Chip Kidd Design, New York, New York, 2003


Ashes presented an extraordinary opportunity for me to basically wallow in my love of Japanese ephemera and sensibility, both new and old. The book tells a related group of stories about an aging don of the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia). He spends a lot of time pondering life in bars (before shooting them up in a drunken rage), so I exploited this chance to use my collection of Japanese matchbooks from the 50s and 60s. The design is literally as layered as the stories, and the publisher was gracious enough to allow for not one but two jackets, at different levels, which is common in contemporary Japanese commercial book design. The outer layer is meant to mimic a napkin, which may or may not have been cried on, but certainly spilt on. That’s peeled back to reveal the matchbooks, which are as varied and colorful as the napkin is not, and that gives way to a detail of the main character, trying to rise above it all. Whether he does or not depends on the reader.

Juror Notes

“A layering of surfaces that lures the reader into the book.” Jack Woody

“This takes covers in a new direction. We are being taught to see differently.” Archie Ferguson

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2003
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book cover


Design firm
Chip Kidd Design
Creative director
Chip Kidd
Art director
Chip Kidd
Jacket designer
Chip Kidd
Production director
Kenji Ishimaru
Production coordinator
Kenji Ishimaru
Kenzo Kitakata
Yani Mentzas
Vertical Inc.
Trim size
5.75 x 8.75”
Quantity printed
Hand lettering
Jacket printer
Coral Graphics
Tomahawk matte coated 20 lb., gloss coated 30 lb., textured uncoated 40 lb.
Book type
Literature and nonfiction