Tutorial 30th March 2011

I had a constructive tutorial with John on Wednesday. The hardback version of the Sunday Lunch book had arrived from Blurb the day before so, with the Sunday Roast newspaper, I had a lot of new work to show. We started by looking at the Sunday Lunch book - I think that, compared to the earlier pamphlet version, it is much more substantial and is more successful in illustrating the idea of process and time that I was thinking about. There are things that could be improved about the book: a part of me wonders whether the cream paper really suits the content, maybe a white coated paper would work better. But, on the whole, I think the book succeeds in using the conventions of reading (left to right and top to bottom) to illustrate two timeframes: the linear progression of the timing and the top to bottom of the method.

We then talked about the Sunday Roast newspaper. I'm really pleased with the end result. I (and John) think it succeeds on many levels. It reveals, in quite an economical way the timescale involved in the process of cooking. The newspaper format links to the idea of the Sunday papers, a day of leisure and having time to read and to cook. The disposability (paradoxically, actually more expensive than the hardback book) means that it could be annotated by the owner, torn up, spilled on and is the opposite of high production value coffee table recipe books.

John wondered if the design could be made more 'newspaperish' with headlines and typography that suggests the layout of a newspaper. I'm not sure - I think the format signifies a newspaper enough and, the sparsity of the design, I think, adds to the functionality of the newspaper, both to illustrate the timescale of cooking a Sunday lunch and as a set of instructions. I've shown the newspaper to lots of people now - they all respond positively.

We talked about the idea of communal cooking and eating. John mentioned the phenomena of being invited for dinner and then being expected to help prepare the food. This reminds me of the restaurant St. John where, when they are in season, peas in their pods are served to the diners who then shell the peas at the table. I think there's something satisfying about this connection between cooking and eating - many people have lost that, eating pre-prepared food and microwaving ready made meals. In a wider sense, food is so commodified that shopping food, preparing it, cooking it and eating it are all less satisfactory experiences than they were in the recent past. I wonder how graphic design might help make eating a more holistic experience that is connected to buying, preparing and cooking food. One idea might be that the newspaper becomes a blueprint for communal cooking and eating - a meal is set out with recipes and instructions for individual dishes; the newspaper is cut up, photocopied and distributed amongst the guests; each person invited to the meal prepares a part of it.

I've started to invite people to contribute to Roastpaper, the project I am planning that will look at the relationship between food, friendship and communal eating. I am interested in how food fuels friendships, cements relationships and brings people together. There are many artists who have made work about food and communal eating - Rirkrit Tiravanija is one example, his installations often take the form of stages or rooms for sharing meals, cooking, reading and playing music, his 2002 installation Untitled (The Raw and the Cooked) is shown below.

Another good example of an artists' project looking at food and eating is the Freitagsküche (Friday Kitchen) which was an artists' project at the Atelier Frankfurt and the 'Apartment', Berlin. The project invited visiting exhibiting artists to prepare and cook a meal which was then served to an open restaurant which charged a nominal fee. There were no reservations: people turned up, queued up to be served in the kitchen - by the artist who had cooked the food - then sat, at long, communal tables, where ever places were available. Bottles of wine were placed on the tables with more available from a makeshift bar. Later there might be a reading from a book or a presentation of some sort, and towards the end of the evening, the music would be turned up and the atmosphere would be more like a bar - sometimes with dancing. But the really interesting thing was the idea of communal eating - you would never know who you would be seated next to or what conversations you would have.

I think there is more I can explore with the newspaper format. One idea is that a butcher could give it away on a weekly basis with a different roast every week along with suggestions for seasonal accompaniments. Seasonality, is, of course, a major issue - foods that were once only available for a short season are available all year round: Nigel Slater and others have addressed this issue, Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries presents recipes for seasonal meals in the format of a one year diary. I like the relationship that a newspaper has to time - there is something satisfying about the fact that a newspaper is relevant for only one day and then becomes old news, something to be thrown away. Paradoxically, many people I have spoken to collect recipes from newspapers, tearing or cutting them out and keeping them in folders or, if they are more organised, pasting them in books - potentially another line of enquiry, looking at why and how people collect recipes. This connects to something that John suggested - a recipe book that was 'pre-used' with food stains, spills, tears and burns that suggested the reader had really used the book well - the opposite of Phaidon's Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, a book destined, because of the impracticality of the design (recipes are separated from the images, ingredients are extremely difficult to find...) to never be used as a cook book.
The other idea that John and I discussed is the project I have been thinking about for some time: I have been collecting shopping receipts and making notes about the meals that I cook. Originally, I was thinking about how supermarkets collect a huge amount of information about what customers purchase - this information is used by the marketing departments to tempt customers to try new products and buy more of products that they already buy - I wondered if this information could be used in a different way. The information on the till receipt could be used to suggest recipes based on what you've purchased - for example, if you've bought beef mince and onions, it might suggest that with a few other ingredients you could make spaghetti Bolognaise, shepherd's pie or burgers. I tend to buy more or less the same foods every week, shifting slightly with the seasons but mainly sticking to recipes that I know and which I adapt over time - I think it will be interesting to see, over the course of a month or so, what I do cook.

Marguerite Patten's Century of British Cooking

Marguerite Patten’s Century of British Cooking
Marguerite Patten

Published by Grub Street, 1999 (Hardback)
Designed by Adam Denchfield Design
Illustrations by Bee Willey
Cover photography by Simon Smith
Food shots by Michelle Garrett

Marguerite Patten is an influential home economist, food writer and broadcaster, she has written over 170 books and her career, spanning six decades, has influenced many contemporary food writers. This book is an overview of cookery from 1900 to the present day - the design of the book with its clean, contemporary stylings; practical and easy to follow typography set In Gill Sans; and simple food photography positions her recipes and writing in the present. The cover of the book does an excellent job of establishing these ideas, suggesting not only simplicity, informality and order but, with its subtle reference to the British Isles also suggests an idea of Britishness.

Front cover
The cover shows a full-bleed photograph of a simple, white, large-rimmed plate against an undulating blue fabric background; shot directly from above with no perspective, the effect is of looking down onto a table set for dinner. The title of the book is written in an elegant but informal calligraphic script, printed in black, as if on the plate itself. Beneath the plate is a short quote, reversed out of the blue ‘tablecloth’, centred and set in a lowercase italic sans-serif - possibly Bernhard Modern - with the name of the author of the quote set below in a smaller titlecase.

The immediate effect of the cover is of simplicity, balance and order: the contemporary white plate, with its nod to minimal Modernism, is perfectly positioned on the page and is anchored by the quotation below it. However, a tension is created in the design by the calligraphic script which introduces an informal element and signifies craft and tradition, anchoring the design in hand-written restaurant menus and the studio workshop. A further level of meaning is generated by the royal blue tablecloth which, with its luscious folds suggests the sea with the plate signifying the British Isles.

Inside Pages
The book is 18 cm by 24 cm and is printed full colour on white coated paper. The layout is based on a simple one-column grid with equal inside and outside margins and symmetrical facing pages. Gill Sans is used exclusively throughout the book: ranged left titlecase Gill Sans light printed in black is used for recipe titles and also for the justified body text; Gill Sans medium is used for emphasis throughout the body text. Each section, which deals with a decade of cookery, opens with a solid blue page with overlaid text at a slightly larger size than the body text; the introductory pages that follow use the same layout as the recipes but with Gill Sans light printed in blue for emphasis. A similar page, printed in green announces the recipes for each decade with a simple black and white illustration of various ingredients on the facing page. Illustrations are also used, printed in a limited palette of coloured tints, to break up the uniformity of the text and creating interest for the eye.

This is a very simple and practical book that is easy to use and navigate: sections are clearly demarcated with a quickly-understood typographic hierarchy guiding the reader through the various parts of the text; the recipes themselves are easy to follow with legible and readable typography. Gill Sans is used throughout the book, chosen, I imagine, to signify both tradition and modernity - however the use of this typeface throughout gives the book a kind of blankness that verges on blandness. Marguerite Patten was a food advisor at the Ministry of Food during the second world war - the use of Gill Sans, with its echoes of British propaganda posters, subtly references Patten's wartime effort to feed the country, the moment she first became known to the public.

Continuing the theme of simplicity established on the cover, the photography in the book presents the food in a clean, simple manner: white crockery and tablecloths are used throughout with the food shot close-up, with no backgrounds and with a shallow depth of field so that objects beyond the edge of the plate are out of focus. Despite some of the recipes in this book dating from 1900, the design helps position this cooking in the present day with its references to minimalism, modernism and relaxed, informal eating.

Sunday Roast Newspaper

Sunday Roast reveals, in an economical way, the timescale involved in the process of cooking. I did not want to pastiche a newspaper design with headlines, mastheads etc – the format itself signifies a newspaper. The disposability of the format means that it can be annotated by the owner, torn up, spilled on etc – the opposite of high production value coffee table recipe books that prioritise looking over cooking. The newspaper format has many connotations, including the idea of the Sunday papers: a day of leisure and having time to read and to cook. Sunday Roast could be published weekly and given away by a butcher, with a different roast every week along with suggestions for seasonal accompaniments.

12 page black and white newspaper, 317mm × 457mm.

Sunday Lunch Book

Sunday Lunch uses graphic design processes to reveal cooking as a process that is rooted in time; the physicality of the book, its ‘thingness’, is used to represent time as a physical presence.

Softcover book, 46 pages, 148 x 210 mm.

Ratatouille Book

Like Sunday Lunch, Ratatouille uses graphic design processes to reveal cooking as a process that is rooted in time; the physicality of the book, its ‘thingness’, is used to represent time as a physical presence.

Softcover book, 26 pages, 148 x 210 mm.

Wim Crouwel, A Graphic Odyssey – this week!

Wim Crouwel, A Graphic Odyssey / 30 March – 03 July

From the Design Museum website:

The Design Museum celebrates the prolific career of the Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel in this, his first UK retrospective. Regarded as one of the leading designers of the twentieth century, Crouwel embraced a new modernity to produce typographic designs that captured the essence of the emerging computer and space age of the early 1960s.

Spanning over 60 years, this exhibition will cover Crouwel’s rigorous design approach and key moments in his career including his work for design practice ‘Total Design’, the identity for the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, as well as his iconic poster, print, typography and lesser known exhibition design. The exhibition will also explore Crouwel’s innovative use of grid-based layouts and typographic systems to produce consistently striking asymmetric visuals.

Something for the Weekend – Simon Rimmer and Tim Lovejoy

Something for the Weekend
60 Fabulous Recipes for a Lazy Brunch
Simon Rimmer & Tim Lovejoy

Published by Quadrille Publishing, 2010 (Hardback)
Creative Director Jane O’Shea
Designed by Katherine Case
Photographs by William Reavell
Food Stylist Valerie Berry

Something for the Weekend is a strange book that is somehow so connected, through its visual codes, with a televisual ‘reality’ that it seems disconnected to the actual reality of print in which it exists. The book is designed to project a blokey masculinity which is constructed through various means: through a strong colour palette that is established from the start by the bold colours of the cover photograph, which is then echoed in the vivid colours in the food photography and reinforced by the use of strong colours in the typography which is chunky, bold and, in places, spontaneous and playful. I have never seen the programme itself but, reading the clues presented in the design of this book, I get a strong feel of what it is like: I may be wrong, but, to me, the overwhelmingly matey atmosphere, generated by the design of the book, feels like a bloke shouting VERY LOUDLY in a pub. I imagine most people come to this book with a knowledge of the TV show itself - it would be interesting to see how the televisual reality matches the reality generated in print by the design of this book.

Front Cover
The cover shows a portrait photograph, by Owen Bilcliffe, of the two authors of the book. The authors are depicted leaning against a kitchen worktop surrounded by pots and pans; cooking utensils including a plethora of wooden spoons; and some random cooked dishes. The focus of the photograph is the two presenters; a closer inspection reveals a lack of connection between the cooked dishes and the cooking utensils placed in front of them - despite the conceit that the presenters have been spontaneously captured midway through cooking, the randomness of the props in front of them suggests that the photograph has been staged. The kitchen appears to be the set of their ‘hugely successful Sunday morning BBC TV series’: the ‘cupboards’, painted a vivid green, are cutout MDF squares; the lighting is harsh and multi-directional; and the colours are vibrant and strong with the synthetic sheen and hyper-reality of high-definition mainstream television.

The authors are dressed casually but smart, each in belted, dark blue denim jeans and freshly-ironed long sleeve shirts; a checked Lee Western shirt for one and a plain blue button-down Fred Perry for the other. Both are smiling at the camera and are leaning forward with their hands on the counter. There is a suggestion that, behind the large white plate, their hands are touching.

The photograph is printed full bleed and, as such, is the dominant element on the cover. The title of the book is placed in the top quarter of the cover; it is centred, reversed out of the photograph and set in uppercase Helvetica bold condensed. The subtitle appears above the title set in centred uppercase Akzidenz Grotesk, at a much smaller point size and printed in a pale mint green. The authors’ names appear at the bottom of the cover, set in centred Helvetica bold condensed and printed in black. The publisher’s logo is placed to the left of the authors’ names, with a strapline establishing that this is a book from a TV series.

Despite the presence of two men in a domestic setting and the attendant assumption that they may be a couple, the bold colours in the photograph and the punchy typography - which are reminiscent of the designs found on supermarket own-brand lager cans - suggest otherwise, signifying a relaxed and blokey masculinity which is reinforced by the title of the book which infers the all-male and largely heterosexual world of the barber shop. What is most disconcerting about the photograph though is how, when removed from the medium in which it was originally presented, the ‘kitchen’ and every item within it - including the presenters - is revealed as a fabrication.

Inside Pages
The book is 20 cm by 25 cm and is printed full colour on matt white coated paper with Akzidenz Grotesk, in regular and bold and printed in a dense black, for the body text. Each recipe has a double-page spread with a photograph of the finished dish on one page and the recipe on the other. The recipes are all based on the same basic grid; the title of each recipe, printed in a strong burgundy red, is set in different combinations of Akzidenz Grotesk and condensed Helvetica bold in various sizes introducing an air of spontaneity; variety is created by alternating the placing of the photograph - which can be either full bleed or with a border - on the verso and recto pages. The page numbers are set in bold Akzidenz Grotesk, printed in burgundy red and positioned at the top outside edge of the page, becoming a somewhat over-dominant design element on each page. The typography of the book, which could be described as no-nonsense in its approach, could never be described as subtle.

Chapter openings are double-page spreads with variation, on a larger scale, of the recipe title treatments on the verso page and, on the recto, snapshots of the upcoming dishes, presented in the manner of Polaroid images with typewritten captions and arranged in an informal manner on a solid blue background. Given the tone set by the titles of each chapter ‘Beers with the Boys’, ‘The Olds Round for Brunch’ etc you can understand how the designers took the ‘in-your-face’ approach to the design of the book.

The food photography in the book continues the atmosphere established by the photograph on the cover: this is big, bold, intensely coloured imagery that in places, such as the pork loin with fig and balsamic vinegar has such an over-processed, high-definition sheen that it appears unreal, almost abstract. The food is fairly conventionally presented and styled with close-ups of food with little or no backgrounds; a wide variety of colourful plates, bowls and serving dishes are used to present the dishes, these are placed on a variety of surfaces which are, unsurprisingly, given the masculine feel of the book, predominantly hard surfaces such as stainless steel or Formica - there are no chintzy Cath Kidston tablecloths here!

Delia's How To Cook Book One – Delia Smith

Delia’s How to Cook Book One
Delia Smith
Published by BBC Worldwide, 1998 (Hardback)
Design by Flo Bayley, photographs by Miki Duisterhof

This book is in the top 50 bestselling books ever, it was published to accompany a BBC television series in which Delia Smith aimed to demystify the cooking process beginning with how to boil an egg. Starting with the cover photography and typography, the book establishes an idea of simplicity, authority and practicality that reflects the ethos of Delia Smith. This is an easy book to navigate with clear hierarchies of information and with photographs that clearly show what the food will look like. The design is functional and practical with typography and images combining to help the reader understand the cooking process, reflecting the sensible and pragmatic writing of the author.

However, from a design perspective, this is not a hugely exciting book to look at. Perhaps because Delia Smith’s persona is about practical, safe advice the designers have opted for a rather pedestrian design. The design functions well but lacks sophistication: the typography is somewhat basic, for example: there are no ligatures which makes for some ugly collisions of letterforms, especially in the larger size texts; the designer has used tabular lining numerals - I think proportional oldstyle would have been a more elegant solution with, if necessary, tabular oldstyle for lists; the book could benefit from running heads for each section to make the book even more easy to navigate. The photographs are perfectly nice photographs doing a good job of showing what the finished dishes look like but, in their lack of styling, they are rather bland and the effect is somewhat uninspiring.

Front cover
The cover of this book is so pale that it appears to be have been bleached by the sun. The dominant element, taking up a third of the cover, is a centrally-positioned photograph of six white eggs and a white feather arranged in a white bowl on a white table. The cover is printed on a matt coated paper which gives the photograph, with its subtle shades of greys, the feel of a painted still-life. The classically-proportioned cover with its delicately composed photograph suggest simplicity and serenity and represents both the author’s ethos and her starting point in the book - how to boil an egg.

The title of the book is positioned above - and matches the width of - the photograph, it is set in centred uppercase Garamond and printed in a warm brownish-grey. The sub-title of the book appears just below the title, set at a smaller size and printed in the same colour. The author’s name - first name only on the cover - appears above the title of the book and printed in a subtly different shade of grey. Below the photograph is a strapline, set in lowercase Garamond and printed in the same grey as the author’s name, underneath this is the publisher’s logo which is darker than the other text, becoming the the second most dominant, eye-grabbing item after the photograph.

This is not a cover that uses graphic design to grab the reader’s attention - the cover signifies calm, order and balance as well as understated authority through its choice of subtle colour palette and centred neo-Classical typography. We are on first name terms with the author and, although Delia Smith is instantly recognisable from her numerous television appearances, this cover does not use her image to sell the book, rather it subtly, though emphatically, establishes, through graphic design means, the Delia Smith brand of quiet confidence, order and calm in the kitchen.

Inside Pages
The book is 21.5 cm by 27.5 cm and is printed full colour on white coated paper. The layout is based on a two-column grid with symmetrical facing pages: headings and recipe titles are set in titlecase Garamond, printed in grey; ranged left Garamond in black is used for the body text; pagination appears on the outside of each page, at the bottom, set in italic Garamond. Chapters open on a double spread; the verso has a full-bleed photograph, the recto has a different, three-column layout from the rest of the book with titlecase Garamond at a slightly larger size than elsewhere. The design of the book is extremely reader friendly: it is easy to navigate with a strongly demarcated hierarchy within the information; ingredients are separated from the main body of text with the method clearly separated from the author’s commentary by the use of italics. The book aims to simplify cooking and the design reflects this, creating a book that is easy and practical to use.

Photographs, taken by Miki Duisterhof, are used extensively throughout the book: most recipes have a full bleed image, usually of the finished dish; others have several smaller images; occasionally, some recipes are illustrated with photographs as diagrams to explain a particular process. Like the cover photograph, the photographs have a subtle simplicity, showing the food close-up with little or no background and with crisp, clear colours that suggest the dishes were photographed in daylight. Although these photographs have obviously been styled for the camera and are uniform in style throughout, they have the appearance of being ‘natural’: photographs as information with few signifiers of lifestyle - as such they are not about aspiration but have a purpose of showing, in plain terms, what the food looks like. Of course, you could argue that, for the beginner cook the target audience for this book) the aspirational element is the desire to cook as well as, and with the same confidence, as Delia.

Modernist Cuisine

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is an encyclopedic reference that highlights the key techniques of 21st century cooking - including experimental developments by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and El Bulli's Ferran Adrià. Costing £395, the set of five books plus index has 2,438 pages, weighs more than 18kg and was assembled over four years by a team of 36.

The books are housed in a clear perspex box and are printed to fetishistic levels of detail, above and beyond the standards of artbook photography. The high-definition photographs are beautiful and amazing: the food is shot against crisp white or black backgrounds and often captures processes or moments that occur in the blink of an eye - a bullet passing through eggs or
perfectly ripe strawberries plunging into crystal clear water - giving an air of hyperreality. Some of the images show cross-sections of pans which are literally incredible - the noodles sizzling in half a wok for example - but although Photoshop was used in the making of the book, these cutaway pans are apparently real, with heat-resistant borosilicate glass glued to the cut pots with silicone caulking. The deconstructed burger revealing its constituent parts is also impressive - anyone for 'Crimini mushroom ketchup with honey, horseradish, fish sauce, ginger, and allspice'?

One thing that irks me - and, if I had a spare £395, would stop me from buying a copy - is that I have an aversion to Eurostile, the typeface used on the covers of the books. Designed in 1962, by the Italian type designer Aldo Novarese, Eurostile is a typeface that, for me, is forever associated with the retro-futurism of The Human League on albums covers such as Reproduction and Travelogue. Although I loved those albums I hated the typeface and it was a relief when the band started to use the truly modern Helvetica on the 1981 album Dare. Perhaps I'm biased, but Eurostile does not seem to represent the forward-thinking ideas contained in this book and, with so much attention to detail lavished elsewhere, a more fitting typeface could have been chosen. Or maybe I'm missing the point.

The first edition is almost sold out with a reprint being considered.

English Food Jane – Grigson

English Food
Jane Grigson

Published by Penguin Books, 1993 (Paperback)
Cover design by the Senate, photographs from The Anthony Blake Photo Library

I think that this paperback edition was originally printed at a larger size and possibly with wider margins and gutters; it feels very dense and in need of some white space to allow the text to breathe. The book is very busy with too may design elements that are attempting to create a hierarchy for the reader but end up creating confusion. Many of these design elements are unnecessary; the initial cap in Gill, for example that appears immediately below the title of the recipe, set in Gill Bold, creating a double emphasis - and with the first few words of the sentence in small caps, essentially a triple emphasis. Similarly, the drop cap reversed out of black is not only ugly and jarring, it is not necessary after the line space that precedes it. Other elements need more emphasis: the ‘For 6’ serving suggestion set in centred titlecase Gill is lost on the page and makes an ugly collision with the central gutter of the two column list of ingredients.

The cover of the book does an excellent job of establishing, through graphic design methods, not only the stature of the author as an important food writer but also an idea of the traditions and heritage of English food. It is a shame that the typography of the interior of the book makes the reading of the book such hard work.

Front cover
The cover is white with a narrow silver grey band down the left-hand side. There is a small photograph of a steamed pudding on a pewter raised cake stand accompanied by a dessert spoon with thick cream on it. The golden steamed pudding, glistening with a syrup sauce and topped with slices of apples signifies traditional English food evoking memories of childhood and the English love of puddings. The raised cake stand signifies that this is a special dish, the centrepiece of the table. The choice of an antique object - there is a patina of age and the bottom of the stand is bent out of shape - helps establish the atmosphere of tradition as does the choice of material - pewter which conjures up visions of Merrie England. The pudding and spoon have been cut out in Photoshop and a shadow added. The shadow does not suggest a realistic or naturalistic depth but rather that the image is flat and floating just above the surface of the book; combined with the fact that the spoon is out of scale with the size of the pudding, the resulting assemblage is very strange, almost surreal.

The photograph is a small detail, perhaps one sixth of the total cover. Below the photograph, taking up almost half of the cover is the author’s name and the title of the book, set loosely in titlecase Baskerville and arranged informally. The author’s surname is the dominant element, reflecting her stature as a revered food writer, it is printed in grey and fits the width of the cover; her first name is set in italic, printed in black at a much smaller size and placed just below and centred on the cake stand. The title of the book is set in a smaller size than the author’s name, printed in black and set on two lines. There is a quotation set in much smaller type than the other elements and, in the top left-hand corner, the Penguin logo.

Inside Pages
The book is 13 cm by 20 cm and is printed black on cream uncoated paper. The layout is based on a simple one-column grid: centred titlecase small caps in Gill bold are used for headings; an Old Style sans-serif is used for the justified body text; a heavier Old Style sans-serif is used for chapter headings, uppercase for the main chapters and in title case for other chapters. Chapters open on the recto page with the text beginning just below halfway down the page and the chapter heading a fifth of the page from the top. Initial caps in Gill bold and a line (of varying lengths) of text set in small caps are used to mark the start of sections within each chapter; the method section for each recipe is marked with a drop cap, in Gill, that is reversed out of a black square; running heads are set in titlecase Gill small caps; other elements include quotations and ingredients set in italic (the latter in two columns) and notes set in the Old Style sans-serif but at a smaller point size than the body text.

Hembakat Är Bäs

These images are taken from Hembakat Är Bäs or Homemade is Best, a baking book created for Ikea by Swedish graphics agency Forsman & Bodenfors. The book breaks the mould of most baking books by presenting recipes in a new and playful way that focuses on the ingredients as much as the finished cakes. The book has won the award for graphics in the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2011 at the Design Museum.

I'm not totally sure about the way the food has been arranged; the pyramids of flour are particularly odd, it seems somehow unnatural to force food into shapes like that. The layout is so formal, rigid and staged that it seems to me to be counter-productive in establishing the idea of homemade. However, what I find really interesting is the link that is established between the ingredients and the finished cakes and biscuits. Baking is magical - ingredients are measured, combined in different ways, placed in an oven and transformed into a thing of wonder and pleasure: this book goes some way to showing that baking and cooking isn't just about the gratification of the finished thing but can be about the pleasure of process.

Tutorial 9th March 2011

I had a really interesting (and extended) tutorial with John today. I took in the rough mock-ups of the two books that I have been working on, Sunday Lunch and the vegetarian option, Ratatouille. It was a really good move to take in the books, even in their unfinished state, as they helped to explain what I had been trying to articulate in the last tutorial.

In the last tutorial John had asked me what my outcome of the major project would be; he asked if it was going to be, as most cook books are, 'images with some nice type'. If I'm being honest, I do want to make something that's nice to look at. I think most designers want to make things that are nice to look at, we want to shape the world as we would like to see it. But I understand that this project has to be more than that. John's final suggestion was that I needed to have an opinion or position about cook books.

As I said in my last post, informed by my written audit of cook books, I have been thinking more about cook books, particularly about my position. One of the 'problems' I have found is that cook books seem to be more about looking than cooking: as cook books become more lavish in production values with ever-more seductive photography, the instructional, functional aspect of cook books has, I would argue, become marginalised. Cook books are big business: in the top 50 bestselling books of 1998-2010, Delia Smith's How to Cook, Book One appears at number 39, paradoxically, the UK is by far the biggest market in Europe for ready meals, accounting for 49 per cent of all sales.

With the two books that I have made, I wanted to think about how design could show cooking as a temporal process, as something with a beginning, a middle and an end rather than the instant gratification of an image of a finished meal typically found in most contemporary cook books. For me, to start making things, has been a really useful exercise: though I sometimes try to resist it, I've a tendency to do my best thinking when I'm doing something creative. I realise that I have only just started to scratch the surface of the temporal aspect of the cook book, my next test will be to extend the time element of the book even further: I think it would be interesting to stretch a recipe through an entire book, to use the linearity inherent in the book format, to suggest time, so five pages might represent the five minutes it takes to brown off the meat for a stew and sixty pages might represent the hour that the stew cooks in the oven.

I realise that the books I have just produced, and some of the ideas that I am thinking through, might not work in the 'real' or commercial world but I'm not sure that really matters. This is not a campaign to get people cooking, to make a cook book that encourages people to cook, rather, I intend to look at the potential of graphic design to communicate meaning in books, using cook books as a starting point and I think that might involve making things that exist in space that is not the usual space that cook books inhabit. As I keep re-iterating, my intention in doing the MA is to better understand how graphic design communicates meaning; to be able to articulate how graphic design communicates meaning and to better understand my design decisions.

I'm finding it really interesting that my analysis of cook books has touched on branding: Delia, Hugh, Jamie, Nigel and Nigella are food writers and cooks who have become recognisable brands and their brand is amplified through the design of their books. By looking closely at the typography, imagery and graphic language presented in the specificity of cook books, I am hoping to understand how graphic design communicates in a more general sense. It has been really useful to look closely at these books, to articulate how design is used to create the brand of the particular writer and how that brand relates, on the part of the reader, to an aspirational lifestyle. I am aware that most of the books that I have written about have been more towards the 'top end', well-known celebrity chefs whose books epitomise personality publishing. I intend to cast my net further, to look at cook books that are not ones that are not about my particular tastes but, for now, my choice of books is a very personal one.

In a conversation last night, about the Sunday Lunch book, Maria made a connection between that book and the Dracula book I made for the visual storytelling elective; John also made the storytelling connection when we started to unpack the things that cook books represent. I think this is potentially really interesting - stories are embodied in food in so many ways: social, cultural and class histories; family (hi)stories; branding as storytelling (the aspirational element of cook books and of top end ranges such as 'Tesco Finest' and 'Sainsbury's Taste the Difference'. I'm going to think a bit more about some of the avenues that I might explore.

I've been thinking about an idea for a recipe that exists as a kind of map, offering choices along the way that allow the reader to create different dishes depending on which path they choose. I imagine it starting with an onion (as most recipes do) and developing from there; the left-hand choice might be 'continue frying onion then add stock' to create French Onion Soup, the right-hand path could be to 'add peppers, courgettes etc' to make Ratatouille.

I also need to think a bit more about form. One of my initial ideas had been to make a poster, to follow on from my work for Design and Rhetoric. I'm not sure how practical a poster would be as something you would follow a recipe from but I do like the idea of a poster that uses type as image to suggest an idea of a dish. John thought that a newspaper format might be a good antidote to aspirational coffee table cook books. I like this idea. There's the immediate connection of fish and chips eaten out of newspapers; I also like the disposability of newspapers, something that has a lifespan of one day. The format could include a daily recipe, a shopping list, instructions, writing about food, wine suggestions, history etc all contained in a format that gets used then thrown in the recycling box.

There is a lot to think about and a lot to do. The two books have been printed and have been despatched - I'm looking forward to seeing them and thinking about what I am going to do next.


One of the 'problems' that I have found when I have been researching cook books is that many contemporary cook books emphasise looking rather than cooking: they are not about the physical process of cooking but are about aspiration, a kind of food pornography. From a marketing point of view, this is not a problem: cook books are big business, the number one bestselling book on Amazon at this moment in time [1] is a cook book (Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals, the fastest selling non-fiction book ever) and there are two other cook books in the top ten. In the top 50 bestselling books of 1998-2010 [2], Delia Smith's How to Cook, Book One appears at number 39 with Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals at number 51.

It seems that despite healthy sales of cook books, sales of ready meals are also booming: in 2003, the United Kingdom spent £5 million a day on ready meals, and was the largest consumer in Europe:

"The report, 'Consumer Trends in Prepared Meals', shows that the UK is already by far the biggest market in Europe for ready meals, accounting for 49 per cent of all sales. Second-placed France has a mere 20 per cent, followed by Germany with 14 per cent." [3]

"The far greater popularity of prepared meals in the UK than in any other European country is due to several factors, the report said. First, there is a cultural aspect -prepared meals are far less popular in countries with a strong gastronomic tradition such as Italy or France. Secondly, working hours are longer in the UK than they generally are in the rest of Europe, as are commuting times, creating additional levels of time pressure and a heightened need for convenience foods." [3]

I find it puzzling that so many cook books are sold yet so few people cook. I don't want to appear evangelical about cooking, I'm not Jamie Oliver persuading people to eat healthy home-made food and people do have valid reasons for not cooking. However, I feel that cooking is a pleasure and, even if you are extremely busy, taking time out to prepare something from scratch, is far more therapeutic than heating up a ready meal or ordering a takeaway - and sometimes can take less time than juggling several trays in the microwave.

If cook books have become about looking then is the design of the books responsible for prioritising looking over action? As cook books employ more and more lavish production techniques and as food photography and styling became ever more sophisticated, does the function of a cook book become backgrounded as the visual is foregrounded? Is it possible to design cook books that make the process of cooking more explicit, that reveals it as an action in time, creating a cook book that people actually use as instructions to prepare food?

In This Means This This Means That, Sean Hall asks the question: 'Can we represent time?' He talks about some of the ways in which time can be represented in graphic design: "The flow of text may be about how it is placed with other texts, how it is spaced, and what sort of graphic and auditory features it has (e.g. slow, long sentences may be evident in a play, whereas quick, short syllables may be evident in a poem." He concludes that "The question as to whether we can represent time may be misleading; that is, if we think of the question as being about how to depict the phenomenon of time. This is because there are so many ways that something that takes up time can be represented, none of which may be 'true' to the way we experience time itself." [4]

In my recent practical experiments I have taken the method of a recipe and stretched it out, stage by stage, over the pages of a book. The book has, of course, an inherent sense of time within it; when we hold a book we are aware of our position in it, how much we have read and how far we have to go. There is a linearity to the book rooted in conventional left to right reading that suggests a journey with a beginning and an end. In This Means This This Means That, Sean Hall talks about left to right reading in Western cultures, he uses an example of a washing powder advert: dirty clothes appear on the left, clean clothes appear on the right - the reader understands that, through the placing of images in this order, the washing powder will make the dirty clothes clean. Obviously, in cultures that read from right to left, this process is reversed but, whichever way we read, "information placed on one side of a composition is usually 'given' or assumed, while the information on the other side tends to be 'new' or unexpected." [4]

To accompany the broken down text of the recipe I have used images, put through various processes in Photoshop that gradually reveal themselves to be the finished dish as the reader progresses through the book. I wanted to disrupt the instant gratification of seeing a finished dish alongside a set of instructions. I feel that seeing a book full of photographs of finished dishes encourages a kind of 'window shopping', not dissimilar to browsing the shelves of a supermarket where the physical process of cooking becomes secondary to the finished dish. I hope that with my visual tests I am making an attempt to show cooking as a process by using graphic design processes.

I want to look at some cook books (and perhaps other kinds of manuals, i.e. DIY manuals) that use diagrams to present a process, revealing it as something that exists within time. At this stage, I'm not sure if this is about trying to get people to cook by demystifying the process, by making it look easy; cooking is not always easy but, I think, that by prioritising and making explicit the temporal process of cooking rather than the end result, it might actually make a cook book which is about cooking as well as looking.

[1] http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bestsellers/books
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jan/01/top-100-books-of-all-time
[3] http://www.foodnavigator.com/Financial-Industry/UK-meals-ready-for-growth
[4] Hall, Sean (2007) This Means This, This Means That: A User's Guide to Semiotics, London, Laurence King

On 'On Liking'

Patrick Burgoyne, editor of Creative Review, gave an interesting lecture at LCC on Wednesday night. Titled 'On Liking', the lecture used as its starting point the 'Like' button on Facebook. This supposed democracy of liking allows people to easily express their liking of a whole manner of random things, without having to think about why they like that thing and sometimes, what it is they are actually liking. The Like button has been parodied in many ways, notably in Nation's rubber stamp, but, as advertisers increasingly use Facebook for market research, these impulse likings are seen to represent contemporary mass taste(s).

Burgoyne went on to talk about liking in general, why we like things and how liking is related to taste. Interestingly, he talked about a theory that we tend to like things that we think will protect us (or at least won't harm us) so we usually like things that we are familiar with. He spoke about the ways in which we learn to like things and the degrees in which familiar things (such as logos) can be tweaked to make them exciting again but without becoming so unfamiliar that they appear threatening.

Familiarity breeds boredom: he explained the theory of the upturned U which describes how we learn to like things through repetition but then become bored by them: we might hear a new song and not like it, we might hear it again and like it more, hear it again and like it a bit more and so on - this liking is represented by the upstroke of the upturned U. We tend to reach a plateau where we like something a lot - represented by the top curve of the U, but then, when we've listened to something too much i.e. it becomes too familiar, we don't like that thing anymore, represented by the downstroke. This is a simple but useful idea and the pop song analogy is a good one: pop music has become adept at selling a band's back catalogue to people who already own it and may have become bored with it, by tweaking it - with remasters, remixes and expanded editions etc - to make the familiar unfamiliar.

Graphic design is fond of tweaking things, Burgoyne used the example of The Guardian's redesign by David Hillman in 1988 to illustrate how new and unfamiliar things can threaten and alienate - the design was initially disliked but, by the time of Mark Porter's redesign in 2005 it was seen as a classic and the new design received negative criticism. Five years on and Porter's design is loved by readers and seen as groundbreaking by the design community.

I'm particularly interested in why people like certain things: my own research has looked at why I'm drawn to certain kinds of design, essentially, why I like them better than others. I think visual communication connects with us, even on a brief viewing, at a visceral level, in a manner that is so complex it is difficult for us to decode so we can't always articulate what that connection is. Unlike reading a book, watching a film or listening to music which demand time, we are able to make instant decisions about liking or disliking something that is visual. We can take a dislike to a book cover but in order to know if we like or dislike the content of that book we have to invest time to read it. Of course, our judgment of the content might be tempered by the designer's choice of typeface or the too-long line length and, we may hate the cover so much that we don't even get beyond it.

Liking things is part of the human condition. Most people have strong opinions about what they like; designers and visual artists like to look at nice things: they generally want to create things that they want to look at. A person with a strong understanding and appreciation of the visual is often said to have a 'good eye' or good taste. Taste is somewhat complex: there's not just one kind of taste - many different tastes exist alongside each other. The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that each judgement of taste presumes the existence of a consensus of taste, a community that enables judgements of taste. Good taste can only exist if a group agrees - for whatever reason(s) - that something constitutes good taste.

Taste is hugely problematic largely because of its relationship to class: tastemakers, on the whole, tend to be middle class, white and wealthy. Design that is considered good taste is often more expensive than design that is not considered good taste. As Pierre Bourdieu points out, social groups use “symbolic goods, especially those regarded as the attributes of excellence, […as] the ideal weapon in strategies of distinction.” [1] Bourdieu argues that the development of these aesthetic dispositions are largely determined by social origin rather than through accumulated capital and experience over time.

The notion of good taste is often linked to the idea of good design. How do we define 'good design' or a 'good designer', are we just back to liking things or is there something in good design that is beyond mere taste? In the present digital age, information is spread phenomenally quickly: trends and fashions are circulated at speeds we could not imagine even ten years ago. With such a plethora of information, of so many styles in circulation, it is getting harder to make informed judgments of what is good, of what we like. The rules have been re-written: the democratisation of information, as represented by Facebook, and by blogs such as this, has given us access to more and more information but, with so much material to process, is the best opinion we can hold a simple 'Like'?

[1] Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge

The River Cottage Fish Book

The River Cottage Fish Book
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher

Published by Bloomsbury, 2007 (Hardback)
Designed by Lawrence Morton
Photographs by Simon Wheeler

This is an ambitious book that functions as more than a recipe book: it is an encylopaedia of British fish; a book of skills and techniques for preparing and cooking fish; it acts as a vehicle for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaigns to encourage consumers to source and use responsibly-farmed fish; it also further establishes the Fearnley-Whittingstall brand, amplifying his authenticity.

The design of the book helps to make these functions explicit. The authorative tone is estalished by the use of Century Schoolbook, signifying scholarly textbooks but with a certain friendliness and openess suggested by the ‘natural’ ranged left, ragged right setting and also when it used at a larger size such as on the cover. Trade Gothic is used which, with its straightforward, no-nonsense look amplifies this air of informality. The book, with its plethora of photographs appears as a kind of scrapbook giving a sense of spontaneity and authenticity. Readers are invited to engage with the idea of adventure that informs the book through documentary photographs which capture the thrill of fishing at sea. The food photography invites the reader, through the careful placing of food at an angle and in sharp focussed close-up, to imagine preparing food and eating it at the table - this invitation is further amplified through the use of cutlery or utensils which are usually shown entering the photographs at an angle, further inviting the reader to enter the world that the book describes.

Front Cover
The cover shows a full bleed photograph of the authors of the book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher. One holds a fishing rod and the other a just-caught fish, both are smiling, suggesting pride at the day’s catch. The photograph is tightly cropped and focuses on the authors: beyond them the sea is just visible, a bright and clear sky fills the upper third of the cover. The photograph siginifies a wholesome, healthy outdoor life through signifiers such as the fishing rod and fish; the crisp sunshine; the chunky knit jumpers; the ‘handicraft’ necklace; the wind-tousled hair; the proud smiling faces: all of these elements combine to create the idea that the fish has just been caught by the authors.

The title of the book, set in Century Schoolbook occupies the top third of the cover: the word ‘Fish’ is perhaps ten times larger than the rest of the title, it fills the upper third of the cover; the rest of the title is placed around this word. The title is centred and is printed in a metallic petrol blue ink which also appears on the spine and reverse of the book. The authors’ names and a strapline crediting the photographer appear at the bottom of the cover, centred and set in Trade Gothic, printed in grey. There are no other elements on the cover which is laminated in a high gloss.

The dominant element of the cover is the photograph. Surprisingly, ‘River Cottage’ is not dominant in the cover hierarchy: this maybe reflects the fact that ‘River Cottage’, the cookery programme and brand that originally brought visibility to the author, is now secondary to the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall brand. Fearnley-Whittingstal himself is represented by his image rather than by his name, which, also surprisingly, appears third in the list of cover elements.

Inside Pages
This is a hefty book, 20 cm by 26 cm and, with 610 pages, is 4 cm wide. It is printed in full colour on white coated paper and is set in Century Schoolbook and Trade Gothic. The book is laid out on a two-column grid with symmetrical facing pages; the wider central grid is used for body text, recipes etc while the narrower outside column is used for small photographs and for encyclopaedia-like references to other fish that can be used in each recipe. Body text is set in Century Schoolbook ranged left throughout, with recipe ingredients in two columns, ranged left and set in Trade Gothic. The book is divided into sections, each one opens on a double-page spread: on the right-hand page is justified text at a larger size than the body text and spanning both columns; on the right-hand page, a full bleed photograph. Sub-sections open with a full bleed double-page photograph with white reversed-out text. Body text is generally printed in black whilst titles, sub-titles and pagination etc are printed in the same petrol blue that appears on the cover: Running footers and pagination appear at the bottom, close to the edge of the page and aligned to the edge of the outside column.

Photography plays an important role in this book: nearly all of the recipes are pictured, the majority with full bleed one page photographs. Smaller photographs are also used, placed informally throughout the book, sometimes emphasising the underlying grid, sometimes breaking it. This creates an air of spontaneity, somewhat like a scrapbook, that helps counteract the formality of the choice of body typeface. The dominant colour palette of the photographs is rather cold - largely blues, greys and silvery blacks, signifying perhaps, most people’s idea of the colours of the sea. Food photography throughout the book has a consistency of atmosphere, created in three ways: by a raked angle that gives the reader the impression of sitting at a table with food in front of them; through cold, natural light, suggesting the outdoors; and through the choice of accessories: plain white plates, open-textured white cloths, worn wooden chopping boards and well-used pans.

As well as creating atmosphere, photography is used to further establish the Fearnley-Whittingstall brand: photographs appear throughout the book that show the author not only cooking food and gutting and cleaning fish and, more importantly, catching fish by various means. Like the image on the front cover, several photographs show the authors proudly showing off the day’s catch. This idea of gathering food to eat is at the core of the Fearnley-Whittingstall brand and his authenticity is emphasised by the inclusion of these ‘action’ photos.




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