it because I am a graphic designer, or because I'm strange?

  • Throughout the reading, random drops of design wisdom splatter against your head. And oddly enough, these nuggets of information are true to the inner dialogue of a designer. I can swear to it, for I am one, and these phrases are eerily familiar to my inner ear.
    "The entire typography on the device was set in all-caps medium weight Helvetica, a recently [in comparison to the current date of 1961] introduced Swiss font commonly used for utilities and municipal signage. I wondered if Icabod knew that. Bet he didn't." pg. 128

  • Lots of quotes that resonated with me too.

  • " 'She's so pretty.' 'So's a poinsettia. Ever taste one?' " pg. 31
    This is especially funny to me because poinsettia's are poisonous.

  • " 'What does green sound like?' He would just . . . appear. With questions like this. Tip was forever trying to jump-start his brain to come up with ad copy." pg. 41
    It really works! Brainstorming.

  • "An eighth of a page. Insane. 'Wow. That won't be easy.' 'Can you make it fit?' Can I make it fit? Sigh. That is a question that begs a brief typographic digression (sorry)." pg. 57
    Every graphic designer knows the torture of those words. And if you are a graphic designer and you can't relate, then you aren't working in the real world AND please invite me into your world.

  • "Oh, please. 'Strong' is for drinks. Be my guest-fall to pieces." pg. 92
    Lovely, perfect, honest. This is my favorite quote of the whole book.

  • "[She] was fueled as much by demons as she was by her considerable creative fire." pg. 101
    I want to be described that way. Dramatic traumatic genius. This is my second favorite quote.

  • After meeting Himillsy, I couldn't help but hear the lyrics of this song echo through my head. She Talks To Angels by Counting Crows

  • "We want to find out just what effect people will have on each other as teachers and learners, and also what effect punishment will have on learning in this situation." pg. 123
    Ah. The light at the end of the tunnel. And here is where the title of this book originates, The Learners.

  • "There was something about this guy's voice-his dismissive and technical manner-it was very persuasive almost despite itself. Like a human traffic light. Go." pg 124
    I love the way everything is described. New terms from old words!

  • "...this need to construct his environment with such an anal compulsion; it provided a sense of control and predictability, no matter how illusionary." pg. 166
    This is something I can relate with. When something is out of control, control what you can. Clean & organize.

  • "What we're studying here is context, a situation that often produces its own formidable momentum. You're an ordinary, moral person who was placed in a situation of deep consequence." pg. 147
    Life changing experience.

  • "I hated direct mail, but hate wasn't a strong enough word. Direct mailing pieces were uninvited guests of advertising." pg. 149
    Junk mail is the bane of my mailbox bring false hope with a full box.

  • "...this time what I needed before I had the right words was the right image. The latter would give birth to the former, not the other way around." pg 221
    Please, let it be true.

  • The story quite literally ends in gibberish. You have to pronounce the text in your head. It adds a very heavy finality to the story.

I received this book on loan from my coworker. And a vast majority of my workplace will be reading this novel at some point this year. I will most likely buy my own copy during my next spree.

This book was spotlighted on my Tuesday Teaser HERE and HERE.

Did you review this book too?
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Sweet daymares...

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Oh wowowowo hon, what a great review. And you know this is huge step out of what I normally read!! Great job!!!

Yeah - I realize it is a bit overwhelming. Opps.

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Thanks so much for delving into my head. It's scary in here sometimes, so it is nice to have company! Don't step on the zephyr...

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