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?


  • Cheri  on  8/15/2011 at 11:00 PM

    They Draw and Cook is a website I have enjoyed for the last several months. Glad to see they are publishing some of this work. It is really a fun way to combine one's love of cooking with their artistic talents. If you haven't seen it, check it out - Poke around to see some of the previous posts. I believe it is certainly a unique addition to any collection (and we all know how much we like to add to our collections!)

  • robm  on  8/20/2011 at 10:33 PM

    My pet peeve is that some recent cookbooks have been printed in VERY small fonts. It's bad enough that my eyesight isn't what it was, but it makes the book even less easy to use in the kitchen, when I'm trying to look at it from a counter away! Another pet peeve is printing dark text against dark backgrounds, or vice-versa. Makes the book very hard to read!

  • Hal  on  8/21/2011 at 9:25 AM

    I used to not like photos, but now I do. Good to have a target, especially if I'm not doing exactly what they specify. But what I mostly want is easy-to-read type, especially in the ingredient list, especially as I get older. "Is that one-half or one-third?"

  • Frenchcreek Baker  on  8/31/2011 at 4:50 AM

    I value good graphic design. Photography can visually sway me to try a new recipe and give me idea for presentation. Books with readable type, useful layout, appealing colors jump right off the bookstore shelf into my hands! Amazing how that works... And when I look on my shelf at cookbooks from a few decades ago, a few just are so visually dull that I seldom pull them out even though the recipes are not. It might mean I have too many cookbooks but I prefer to think it is a sign that graphic innovations are a good thing. cheers!

  • lindseybunny  on  9/21/2011 at 12:30 PM

    The index really matters to me. I have some cookbooks where I KNOW it has a certain recipe and the index is set up so poorly that I have to look through the Table of Contents to see if I can figure out that way where it goes. I also love books that offer substitutions, tips, and conversions for measurements. And pictures! Though I sometimes get too hungry to stop and cook when there are too many good pictures.

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