Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cookbook Design Trends

We salivate over the sizzling sardines and feel the Mediterranean heat on sun-kissed olive groves. The photography in cookery books is so visually enthralling that the smell of sea air is almost palpable in glistening shots of the fisherman’s haul.

When we come to cook, however, the cookbook stays on the coffee table. Instead, we turn to Google, according to the cookery doyenne Prue Leith. Or even order in a takeaway.

“Now the look of the book dictates the sale,” Leith writes in the Radio Times. “In my day you could still buy a good cookbook in paperback with no pictures at all. I doubt if that would sell today. But those books were much used: they lived in the kitchen and got splattered with custard and gravy.

“Today, if we cook, we Google it. New cookbooks lie on the coffee table and we drool over Tuscan landscapes and rustic bread ovens. Before ordering in a pizza.”
 ~Caroline Davies & Nicola Slawson, "Cookbooks' key ingredient now design not recipes, says food writer"

Common wisdom is never to judge a book by its cover, but that's a lot of what we are going to do in this blog post! Do you ever judge a cookbook by its cover? The art director for the New York Times Book Review, Matt Dorfman, says:

When considering the book as a whole, I prefer that the interiors contain answers and the covers ask questions. To the extent that my favorite reading experiences empower me to confront uncomfortable truths and honest answers about people, societies and the greater universe, the covers that lure me into the pages often do so by posing questions that I don’t want to ignore.

However, he is not referencing cookbook covers particularly when he makes this statement. The Globe and Mail's Nathalie Atkinson is more on point for our purposes: "I appreciate good book design but don’t judge reads by their covers, generally – except with recipe books, because how they look is how they cook. And nothing captures the attitude and tone more than the cover."

Besides the covers themselves, there are other design trends at play inside cookbooks. Here's a few we've noted from some of the cookbooks we've found on the library shelves:

1) They eschew dust jackets for hardcovers, but many are bound with fabric, or something that resembles cloth (we could not find a source that confirmed that it was a fabric binding). The metallic lettering on the cover is also very popular.

2) Attractive lettering (sometimes in combination with sketches) is key.

From Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket, and What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces

3) They're casual. The chef might be at work, and the pictures are rustic. How do you feel about The Paleo Chef's bare feet on the cover of his book (below)?

From The Paleo Chef: Quick, Flavorful Paleo Meals for Eating Well, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, and Smoke: New Firewood Cooking

4) The pictures are also vivid and vibrant, with some publishers opting to publish using "4-color [photography], with the photography-to-recipe ratio increased as well," sometimes a 1:1 recipe to photo ratio.

From Olives, Lemons & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, Smoke, and Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes  & Knives From a Travelling Chef

5) The recipes contain unusual ingredients, or reclaim techniques your grandmother might have used regularly but are less widespread these days. Pickling is very popular.

From Smoke and What Katie Ate

6) They often spell out the directions with pictures.

From What Katie Ate and The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks

7) They share stories and inspiration.

From The Real Food Cookbook and The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking With Pleasure

The blog Lottie + Doof finds some cookbook trends gimmicky:

The one place where the book falls short, is in its design. Though it is technically well-executed, it all feels pretty generic. The book looks too much like the type of food blogs that have become ubiquitous in recent years—weathered wood, rusty old spoons, and an over-abundance of crumbs. I think this style started off as a nod toward the authentic—cooking is messy and imperfect! Which was an understandable response to the high-gloss fakery of the food styling that preceded it. But through its over-use it has come to signify the inauthentic, it simply looks like trends—and tired trends, at that.  

Do you enjoy some of these new trends in cookbook design? Have you noticed any trends you particularly like or dislike? Are you more likely to admire a gorgeous cookbook than actually use it? Let us know in the comments!


What Makes for a Brilliant Book Cover? A Master Explains [Wired]

The Original Poofy Cookbook Cover (And Why It's M.I.A.) [Food52]

Cookbook Covers on Pinterest

35 Beautiful Recipe Book Designs [Jayce-O-Yesta]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do USE my cookbooks. My favorites are the ones with beautiful color photos of a finished dish.