Monday, Nov. 01, 2010

Jurassic Park's Dino Skull

Dinosaurs may have once roamed the earth, though all we have left are the bones that we put together. But what if they could be brought back? That tantalizing fantasy was, of course, the inspiration for Michael Crichton's 1990 novel, Jurassic Park. After the book's publication, it was an obvious candidate for book-to-film adaptation, much in the way Jaws was in the 1970s. Indeed, the formula behind the shark-based thriller provided a model for the pop-culture sensation, says Chip Kidd, the artist behind much of the Knopf publishing house's more famous book designs over the past three decades. And, according to Kidd's account in his book, Work: 1986-2002; Book One, the icon of the "shark and nude swimming lady" set the standard for creating hanging-by-the-edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thrillers.

After visiting New York City's Museum of Natural History, and investigating the history of the then little-known term Jurassic, Kidd set out to come up with a similarly successful franchise for Crichton's manuscript. He decided that any image had to be "as scientifically accurate as possible," and so he went with the T. rex skeleton, sketched from diagrams he found in the Museum of Natural History. Along with the shaking cup of water, the T. rex skeleton became a symbol for science's dangerous power, and the power of imagination. "I thought the final result was just graphic enough while not giving too much away," he wrote. "It was a suggestion of a dinosaur that could actually exist."