The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York, 1997


This epic novel was a phenomenon in Japan and promised to be a major literary event here. The story is quite complex and involves multiple plots and layers of meaning. It’s also preoccupied with, among many other things, modernity, technology, paranoia, popular culture of both the East and West, and a pervading sense of the dull mechanization of life’s events. All of these things informed the approach to the book design. The title character is a ubiquitous bird that lives in the narrator’s neighborhood. He hears it all the time but never sees it, and that became the focus of the visual scheme in two ways: as a large photograph and as a mechanical diagram, neither of which can be seen in full by the reader. The relative simplicity of the jacket photo, suggesting a banal exterior, is indirect contrast to the binding diagram’s wildly intricate workings, which imply that beneath such serene surfaces all is not what it may seem. Other formal elements echo this—the circle motif in the mechanical diagram is carried through in jacket and frontmatter typography, chapter numbers and folios. Winding motion is another theme: it’s expressed in the zooming out of the frontmatter titles and the folios, which “travel” around the margins page by page. The variation of the letterspacing and alignment of chapter subtitles also mimic the properties of springs and mechanisms. The crowning touch is the layering of a light silver gloss varnish depicting the diagram directly on top of the matte photo on the jacket, something we had never done before. I think it says to readers, before they ever open the book, that they in for much more than they expected.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 1997
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book


Design firm
Alfred A. Knopf
Art director
Chip Kidd
Graphic designers
Chip Kidd, Misha Beletsky
Chris Ware (for Acme Novelty Productions)
Jacket photograph
Geoff Spear
Haruki Murakami
Iowan Old Style, OCR B, Monotype Grotesque, Din Schriften
The Haddon Craftsmen, Phoenix Color
50# Sebago MF
Alfred A. Knopf