River Cafe Cook Book Easy – Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

River Cafe Cook Book Easy
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

Published by Ebury Press, 2003 (Hardback)
Design by the Senate
Designer David Eldridge
Artworker Marisa Sebastian
Photography by Martyn Thompson
Additional photographers Jeremy Hudson, Gary Calton, Peter Drinkle

The design of the book is simple and understated design but, in places, is clumsy and unresolved: the splitting of ingredients and quantities is hard to read and the line length of the authors’ commentary is too long and the linespacing, to my taste, too wide. This is the fifth River Cafe cook book, it uses a similar design to the first book but, unlike the first book, which was based on the sans-serif typeface FF Meta, this book uses FF DIN, designed by Albert-Jan Pool in 1995, and a popular typeface amongst designers and architects. FF DIN (an acronym forDeutsches Institut für Normung [German Institute for Standardisation]) carries with it connotations of functionalism and industry, a fitting choice for a book about a restaurant that was originally the canteen for Richard Rogers’ architectural practice and now attracts a generally design literate clientele. The recipes in this book are simple and are aimed for the domestic cook - the functional clarity of FF DIN carries this message and, with the designers’ use of colour, adds an element of childlike playfulness which stops the typography - and the design - from looking too austere.

The photographs in the book also promote this idea of simplicity. Although sharing the same over-riding aesthetic there are three kinds of photographs in the book: photographs of finished food presented in a ‘naturalistic’ manner that allows the reader to imagine not only eating the dish but preparing and cooking it; photographs of food being cooked that allow the reader to engaging in the process of cooking; and, to my mind, more problematically, photographs that present food as still-life, as something to be looked at, an aesthetic experience.

Like the first River Cafe cook book, there are some elements in the book that appear too self-consciously ‘designed’ and which lose sight of their function: the coloured numbering system for recipes is a good example. Here the designers have set up a grid for the opening pages of each section which lists the dishes in that section under a large numeral which is also printed in one of six colours. Although these pages look good - FF DIN numerals are particularly appealing, especially when scaled up - and the design echoes the ‘logo’ on the cover, they do not function for several reasons: they are not distinct enough to make a break between sections; the colours are arbitrary when the conventions of most cook books is to colour code according to type of food; the numbers refer to the position within the section whereas most readers would assume that the number referred to the page that the recipe is found on. A further level of confusion is added by the fact that the numerals on the recipe pages, despite being one of the dominant elements on the page, are somehow, not quite dominant enough; the relationship between them and the numbers on the opening pages is not explicit and, even when the reader has worked out what they stand for, their functionality is still debatable.

In spite of these flaws, which are largely to do with the internal organisation and navigation of the book, the book has an air of functionality and the recipes, which are simply written, are presented in a simple manner that is easy to follow while cooking. When combined with photographs that show the process of cooking and the finished dish, the result is a book that entices the reader to cook and eat.

Front cover
The cover is typographic: the title of the book dominates the cover, it is set in uppercase FF DIN black and is printed in six bright colours - orange, yellow, red, pink, green and cyan blue - on a gloss metallic silver background. The title is set over five lines, one word per line and is justified, filling almost all of the cover, with narrow margins at the top and bottom and wider margins at left and right. The authors’ names are printed in white, centred, between the words ‘cook’ and ‘book’, in title case FF DIN black; the names are set much smaller than the title of the book, roughly half the width of the cover; against the reflective silver, the names become almost invisible suggesting that the name of the restaurant is more important than the names of the authors.

The cover design follows the layout of the previous River Cafe books, a layout that exists as a kind of highly-recognisable logo for the series of books - although this cover, with its use of FF DIN bold is unlike previous covers which have used the typeface FF Meta. The first River Cafe cook book included the word ‘The’ in front of ‘River Cafe’ which created uneven spacing when the word was justified with awkward gaps between letters, exacerbated by the use of FF Meta; this cover is much more successful and pleasing to the eye. As with the previous covers, when viewed at a distance, or when seen as a thumbnail on a website, the arrangement of the words of the title becomes a logo that establishes the River Cafe brand. The logo of the River Cafe itself, a continuous line suggesting both the fluidity of water and hand-written menus appears on the opening pages, in white, reversed out of ultramarine blue.

The cover is very eye-catching: the glossy metallic silver reflects the light suggesting the play of light on water and the rainbow of colours are pleasing to the eye and also signify simplicity with their connotations of children’s paintboxes. Beneath the dustjacket, the cover boards are bound in a metallic purple bookcloth with endpapers in a vivid yellow. The title page is particularly pleasing with the title and authors’ names set in lowercase multi-coloured FF DIN bold setting up connotations of magnetic fridge letters. Child-like colours, the simplicity of FF DIN and copious white space are repeated throughout the book; these understated design elements help convey the idea that this is a book with recipes that are simple and easy to follow but, paradoxically, the sophistication of the design appeals to a very specific audience with a knowledge of design.

Inside Pages
The book is 19 cm by 24.5 cm, printed full colour on white uncoated paper. The layout has a clean, crisp simplicity, it is based on a two-column grid with a narrow outside margin, a wider inside margin, a deep top margin containing running heads, and a narrower bottom margin containing pagination: the left-hand column is narrower and contains ingredients; the right-hand column is wider and contains the method. Recipes are ranged left; the authors’ commentary is ranged left across the width of the two columns; ingredients are ranged left with the quantities ranged right - a rather inelegant solution which results in awkward gaps between ingredients and quantities.

The book has been designed with a typographic hierarchy that uses three weights of FF DIN, set in different sizes and in colours to order the various kinds of information in the book. Recipes are set in three sizes of DIN: titles are set in regular, printed in purple; ingredients, set in light, are set slightly smaller, also printed in purple; the method is set in light, printed in black. Running heads are set in titlecase FF DIN - they are printed in purple and are aligned to the outside and top margin; pagination, set in FF DIN, is aligned to the outside and bottom margin. Further elements on the page include the authors’ commentary which is set in Excelsior and printed in orange; and a FF DIN bold numeral, printed in different, random colours; the number refers to a - somewhat confusing - numbering system set up in the opening sections.

The book is divided into sections that deal with very specific types of Italian food: Bruschetta, Antipasti, Carpaccio, Spaghetti, Short pasta, Tagliatelle etc. Each section opens on the recto: the title of the section appears in grey at the bottom right-hand corner of the page, set in bold FF DIN; above, aligned to the top margin, are large numerals in random colours, similar to the ones on the cover, set in bold FF DIN - underneath these numerals, in the same colours and set in titlecase regular FF DIN are the recipe titles. The layout of these pages is such that the maximum number of recipes that can fit on a page is sixteen - when sixteen multi-coloured recipes appear on the page they create a strong echo of the cover of the book. One section (Bruschetta) has twenty-four recipes: the opening pages for this section and the pages that follow are given a different treatment.

Unlike the first River Cafe cook book which used bold colour in a variety of ways, including coloured pages, in this book, colour is largely kept to the typography and, of course, to the photographs. The book makes use of lots of white space, which, without the interjections of colour in the type and images, could appear too austere and antiseptic but instead feels crisp, modern and user friendly.

Colour photography is used to illustrate the finished dishes and sometimes to demonstrate techniques such as making gnocchi. Photographs generally appear on the recto and are shown full bleed - though there are exceptions: double page spreads and pages with multiple images. The food is photographed close-up and generally square on, from above. Most of the photographs are bright and crisp and appear to have been shot in a cold diffused daylight with few shadows - this matches the use of white space in the book. The colours of the photographs could be described as ‘naturalistic’ - though as in most cook books, the reds, greens and warm yellows of the dishes tend to be emphasised. Some dishes are photographed extremely close-up with very little background appearing. Serving dishes, cooking pots and crockery are generally utilitarian - white or plain colours, stainless steel and wood.

In general the food is presented with very little food styling (other than, I would imagine, the basics that are necessary for food photography) this gives the images an immediacy, a sense that it has just been cooked and also transmits the idea that this is food that is easy to cook because it is easy for the reader to imagine the food turning out as it is pictured. The finished dish is usually the focus of the photograph with very little else in view, however, in places, the food is presented with the ingredients that make up the dish as part of a still-life; I would argue that these photographs are less successful because they aestheticise the process of cooking, reducing it to an image to be looked at. Elsewhere, particularly in the section on meat, there are photographs that show dishes being cooked: quails being stuffed with sage; chops being grilled; and rare steak resting on a wooden board, these images work better because, like the photographs of finished dishes which invite the reader to imagine eating, they allow the reader to imagine themselves cooking the dish.

Power, Corruption and Lies

Michael Zahn Power, Corruption and Lies, acrylic on canvas, 2008

Googling 'New Order' (as I often find myself doing) I found this image on the Henri Art Magazine website. It's a painting by the New York-based artist Michael Zahn, called Power, Corruption and Lies, which takes as its reference a jpeg found on the internet, of the cover of New Order's album Power, Corruption and Lies, which was released on Factory Records in 1983. The cover was designed by Peter Saville and juxtaposes a painting, A Basket of Roses (1890), by the French painter Henri Fantin-Latour, from the National Gallery in London, with a colour coded alphabet that spells out the catalogue number - Fact 75 - of the album.

New Order Power, Corruption and Lies, designed by Peter Saville, 1983

There's nothing new about painters working from photographs but there is something very interesting going on in Zahn's work, looking at ideas about how we now receive images through the internet and how we understand and interpret them. I'm particularly intrigued with images that are analogue in source which are then digitised, with the digital version becoming the primary reference and source - I'm thinking of posters by Josef Müller-Brockmann which, when seen online, have a slick sheen that belies the surprisingly rough and hand-made feel which manifests itself when they are seen in reality. When Saville was searching for inspiration for the cover for Power, Corruption and Lies, he originally responded to a colour postcard of Fantin-Latour's painting; when the painting was photographed for the cover, the resulting image was, to Saville's mind, too brown - he preferred the grey tones of the reproduction.

Michael Zahn studio view with Power, Corruption and Lies

Similarly, one of the comments on the Henri website includes an image of the painting in Zahn's studio with the observation that 'I think that you can get a clearer sense of the extent of Michael’s love of color in this photo. I also find the idea of the conceptual nature of his work being mitigated and honed there on the palette.' It's surprising how large Zahn's painting is - something that is not apparent in the image that I first encountered. The context of the painting - in the studio, a physical object - changes its meaning in a similar self-referential manner to how Saville's juxtaposing of digital code with Fantin-Latour's painting changed its meaning.

I've always liked self-referential artworks and there's something very satisfying about the movement of Fantin-Latour's original image between different media: oil on canvas - photograph of painting - printed album cover - photograph of album cover - jpeg of photograph - acrylic on canvas - digital photograph - jpeg on website. The roses are the constant element but, of course, paradoxically, Fantin-Latour was commenting on death and decay: the roses were dying as soon as they were picked and placed in a vase for the artist to capture for posterity.

On Zahn's website there is a quote that comments, quite neatly, on this relationship between media: 'Digital imagery represents binary notation as pure surface. In this sense, a desktop icon such as the file folder doesn't appear as likeness; what you see isn't what you see. What the icon pictures remains invisible, whether it's the image the file contains, or, more pointedly, the coded sequences upon which computational space is built. Painting, shown in its relationship to these structures, presents what's left of the tangible limit of its practice. Its emptiness pictures energy, and nothing else.'

New Order Blue Monday, designed by Peter Saville, 1983, digital remaster by James Brook, 2009

While I was researching images for my A Factory Alphabet book in 2009, I was unable to find a decent image of the cover of New Order's Blue Monday: all had been cropped badly or showed a re-issue that did not include the original metallic silver inner sleeve (Most of the reference books on Saville and Factory Records also use an image with black inner sleeve). I decided to redraw the sleeve in Adobe Illustrator and post this image on the Factory Alphabet website: I was interested in how a digital image, that had a purely digital source, might go into circulation as the official reference image for a physical object. Subsequently, Jeb Edwards digitally remade the cover image for his Recycle project including not only the metallic inner sleeve but also some of the printing errors and misalignments - and shadows that suggest this is a real object - that I had edited out of my slick digital version.

New Order Blue Monday, designed by Peter Saville, 1983, digital reproduction by Jeb Edwards and
Bruce Bartlett, 2009

The relationship between music and design is now fractured: I no longer browse record shops imagining the possibilities of what a record might sound like based on the image that the cover art is projecting. The physical object in the form of a 12" cardboard sleeve or even as a CD cover is now secondary to the music itself: design no longer has to sell songs nor do we have to imagine what an unknown record might sound like - a quick Google can usually locate an mp3 that will tell us all we need to know.

As an art student in the 1980s, my exposure to art and artists was limited by the printed matter that I could find in the library and in bookshops - books, catalogues and art magazines - and, of course, by physical objects in galleries. This relationship has shifted with my connection to the internet - it's now much easier to research artists but the relationship is now a digital one. I wonder whether work that examine the relationship between digital and analogue, between representational image and physical object, will take on more resonance as we rely more and more on the digital or whether, as we lose contact with the physical object, that relationship will no longer be relevant.


The River Cafe Cook Book – Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

The River Cafe Cook Book
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

Published by Ebury Press, 1995 (Hardback)
Designed by the Senate
Photography by Jean Pigozzi
Food photography Martin Thompson

The River Cafe was established in 1987 by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray. Though Rogers and Gray could not be described as ‘celebrity chefs’, the restaurant achieved cult status amongst a certain class of people for its authentic Italian food and for the sourcing of its seasonal ingredients. This book was published in 1995; like the restaurant itself, the influence of this book has been great, spawning a host of imitators - and five more books in the River Cafe series.

The book uses an understated design that, although occasionally erratic and unresolved, carries with it the ethos of the restaurant and of its founders. The design is extremely simple, based on the sans-serif typeface FF Meta which had been designed by Erik Spiekermann and released by FontFont four years before the publication of the book. FF Meta was particularly popular amongst designers and architects in the 1990s so seems a fitting choice for a book about a restaurant that was originally the canteen for Richard Rogers’ architectural practice. The recipes are simply written and are, on the whole, very brief, relying not on complicated techniques but on the quality of ingredients, in season and well sourced - the functional simplicity of FF Meta carries this message but without resorting to the blandness of more ‘neutral’ typefaces such as Helvetica.

There are other elements in the book that appear self-consciously ‘designed’, which, in their self-reflexivity, seem to be signifying that this is a book that is aimed for design literate readers as well as cooks. The use of space throughout the book is, at times, verging on the indulgent: recipes are generally presented one to a page which, from a functional point of view, works well, but that sometimes feels insubstantial given that the recipes are very brief which, when combined with the choice of typeface, gives the feeling that the pages don’t have much substance. The use of coloured pages throughout the book could likewise be seen as an indulgence. This ‘less is more’ aesthetic is particularly interesting in the context of commercial publishing where customers might judge the value of this book in terms of the number of recipes - it is clear, however, given the success of this book and the subsequent River Cafe cook books and the many imitators, that this formula is a winner.

Photography is very important in the book: the saturated colour of the food photography is given particular prominence in the book with most colour images being shown at full bleed. The food photography has a kind of honest realism attached to it through the use of extreme close-ups and very few props or accessories - the suggestion is that this is food that you can prepare at home, the opposite of styled or ‘presented’ dishes. However, it could be argued that the food is given kudos by its context, either in the architecturally-designed restaurant with its view of the Thames or in the designed pages of this book. Back and white photography is used in the book to document the working life of the kitchen and restaurant, these gritty images which show the industry involved in creating food, reinforcing the idea that although this book is aimed at the domestic cook, it is about serious recipes and hard work.

Front cover
The cover is predominantly typographic: the title of the book is the dominant element in the cover hierarchy, it is set in FF Meta bold and is reversed out, in white, from a blue background. The title is set over five lines, one word per line and is justified, filling almost all of the cover, with a narrow margin at top, bottom, left and right. The authors’ names are set in orange, centred, in title case FF Meta bold, between the words ‘cafe’ and ‘cook’; the names are set much smaller than the title of the book, roughly half the width of the cover but are given dominance by the contrast of orange against blue.

At close range this cover becomes difficult - though not impossible - to read with the uneven spacing in the justified words creating awkward gaps between letters. Paradoxically, at this distance, the title of the book recedes, becoming more like a decorative pattern and the names of the authors come to the fore. However, at a distance, or when seen as a thumbnail on a website, the authors’ names recede, the title dominates and the front of the book becomes a logo. This ‘logo’ has been adapted for subsequent ‘River Cafe’ books, creating a visually-unified series and becoming a bold and highly-recognisable brand. Interestingly, the logo of the River Cafe itself, is far less strong: the name is drawn as a continuous line that suggests both the fluidity of water and hand-written menus but, in its feyness, lacks the meaty punch of the uppercase bold FF Meta.

What initially appears as a solid blue coloured background reveals itself, on closer scrutiny, to be a photograph of ripples on water that has had a vivid blue filter applied to it; this is, obviously, a reference to the river after which the restaurant is named and which it is sited next to but it also has the effect, when viewed close-up, of animating the cover and creating a layered element to the cover.

The dustjacket is gloss laminated - both for practical reasons, this is a cook book and kitchens are messy, and also for aesthetic reasons: the glossy surface is eye-catching and gives the colours a richness and resonance, it is also reflective, suggesting water, with the reflections on the surface adding another layer to the cover imagery. Beneath the dustjacket, the cover boards are bound in a metallic silver bookcloth with endpapers in a vivid yellow: though somewhat understated, these design elements help convey that this is a special book, appealing to a very specific, design conscious, audience.

Inside Pages
The book is 19 cm by 24.5 cm, printed full colour on white matt coated paper. The layout has a clean, crisp simplicity: it is based on two single-column grids: the first has a wide central column with a narrow outside margin, a wider inside margin, a deep top margin containing running heads, and a narrower bottom margin containing pagination; the second grid is based on the first but has a narrower central column. Recipes are generally set justified in the wider column while the authors’ commentary is set justified in the narrower column. However, the design is somewhat inconsistent and the designers break these rules on occasions which, when combined with the brevity of some of the recipes, the loose tracking, wide linespacing and the delicate character of FF Meta Roman, gives the impression of the pages appearing not quite grounded.

The book has been designed with a typographic hierarchy that uses two weights of FF Meta, set in different sizes and in colours to order the various kinds of information in the book. Recipes are set in three sizes of FF Meta: titles are set in Roman with the Italian title printed in blue and the English translation in black, these are the largest element on the page; subheadings, set in Roman, are set slightly smaller; ingredients, also set in Roman, are indented and are set in the smallest size on the page; the method and the authors’ commentary are set in justified Roman. Running heads are set in small caps FF Meta - they are colour-coded by section and are aligned to the outside and top margin; pagination is aligned to the outside and bottom margin.

The book is divided into colour-coded sections: green for soups; red for pasta and risotto; yellow for polenta and so on. Each section opens with a double-page spread: the title of the section is reversed out, in white, from a bold colour and is set at a size that fills the entire width of the spread - a numeral in the bottom right-hand corner is a consistent and anchoring element.

Aside from the previously mentioned brightly coloured endpapers and section openings, colour is also used throughout the book in a variety of ways: pages of solid bold colour (yellow, blue, black, green etc) are used to contrast full bleed photographs on the facing page; recipes are reversed out of pages of solid colours that reflect the content of the recipes - green for Gnocchi Verdi and yellow for Spaghetti al Limone etc. These interventions of colour add rhythm and variety to the book though occasionally it feels that the coloured pages are being used to pad out the content.
There are two types of photography throughout the book: colour photography is used to illustrate the finished dishes and sometimes to demonstrate techniques such as making polenta; black and white photography is used to document the daily workings of the restaurant, not only the planning, preparing, cooking and serving of food but the ‘after service’ - the cleaning of the kitchen and restaurant. Colour photographs generally appear on the recto and are shown full bleed - though there are exceptions. As in the design, the food photography aims for simplicity: the food is photographed extremely close-up, usually from above with very little background included; serving dishes, cooking pots and crockery are generally utilitarian - white or stainless steel; where a background is shown it tends to be black, white or a strong colour - though there are exceptions: a bowl of pasta photographed on a bed of red chillis, for example. The black and white documentary photographs offer a gritty contrast to the bright saturated colours of the food photography, showing the heated industry of a busy kitchen. These tend to be printed at a smaller size than the food photographs and generally fill the bottom half of the page.

Graphic 16 Type Archive Issue

GRAPHIC is a quarterly magazine published in Seoul, Korea. I've been meaning to buy a copy of the type archive special for some time so I was delighted to find a copy at the Amsterdam Art Book Fair on Sunday. The magazine is in three sections: the first is a spiral-bound archive of type specimens, including work by James Goggin, Kai Bernau, Kris Sowersby, Laurenz Brunner and Radim Peško; the second section is a book of interviews with type designers, the third a booklet for the typeface Lÿon designed by Karl Nawrot & Radim Peško.

Towards a Visual Methodology 2

I'm reading Visual Methodologies by Gillian Rose [1]. The chapter titled 'The Good Eye: Looking at Pictures using Compositional Interpretation' seems particularly relevant to the approach I have taken for analysing cook books. Rose suggests that the first criterion for a critical approach to visual imagery is the need to take images seriously and that the power of the visual must be acknowledged. As someone with a background in visual art, this is something I would agree with.

Compositional Interpretation

Rose calls her approach 'compositional interpretation', it is a method of describing the appearance of an image using a detailed vocabulary. The method depends on what the theorist and curator, Irit Rogoff calls 'the good eye', it is a way of looking that is not methodologically explicit but which produces a very specific way of describing images. The method looks at images for 'what they are' rather than what they do or how they are used. In art history, this approach is known as 'connoisseurship'. The art historian Eric Fernie describes connoisseurship as 'the acquisition of extensive first-hand experience of works of art with the aim, first, of attributing works to artists and schools, identifying styles and influences, and second, of judging their quality and hence their place in a canon.'

The 'good eye' focusses mainly on the site of an image itself in order to judge its 'quality' and understand its significance; it pays some attention to the production of images, particularly their technologies (materials and technique), but is mostly concerned with the the image's compositional modality - the specific material qualities of an image: content, colour and spatial organisation. Rose suggests that this approach can be problematic: visual images do not exist in a vacuum and looking at images for 'what they are' ignores the ways in which they are produced and interpreted through social practices. Although this method is useful - and perhaps crucial - for any discussion of images, Rose notes that compositional interpretation does not reflect on its own practices, something she sees as being crucial to a visual methodology. Rose suggests that the 'visual scrutiny' of compositional interpretation is best used as a starting point alongside other types of analysis.

Rose breaks down the compositionality of the image into components that provide a framework for analysing an image. Although these components can be separated, they are, in practice, rarely ever completely distinct from each other.

1. Content

What does the image show?

2. Colour

Colour can be described by hue, saturation and value. Hue is the actual colours in an image. Saturation refers to the purity of colour in relation to its appearance in the colour spectrum. Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour.

effects of colour in a image should be considered - colour can be used to highlight certain elements of an image, for example.

How harmonious the colours in an image are should also be noted - are the colours contrasting or are they blended from similar values or hues?

The relationship between hues, values and saturations will affect how natural the image appears, which can alter the viewer's perception of how 'realistic' the image appears.

3. Spatial organisation

The organisation of space within an image and how this places the viewer in relation to the content of the image.

How do objects within the image relate to each other? Are some objects connected? Are some in isolation? What do the lines that connect the objects look like? Are they static or dynamic?Do they create a rhythm? What are the effects of these connections?

The space within the image should be considered: width, depth, interval and distance. Is the space simple or complicated? How does perspective work in the image? An image can have different effects depending on the manipulation of perspective and how that alters the position of the viewer in relation to the image.

The 'logic of figuration' is the 'designing of the position of the viewer' in relation to an image: the spatial and temporal organisation of an image positions the viewer either inside or outside of an image, it tells us where we are and offers a clue of how to read an image. The effects of geometrical perspective can alter a reading of an image: frontal angles engage the viewer with their directness more than oblique angles; if the viewer appears to look down into the image from a height they are given power (conversely, if they look from below, they feel inferior); distance can also be suggested through perspective with close-ups suggesting an intimacy with the subject of the image.

The visual organisation of looks and gazes in an image has effects, producing a specific relation between image and viewer. Images have a range of viewers - addressed, implied and represented - Mieke Bal calls these the 'focalizers' of an image. If the viewer can look in the same way as one of the focalizers in the image, they will have a strong identification with the subject matter of the image.

4. Light

Light is related to the colour and spaces of an image. The type of light - candlelight, daylight, moonlight, electric light etc - will affect the saturation and value of the hues in an image. The illusion of three dimensional space as created by geometrical perspective can be heightened by the use of light sources. Light can also highlight certain elements within an image.

5. Expressive content

The expressive content of an image is its 'feel' - 'the combined effect of subject matter and visual form'. Breaking an image into its component parts - spatial organisation, colour, content, light - does not capture the look of an image. In order to evoke the affective characteristics of an image it may be necessary to use imaginative and expressive writing.

Rose notes that although it is always necessary to consider the expressive content of an image, not all visual culture critics agree on its significance and the reaction to it should not obscure other issues concerning the meaning of the image.


The visual scrutiny of compositional interpretation is useful for becoming familiar with an image - by describing its content, colour, spatial organisation, light and expressive content. This is useful as a first stage of understanding an image and for describing its visual impact. This method, with its concern for the specific of an image, can also begin to say something about the effects of that image on a viewer.

Rose suggests that this method has some shortcomings: it does not encourage discussion of the production of an image (other than the image's technological or compositional modalities); and it does not ask how the image might be used, understood and interpreted by multiple viewers - moreover it does not consider the particularity of any other interpretation. Rose suggests that this methodology is best used with other methodologies, for example, with a semiotic reading of an image.

[1] Rose, Gillian (2007)
Visual Methodologies, London, Sage Publications

Notes on Multiplied Language

On Saturday, I travelled by train from Berlin to Amsterdam, a journey of seven hours. I used the time to catch up on some reading. I'd read extracts from Fellow Readers: Notes on Multiplied Language by Robin Kinross before but it was good to read it in its entirety. I wish I'd read the book as part of my research for my essay on Transparency: Kinross touches on many of the themes that I had explored but with a more developed conclusion. Kinross's comments on Otl Aicher and the steely surface of modernism have a particular resonance.

Kinross's description of Aicher as 'a philosopher of cooking and kitchens' got me Googling. I knew that Aicher had designed the graphics for the kitchen manufacturer Bulthaup (with his typeface Rotis used for the logo) but I discovered that, in his capacity as consultant, he had also written, in 1982, a book, The Kitchen is for Cooking in which he described a new kitchen philosophy. Aside from stating that ergonomic working was the most important factor, Aicher also wrote “The kitchen is a function of man’s social nature. Cooking is only a pleasure when others join in eating. And cooking is even more of a pleasure if others join in the cooking.”

Kinross talks about the 'material dimension' of typography, beyond the printed words on the page: the choice of paper, the cover material, the flexibility of the book, the weight and size of the book - elements that I addressed in my introduction to Book Works at the bookstore Motto, in Berlin on Friday. Kinross suggests that, in the processing of texts and images, taste (in the mouth) is the only sense not to be affected - an interesting idea in relation to cook books.

Here are some extracts:

Page 11: A text is produced by writers, editors and printers. With luck, if they keep their heads down, designers might fin a role somewhere here too. The text is composed, proofed, corrected, perhaps read and corrected further. Then it is multiplied and distributed. Finally it is read alone but in common, for shared meanings.

Page 11: Correcting proofs, with its attempt to turn 'arbitrary' into 'intended', can stand as the clearest instance of this defining characteristic of typography.

Page 13: To the list of the non-determinable tendencies in reading, we can add that texts age and travel: or their contexts change both in time and place. Each generation, as well as each person, will find different meanings in a text.

Page 14: 'The truth lies somewhere in between' may be a truism, but one that is also true in this case, or in these particular cases of people reading texts. One only has to think of any reader turning the pages, misunderstanding, turning back to see what was said before, sneaking a look at the last chapter, being distracted by a phone call or the demands of a child, perhaps falling asleep and dreaming around the text, and then returning to this business of turning marks into meaning.

Page 16: If early printing was consciously done, that consciousness was not not articulated and disseminated. So typography is printing made conscious: printing explaining its own secrets with its own means of multiplying texts and images.

Page 19: As well as a designer, Otl Aicher was a kitchen-philosopher (and a philosopher of cooking and kitchens too). ... Over the last years of his life, Aicher was thinking and working around a particular set of themes. Modernist design had developed on from how it had been earlier in the century, even in the 1950s and 1960s. It needed to become more organic. Simple geometry and simple grid design weren't adequate. Yet there needn't and mustn't be any relapse into irrationalism or neo-classicism. The latter, especially, should still be read as a sign of totalitarianism. Centrally arranged texts set in capital letters fail to show meaning clearly enough. But worse: they are authoritarian. Text set in lowercase letters and with fixed word-spaces (i.e. unjustified) embodies principles of equality and informality.

Page 20: Otl Aicher's typography could be compared to the architecture of his friend Norman Foster. Its final products sometimes seem to belie the good thoughts that apparently generated them. Immaculate surfaces - as in the forbiddingly white and smooth paper of Aicher's book Typographie - have an anti-democratic feeling: they repel dialogue. So too Foster's buildings have tried to embody principles of openness and dialogue (for example, a workplace designed without hierarchy in its plan), while elements of the monumental (the huge staircase in Foster Associates' London office) or the impenetrable (reflective materials). Yet in a context of unprincipled shoddiness and inane pretentiousness, such quality of finish and clarity of thought have been refreshing. Aicher's work is an example, but one with dogmatic tendencies that need to be contested.

Page 20: What is enlightenment: 'Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!' An answer to the question: 'What is enlightenment' - Immanuel Kant, 1784

Page 24: The reproduction and distribution of text is part of the life-blood of social-critical dialogue. The argument for openness and clarity in typography is made, most importantly, for this reason. it is not a question of 'legibility' or mere appearance, whether 'traditional', 'classical', 'modern', 'classic modern', or anything else. It is now clear that 'modern' in style came to provide - despite the best professions of the democratic impulses of modernism - an immaculate surface that leaves no room for dialogue. There has to be something - in the text or image, in the way these are configured and made material - that allows a place for dialogue: a foothold, or perhaps an 'eye-and-handhold', in which the reader can grip, and then have a place from which to respond. This refers to the way in which the words are written, to the nature of the images, but also to the qualities of their material embodiments: disposition of information, the visual forms in which it is configured, texture and colour of substrate, the bulk and weight of the object, the way it flexes in your hands, and so on - into innumerable small considerations.

Page 25: This material dimension of typography, received by the reader through the senses of the body, reminds us of a special meaning of the term common sense. This is the 'common sense' of the human body, which joins together the five distinct faculties by which we gain knowledge of the world. The bodily dimension provides a set of limits and of physical possibilities, which are too little observed in the discussion of reading or viewing. Pages can become simply too big for comfort - or too shiny, too noisy, or even too disconcerting in their smell. Taste, in the mouth, is perhaps the one sense that is not deployed in our processing of text and images.

Page 28: Typographic and graphic designers do have skills and knowledge that could be useful. These things can find a place in the processes of creation and publication, not as an unveiling of mysteries, but as an open sharing. The calling of our designer bluffs by cheap computing technology may be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but to get rid of illusions is liberating. Then we can se where we are, attend to real issues.

Kinross, Robin (1994) Fellow Readers: Notes on Multiplied Language, London, Hyphen Press

Britain's Food Decade

Observer Food Monthly, Sunday May 15, 2011
Tim Adams looks back at a decade of changing views about food:

Never before has our culture been so engaged in discussing and experimenting with and agonising over and fantasising about and plain enjoying what is on the end of our forks. Our restaurants are, from where we are looking at least, the envy of the world; there is at least an irregular farmers' market in most large towns, along with the opportunity and desire to hunt down and taste and recreate some of the best cuisines of the world's more distant corners. Spurred by cheap travel and the benefits of mass immigration, no country is more cosmopolitan in its taste in food. We are, even, you could begin to believe, looking one way, living in a kind of organic renaissance, a paradise of curly kale and sprouting broccoli and wild salmon and foraged berries.

There are, though, other stories about Britain and food which remain far less palatable. In the last decade these have run in parallel with this sensual back-to-nature narrative, and have often threatened to undermine and derail it. At the same time as we have opted to choose cookbooks as our favourite reading material, there has been an exponential increase in the consumption of takeaways and fast food. We may be producing more world-class chefs than ever before, but a fifth of our food still comes out of plastic and a microwave. We might demand more and more as a nation to know where what is on our plates comes from and what it contains, but in the last 10 years we have become the fattest nation in Europe (children in Scotland are more at risk of obesity than those of any other nation in the world except the United States.) The taste for organics, which looked for a long time like a trend that would only grow, has stalled and gone into reverse with the recession. Cheap, processed food remains our staple diet; a quarter of all Christmas dinners eaten in Britain last year were entirely pre-prepared.

There are other dislocations, though, in our proper understanding of the fact that we are what we eat. In the spirit of the time we have outsourced some of our desire for more home-cooked food; we experience it vicariously – thus the caricature of the family sitting down with its TV dinner watching the sweating contestants on MasterChef shucking oysters or boning rabbits, or gazing fondly at Nigella whipping cream. Food has become visual entertainment in the last decade, but that has not always translated to our plates.

The New York Times food writer Molly O'Neill coined the idea of "food porn" seven years ago. It struck her as she was signing copies of her latest bestselling recipe collection, with a line of people snaking out of the bookshop, that she was putting her name to books that almost no one in the queue would ever actually use. When she asked the people in the queue they mostly confirmed her fears.

"The people buying my book didn't see me as an interpreter of everyday life," she realised, "they saw me as the high priestess of a world that existed almost exclusively in their imagination. They told me that they read my cookbooks like novels to enter an alternate reality where cooking is slow and leisurely and imbued with a comforting glamour..." It was voyeurism rather than practicality that her buyers craved; on another occasion O'Neill noted: "The amount of money spent on kitchen equipment is generally in inverse proportion to the amount of time spent cooking with it."

The rise of the celebrity chef has coincided with our interest in confessional memoirs. The attraction of someone like Nigella, made to seem so effortlessly languid, lies not only in her food tips but also in the intimacies of the unattainable lifestyle she seems to represent. One element of this appetite is a kind of nostalgia for technique. We don't necessarily have the skills or confidence for dicing or plucking or marinading, but we are entirely in thrall to those who do.

The way we ate

Foot and mouth devastates British agriculture as 10 million sheep and cattle are slaughtered to halt the disease.

April 2001
Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, makes £1bn profit for the first time.

March 2002
Jamie Oliver creates the Fifteen Foundation to train disadvantaged youngsters in the restaurant business. He puts up his house as collateral, without telling his wife.

Household spending on food and drink hits £85.8bn in 2004, up 53.4% over the previous 12 years.

January 2005
Come Dine with Me first broadcast on C4.

February 2005
Jamie's School Dinners airs. Its success leads the government to create the School Food Trust to improve school dinners.

April 2005
Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck is voted No 1 in the annual World's 50 Best Restaurants poll.

November 2005
Sales of organic produce increase by 33%. The market is now worth £1.2bn

August 2008
The price of food rises by 8.3% overall in the UK in seven months. Meat and fish prices increase by 22.9%.

September 2008
MasterChef: the Professionals begins on BBC2. Parent show MasterChef has now been running on and off since 1990.

April 2009
Gordon Ramsay accused of serving "boil in the bag" food at four of his restaurants. He maintains the meals are freshly prepared by a central supplier.

January 2010
Profits at Gordon Ramsay Holdings fall 90%. Jason Atherton leaves Maze and Claridge's loses its Michelin star

September 2010
Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals becoming fastest selling non-fiction hardback ever. The Bookseller estimates the value of the food & drink book market at £90.8m. In 2001 it was £55.5m.

November 2010
All 25,000 of Heston Blumenthal's £13.99 Waitrose Christmas puddings sell out. Bids on eBay reach £250.

Borough Market in London now has 4.5m visitors annually. Ten years ago it had 50,000.

April 2011
Tesco announces profits of £3.8bn

Living and Eating – John Pawson and Annie Bell

Living and Eating
John Pawson and Annie Bell

Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2001 (Hardback)
Originally published by Ebury Press, 2001
Design John Pawson and William Hall
Photography Christoph Kicherer
Food stylists Louise Pickford, Susie Theodoru

As you might expect from a book designed by an architect known for his simple and refined interiors, this book achieves a lot with very little. The design of the book is incredibly controlled and well-considered. The grid is made explicit from the start and is rigorously adhered to, as is the systematic typography which uses only two weights and two sizes of Univers throughout the book. Despite being very systematic, there are enough light touches - such as the indented list of ingredients and the varied cropping of photographs - to make the book feel animated. There is a paradox, of course, that design such as this, which aims for a pared back economy that is intended to recede into the background, actually draws attention to itself (if it’s done well) by its very ‘perfection’. Which, I guess, is the ethos of John Pawson’s practice.

Ultimately, this book is about aspiration and fantasy: it presents an idealised, aestheticised ascetic existence that for most people is either unachievable or undesirable. The fantasy is established by the pared down design of this book which, with its controlled typographic palette, suggests that design can rationalise the world and by the photographs which show the half-truth of living and eating in a rationalised interior. The photographs, as in most cook books, show a sanitised ideal of cooking, not the whole story - not the mess of unwashed pans nor the aftermath of eating: the splashed tablecloth, the greasy plates and the picked-over chicken carcass. In the same way that individual objects take on a significance when photographed in these interiors, the lack of evidence of mess generated by cooking also has its own significance - a denial of cooking as process.

I feel there is a conflict between the typographic treatment of the recipes and the photographs of the lifestyle presented in it. The typography is near perfect, both in terms of functionality - this is a great book to cook from - and in terms of the atmosphere generated by the typography - the calm and ordered tone seems, to me, appropriate to present the practice of cooking. However, I feel that the photographs in the book, which show a stripped back existence, that, paradoxically, is only achievable with lots of money, is problematic because it links cooking to lifestyle. The photographs in this book may have a function of showing us what the food looks like but, in their denial of the process of cooking and in the presentation of food as part of sometimes unachievable lifestyles, they also contribute to a problem that crystallises the idea that cook books are for looking not cooking.

Front cover
The cover shows a photograph of a domestic interior, the focus of which is a baked sea bass in a roasting tin on a wooden table; the photograph also shows a napkin and a bowl of salsa, placed on the table in front of a wooden chair, and a blur of white suggesting activity. The photograph is precisely composed: the roasting tin is aligned to the edge of the table for example and there is a strong relationship between the objects, the edge of the photograph, the border and the typography of the book cover. By nature of the fact that there are so few objects in the photograph, there is a sense that each object carries meaning and significance. The table has been photographed from above giving the impression that the viewer is standing, looking down at the table - this is unusual, as most food photography is shot at a lower angle, giving the suggestion that the viewer is seated at the table and about to take part in the meal.

The photograph has a limited palette of muted colours. The image is divided almost equally between two dominant colours: the pale duck egg blue of the background and the pale warm orange of the wood of the table; the line which divides these two planes of colours is angled, creating a dynamic composition. The silvery sea bass is placed in a black grey metal roasting tin which appears off-centre in the bottom half of the image, close to the right-hand and bottom edges, generating a strong tension.

The elegant curve of the back of the chair and the small white circular bowl containing the salsa appear in the upper left corner of the image, offering a contrast to the straight edges and angles in the rest of the photograph and animating the edge of the image. Although no-one is seated in the chair, it acts as a metonym for a person. This perfectly-composed still-life has a strange blur of activity on the right: at first glance, it appears that the surface of the book has been accidentally removed with an eraser, on second glance, it appears to have been added in Photoshop, on third glance it seems that someone came in or out of shot as the photograph was being taken, perhaps to place the roasting tin on the table. Whether the blur in the image is intentional or not, I think it was used because it presents the idea of living, of movement, in an otherwise still-life.

The photograph is contained within a 17mm border at the top, bottom and right that reveals the pale cream paper of the dust jacket. The dust jacket is matt laminated, beneath it, the cover is completely white save for the title and authors’ names on the spine. On the dust jacket, the authors’ names and the title are contained in the bottom margin, printed in black, at the same point size, in Univers 55. There are no other details on the front cover.

This is the US edition which has a different cover from the UK edition; to my mind, the US version is more successful than the UK edition as it feels more analogous to the contents, being based on the same grid as the interior and using a photograph that is more typical of the ones found inside than the one on the UK edition.

Inside Pages
The book is 19 cm by 24.5 cm, printed full colour on off-white matt coated paper. The layout is based on a three-column grid of equal size with equal margins at top, bottom, left and right. The book uses just two weights of Univers in two sizes, in black and 50% black to create a sophisticated typographic hierarchy to order the various kinds of information in the book: titles are ranged left in Univers 55; the author’s commentary and the method are set in Univers 45, ranged left with a ragged right; the ingredients are set in Univers 45 at a smaller point size and are indented by 6mm. Further emphasis is added with line spacing: two line spaces beneath the titles, one line space before the ingredients and between paragraphs. Paragraphs are indented by 6mm which, although unnecessary, helps break up the ‘blockiness’ of the text and add rhythm. Sub-headings within the ingredients are emphasised with a 50% tint. One subtle touch is that the numerals representing the quantities of ingredients appear to the left of the indent and are ranged right, with a narrow space before the ingredients themselves - once again, this breaks up the ‘blockiness’ of the text and helps the reader to absorb the information.

The book is divided into sections that cover kitchen design, equipment, home making and types of food: soup, eggs and cheese, pasta and risottos, shellfish and fish etc. Each section opens on the verso: the title of the section is set in Univers 55, at the same size as the body text, and is positioned in the top left-hand corner of the page. Emphasis is created by the use of white space: the text begins on the third, right-hand column. On the recto page is a photograph that has an equal border around it. A contents page at the front and index at the back, use the same clear and refined typographic hierarchy and layout that appears throughout the book creating a functional unity and harmony.

Photographs are placed throughout the book; they follow the blueprint established by the photograph on the cover but mostly without the blur of activity. All use the same muted colour scheme and have the same perfectly-composed and stripped down aesthetic and, although many have the same raised viewpoint of the cover photograph, others have a lower viewpoint, more common in cook books, that gives the reader the impression of being seated at a table. Some of the photographs move away from food photography to document the interior of John Pawson’s house. Surprisingly, people and (artfully placed) clutter feature in these photographs of pared down interiors which look, also surprisingly, warm and inviting.

The photographs themselves are cropped in different ways within the grid: none are at full bleed, all have borders that relate to the margins of the grid on the top and bottom, sometimes the photograph bleeds off the edge of the page; sometimes into the gutter; occasionally the image may extend onto the opposite page, lining up with the margin or the column; there are also occasional double-page spreads.

All recipes start at the top of the page with the title set in Univers 55 with two line space below, if the recipe continues over two columns, the text continues at the same level as the first line. Further liveliness is added by the positioning of the recipes: most pages use all three columns of the grid but, for variety, two, and very occasionally, one of the columns is used. Running heads, marking each section, appear on far left of the recto page, running upwards in the margin, they are set in Univers 45 and are aligned to the bottom line of the columns; the pagination appears at the top of the margin, aligned to the top of the columns.

Eric Gill - Typographer as Scribe

Visions of Joanna Mark Thomson
from Eye 62, Winter 2006

It took me a while to find this book. Not that it is hard to buy a copy – it has hardly been out of print since 1931. But to find this book, this particular copy, was tough. The content, Eric Gill’s ‘An Essay on Typography’, is well known: Gill reflects on the relationship between hand and machine, the spiritual and the industrial. But it is the form of this copy, its extreme simplicity, its unique ordinariness, that makes it an inspiration.

In many ways this is a complete work: Gill was author, typographer, type designer and, with René Hague, printer. The text pages are the first use of Gill’s new serif type Joanna; the dust jacket is beautifully set in Gill Sans (1927). The relationship between these types, maybe unintentionally, prefigures the sans/serif families of the early 1990s onwards – Martin Majoor, designer of Scala and Nexus, called Joanna ‘a sort of Gill Sans Avec’. In 1931 Gill had only designed the roman Joanna – the italic came later and he never designed small capitals for it – so there is a restrained unity to the typographic voicing. He expressed the text like a scribe rather than a compositor, ‘writing’ lines rather than filling a measure. When the text didn’t fit, he would begin a word in one size and complete it in another. Some of the results look wildly original in type, although to a scribe they would probably appear quite normal. The result is a kind of semi-justified setting, with more or less even lines and optically even word spacing. It is extremely clear, and very similar to a manuscript.

Gill’s approach to paragraphing is sober and minimal, and again has roots in the scriptorium. He uses pilcrows (paragraph marks) to express paragraphs, and a pilcrow on a new line to indicate changes of thought. He designed two sets of capitals for the original Joanna, one at ascender height and the other slightly shorter than normal; the big caps were used only for the initial letter of a paragraph, and the midi-caps for the beginning of sentences within paragraphs. This gave a fresh emphasis to the typographic voice, closer to the spoken word, with breaths, pauses and changes of inflection. The conventions of typesetting that we work with today are much less expressive.

Perfection / Imperfection

I asked James Langdon to send me the source of the quote by Karel Martens that I paraphrased in my last post. Here is his reply:

"Well, that's not exactly a quote, I was talking about the implications of these two ideas:

Karel Martens:
"Content is never completely perfect, and the package also needs to express that. Because of that, imperfection and/or complexity is more believable to me than perfection or an exaggerated simplicity."

The above statement seems to be partially informed by this:

Robert Venturi:
"Architects can no longer afford to be intimidated by the puritanically moral language of orthodox Modern architecture. I like elements which are hybrid rather than 'pure', compromising rather than 'clean,' distorted rather than 'straightforward,' ambiguous rather than 'articulated,' perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as 'interesting,' conventional rather than 'designed,' accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity."

These ideas also connect to this, that you probably heard about - a scientist who made an appearance on radio 4 with the dictum 'ugly fonts are more memorable':

His assumption that type design has been on a historically linear path to greater 'clarity' makes his argument somewhat redundant, but there is an interesting point in there somewhere."

Tutorial 4th May 2011

On Wednesday, I met with John for the first tutorial of the new term. I took along some A3 printouts of the How Did We Do? newspaper, the first time I had seen them printed. I am pleased with the results; the printouts are about slightly smaller than the size of the newspaper but, even at the reduced scale, the receipts (which had to be reduced by 90% to fit on the page) are still readable. The text (which is all the same size throughout) is a good size too, even on the cover, and the typographic hierarchy that I established, works better in print than on screen.

We talked a little about my intentions with the How Did We Do? project. My starting point was thinking about how receipts could be used to suggest recipes to supermarket customers, based on supermarkets' databases of information of food purchases. It would be very easy to print - on or with the receipt - recipe suggestions based on these purchases and to propose alternatives for the next shop, perhaps adding other ingredients that might be off the customer's 'radar'. I didn't think designing recipes to be printed on receipts had enough graphic design potential and, as John pointed out, is probably more to do with marketing, but I thought it was worth exploring the idea further.

I started to collect all the food shopping receipts and record everything that we ate - writing down recipes for the more interesting meals. I decided to use the newspaper format that I had used for Sunday Roast as I felt that the throwaway quality of the newspaper had much in common with the ephemerality of receipts; the 12 page format of the newspaper fixed the timespan of the project - one page for each week. My original intention had been to highlight the relationship between what we buy, what we make and what we eat. I think the project has succeeded in doing that, but it has also highlighted how my shopping, cooking and eating tends to fall into patterns of making the same food. It also revealed how often I shop at Tesco (and not, as I thought, at the local shops); how many dishes that I cook use tinned tomatoes; how many spicy dishes I cook; and, rather shamingly, how many pork pies I eat. John agreed that the project had worked well and had succeeded in showing not only the relationship between buying, cooking and eating but could also function as a guide to how to shop, how to cook and how to eat.

We talked a little bit more about my original interest in recipes which had always been about the conflict inherent in cook books: the tension between the functionalism of the instructional recipe and the more emotive design that makes explicit the authorial voice. Previously, John has talked about the branding of cook books, with particularly reference to celebrity cooks, and how the design of their books establishes that brand. I've been analysing the graphic language of cook books in my cookbookdesign blog to see exactly how the brand is established through graphic design.

Last week I was looking closely at Katharine Whitehorn's Cooking in a Bedsitter. I'm not sure that Katharine Whitehorn could be described as a celebrity cook - although she later became well-known, when the book was first published in 1961, she was relatively unknown; what is fascinating is how the authorial voice is established - in very unexpected ways - within the quite formal but flexible grid and typography of the standard Penguin paperback. Aside from the cover photograph, there are no illustrations in the book but Katharine Whitehorn's tone, established within the text, is amplified by the typography which pitches ranged left oversized italics against a more formal centred and justified typography to create an irreverent and playful tone which still manages to suggest authority (we can trust the recipes) and, to some extent, aspiration (despite cooking on one ring, some of the recipes are quite sophisticated with Whitehorn herself admitting a debt to Elizabeth David). John called this conflict between information and emotions, mediated through graphic design, a struggle for 'hearts and minds'.

We talked about what my outcome would be for the major project. We keep coming back to the question that John asked me at our first meeting: What will your outcome be - will it be just a book with photos of food and some nice type? We've established that although this is a seductive option, the major project demands something more. My criticisms of many contemporary cook books is that they have become aspirational coffee table books, beautifully designed with special papers, fantastic photos and wonderful design but they have become about looking not cooking. I am researching how graphic design can inspire people to cook without becoming a 'book with photos of food and some nice type'. The disposability of the newspaper, which I have used for two projects, seems to suggest the opposite of a 'trophy' coffee table book. However, despite the disposability of the medium, I hope that my type is 'nice' as well as being functional and serving a purpose.

I've been thinking about how I might develop a series of newspapers for my outcome: How Did We Do? is ready go to print soon; Roast is already printed and could be expanded into a series of different roasts - lamb, chicken, pork etc; I've been trying to find contributions to my project about communal eating which I imagined as a newspaper; and I've also been reading about food history which might make another. I need to think a bit more about how (and if) these different projects could exist as a series and whether this might involve a unified design. John suggested that the design already had a unity because they had been designed by me and shared my 'handwriting'. The standard format of the newspaper will further unite them.

I had some encouraging feedback from Paul about my recent projects. He suggested that 'there's something a little zen-like or tea ceremonial about them, slowed down, sensitised. Maybe that would be good to develop – descriptions of very simple, pure processes in corresponding typography.' Thinking again about John's comments about 'hearts and minds', and also looking at the typography in Cooking in a Bedsitter, I'm wondering whether I need to think a little bit more about the relationship between word and type in the project.

I recently spent some time with James Langdon and had some interesting conversations about the atmosphere of different typefaces - he gave me a great quote from Karel Martens who had said (I'm paraphrasing here) that he liked imperfect design because content is not perfect and it was a reminder of the author's voice when he was reading. We both had looked at Replica by Norm; we agreed that it worked really well as continuous text where the quirks were still apparent but the more awkward elements were ironed out and the text on the page took on the look a photocopy or ink that had spread. James told me that his first priority in making a design is to find a suitable typeface, I found this intriguing - I tend to work intensively with the same typeface, exhausting the possibilities of what it can do. In a similar manner, it might be interesting to push the newspaper format as far as it will go, exhausting the possibilities.

On Wednesday, after my tutorial, I had some good chats with fellow students at LCC. It was great to catch up with everyone and find out what people had been up to. It was interesting to talk to Steve who has been looking at the character of typefaces, covering similar ground to myself. It's so personal to try and talk about a typeface, and, if you ask someone why they chose a particular typeface, the reply is generally 'because I like it'. Having conversations with people who are trying to articulate more than this response, who are trying to articulate the tone or atmosphere of a typeface was really inspiring. I'm going to spend some time thinking again about type and typography as a way of moving forward with the project.

The Recipe Exchange

The Recipe Exchange
Spacex Gallery, Exeter
14 May - 9 July 2011

The Recipe Exchange has been developed as an off-site project by artist Helen Pritchard. Her work as an artist and researcher in the field of digital art and innovation often uses instructions as creative tools for collaboration.

Expanding on the notion of a ‘recipe’, The Recipe Exchange draws on the age old tradition of the community cookbook through which detailed information is shared socially.




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