Graphic innovations in cookbooks

I notice more and more of late that publishers are experimenting with cookbook design.  Not just in cookbooks intended for kids, where bold pictures, big type, and the occasional Elmo are par for the course.  They’re re-thinking everything from illustration and type design to what the book is printed on.

Last year there was BBQ25, with its heavy board, wipe-off pages.  There is this year’s The Fearless Baker, which has retro line drawings and dialogue boxes for helpful tips. The just-released The Cookiepedia has a lie-flat spiral binding and whimsical graphics.

Without doubt, the very most unusual designed cookbook I have seen this summer has to be They Draw and Cook, from a publisher I’ve never heard of called Weldon Owen.  Every page in this cookbook was illustrated by a different artist, from a fairy-bedecked recipe for rose petal jam to a gritty, comic-book-style Hot Apple Citrus Punch and an advice-filled Starving Artist Goo-lash (“if that freelance check comes in – splurge on some powdered parmesan!”).  As a whole, the book is wildly eclectic, funny, and often surreal.  It’s definitely impractical, but also hard not to like.

Personally, I like cookbooks with nice big clear type, interesting headnotes, honest pictures, and comprehensive cooking instructions.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the occasional oddball creative venture.  What catches your eye in cookbook design–the gorgeous, the funky, the unexpected?

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