Robin Kinross: Books that lie open

This is an introductory survey of a vexed issue of book-production: binding techniques. The intention of the piece is general enlightenment, and to support a process that is threatened with extinction, and to give information about a coming technique.

Aims and ideals
A book, when opened, should lie flat when placed on a table, and stay that way without help from its reader’s hands. It should open to its fullest extent, so that the whole of the page, or pair of pages, can be used: for photographs that might run into or across the central margins, for side-notes or other text that needs to occupy an inner margin. One might remark also that a book open on a table – while the reader holds a cup of tea in both hands (for warmth and comfort), or sews a button on a shirt, or carries a young child – is no more than a mark of decent civilization. So the binding should be strong enough to withstand this opening-out. The spine will of course begin to show signs of wear with this opening – that is in the nature of the materials – but it should not split, and the pages should not fall out.

Tutorial 29th June 2011

I had a very lively discussion with John today. As he'd not been present at the half-way presentation and crit two weeks ago, I brought him up to date with the feedback from the other tutors, concentrating in particular on the need to find a specific audience, with specific needs, for my final outcome. I am finding it hard to decide on an audience. I don't want to do something that it is too 'worthy': there's a danger, that without thorough research, that a project that addresses the perceived specific needs of say, a minority audience, could end up being patronising or tokenistic, making assumptions about the needs of that audience. Likewise, I don't want to do something too trite: there are plenty of cook books that concentrate on particular demographics but they often make generalisations about their audience in order to make the books palatable to a wider audience.

A further concern is that I want the outcome to be print-based: a book, newspaper, poster, recipe cards or something. One strand of my research question is about typography; the construction of language; and how typography aids the understanding of a text: it's important that I can use my research so far to use and develop my typographic skills. I have got limited time, so, if the best method to communicate to a particular audience is via an iPad, for example, then that is not going to be appropriate as I don't have time to learn new skills in the time left.

Some of the audience ideas that we brainstormed today were:

Blind people. We talked through the specific problems that blind cooks might face and how these could be helped by a cook book - obviously the assumption here is that the cook book is written in braille. Problems that could occur are to do with terms such as 'fry the onions until brown' which is usually signified by a visual clue - for blind people, cooking timings, quantities and heats would have to be more specific: 'Fry sliced onions in a teaspoon of oil over a medium heat for five minutes'. Other hints could be given by sound or by smell: 'When the pan is at the correct temperature the onions will sizzle quietly; once they begin to brown they will start to lose their acrid smell and begin to smell sweet as the sugars caramelise'. My initial thoughts to the needs of the blind cook are to do with the language of cooking so I think that a book may not be the best format - an audio book, or iPad app may be more appropriate and useful for the specific needs of blind people. I need to investigate what information and resources already exist for the blind cook.

Men who can't/won't cook. I think there is some mileage in this idea: the responses to the Roastpaper project have all been from women and most of the animated discussions I have had about cooking have been with women. Men do cook but, I wonder if it's a different type of cooking: showing off with complicated dinner party dishes or the machismo of the barbeque whereas women cook to nurture, either in the sense of nurturing a family or nurturing friendships. This, obviously, is a terrible generalisation that is potentially problematic but I think there is something in the fact that many men I have spoken to have no interest in cooking or lack confidence to cook because they don't have the basic skills or understanding of the vocabulary of cooking (some women I have spoken to also feel this way). A cook book that explains in a simple clear way how to cook basic dishes using a language appropriate to men (whatever that might be) could be a way forward.

Lorry drivers. This was a slightly crazy idea that came out of several other ideas: thinking about a cook book for men; concentrating on a particular audience; thinking about niche markets; thinking about cooking with limited means. Would it be possible to think of some recipes that lorry drivers could cook in their cabs or at the roadside? What would the limitations be? Would such a book really be of use to lorry drivers? Realistically, I imagine that, if you've spent eight hours driving a lorry, that even the Little Chef is far more appealing than the confines of your cab so this book may not appeal to its target audience. Would such a book end up being a novelty item, a book that is given as a gift but not used as a reference book for cooking. How could you make sure that it was used?

Elderly people. The elderly have very specific needs that all across a wide spectrum of issues: mobility; agility; loss of vision; dietary requirements. I've done a little bit of research: most of the information that I have found relates to cooking for the elderly - the specifics of dietary requirements and palatability of food. I have found little that addresses the basic needs of elderly people cooking for themselves: what to cook if you have limited mobility and cannot stand for long - or if you have limited agility and cannot open jars or are unable to lift a pan of vegetables to drain them over the sink. Again, this is a big assumption: many old people are healthy and strong and are able to cook for themselves but many cannot. It could be interesting to look at the information about nutrition for the elderly and translate that into a healthy eating cook book aimed at that audience. It could also be useful to make a cook book aimed at older people living on their own: it's difficult to get motivated to cook for yourself - a cook book of easy and simple recipes for one person, that addresses the needs of older people might be a way forward. Thinking too about men who don't cook, perhaps an audience could be widowers: men of the older generation have often never cooked, who have relied on their wives to cook - a simple, step by step guide could be useful.

Children/Teenagers. I'm not particularly interested in making a cook book for children but I am interested in the idea of cooking as a life skill. John and I talked about the idea of cooking as a journey: you learn a technique, master it, add another technique and so, as your cooking vocabulary builds, the dishes that you cook become more sophisticated. If you lack these basic skills then you probably will have a fear of cooking. Children who are taught cooking at an early are are probably more likely to cook as teenagers and, in turn, become confident adult cooks. What are the basic skills needed to be able to cook with confidence? Would it be possible to make a kind of scrapbook that represents someone's life journey in food?

Students. Students have specific needs. For many students, this is the first time that they have had to shop and cook for themselves. Student accommodation is notorious for having basic cooking facilities and a lack of equipment. Add to this, a limited income and you can see that the needs of students are for simple, easy to prepare nutritious food that can be quickly prepared with minimal equipment in rudimentary kitchens.

People with limited means. Limited means could be defined as having no money or having limited cooking facilities and equipment. Jamie Oliver and others have shown that it is possible to eat well on a limited budget. Projects such as Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' can make the assumption that people on limited budgets have access to fresh fruit and vegetables whereas the reality is often that, in poorer areas, supermarkets are more likely to be stacked up with discounted processed convenience foods. Likewise the idea that people can save money by buying cheaper cuts of meat and cooking them for longer or by buying cheap bags of beans and pulses which require long periods of cooking does not take into account the cost of fuel or that people living in hostels or shared accommodation may have limited time in the kitchen and so long cooking periods are not an option.

People with limited means could be further defined; some of the demographics that could be explored as potential audiences for cook books are itinerant workers, homeless people, refugees, battered wives etc. However, I feel wary about focusing on these audiences because it would be difficult, without extensive research - and involvement from these groups - to make a book that truly addressed them without generalising about the audience. These individual groups are not homogenous other than an assumed shared lack of money, cooking facilities and cooking equipment. Once again, the need of this group can be boiled down to simple, easy to prepare food that is inexpensive, quick to make and does not require anything beyond basic equipment.

So, having gone all around the houses with John and with various other people, it keeps coming back to this basic idea of quick, simple, easy to prepare food that is inexpensive and does not need masses of equipment. The questions I need to ask are:
  • How can I make these ideas relate to a specific audience?
  • Which of the above audiences is the most appropriate?
  • Which is the most interesting?
  • How does visual language address different audiences?
  • How can I develop a visual language which addresses that particular audience?
  • How can I use graphic design to express simplicity?
  • How can I use graphic design to best present recipes?

Canteen: Great British Food – Cass Titcombe, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone


Canteen: Great British Food
Cass Titcombe, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone

Published by Ebury Press, 2010 (Hardback)
Graphic Design: Hudson-Powell
Photography: Angela Moore
Styling: Sarah May
Additional photographs: Vanessa Lewis and Steve Theodorou

At first glance, this book appears as a pastiche of wartime design: the cover references the now famous poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ which taps into an idea of stoical, sensible Britishness that is able to laugh while finding practical solutions to adversity. However, on closer inspection, the design reveals itself to be less traditional than it first appears: there is a quirkiness to the typography of the book that positions the design, despite the nods to tradition, in the contemporary. The design very cleverly appeals to an audience who are seeking familiarity and comfort but who are also design aware, citing the Festival of Britain as one of the pivotal moments in British design history. I would also suggest that this is a book that is aimed at men: there is an understated masculinity inherent in the design of the book and a simplicity in the layout of the recipes that addresses a particular kind of solid ‘no-nonsense’ British masculinity that is enjoying a revival at the present time.

The photographs in the book amplify this mood: the use of stuffed wild animals and the locating of some photographs in the British countryside; and the choice of crockery, cutlery and utensils that denote the Festival of Britain along with Formica tabletops that have connotations of the British greasy spoon all place this book in a moment in British history that possibly never existed. Like the design of the book the photographs have connotations of solid, dependable British masculinity but are tempered by an eccentricity and sensitivity by the use of flowers and the aforementioned stuffed animals. In many ways, this book is a distillation of what designers such as Paul Smith and Margaret Howell have been presenting to the public for decades: an idea of classic Britishness with a twist.

The book functions extremely well as a practical book with well-designed recipes that are extremely easy to follow - boldly numbered stages within the method are an excellent idea; the book is easy to navigate with strong running heads and a useful,contents page and index - these are all achieved with minimal means. The book also functions well in amplifying the Canteen brand - it is a perfect embodiment of the ethos of the restaurant and the design, typography and photographs makes the reader want to cook the recipes contained within it.

Front cover
The cover is purely typographic: the title of the book is the dominant element on the cover, it is set in uppercase ITC Johnston bold and is foil-embossed in shiny black on a buff uncoated paper that is the colour of manilla envelopes. The title is centred, arranged over three lines with open linespacing, and appears in the centre of the cover. Above the title, close to the top edge of the cover, is the word ‘Canteen’, set in uppercase ITC Johnston Bold and foil embossed in shiny black at a much smaller point size than the title. At the bottom edge of the cover are the names of the authors which are set over two lines in centred titlecase Garamond and foil embossed in shiny black.

The deceptively simple cover is rich with connotations. The choice of an uncoated paper for the cover gives the book a tactile quality which invites the bookshop browser to pick up the book and the manilla colour has connotations of the stationery cupboard; of envelopes, folders and shorthand notebooks suggesting a no-nonsense functionality. Of course, you could argue that an uncoated paper is not a functional choice for a book that will sit on the kitchen worktop getting splashed with oil, but a further connotation of the material is of baking parchment, which suggests that this book would be well placed in the kitchen.

The choice of typeface has connotations of Britishness: Johnston is a humanist sans-serif typeface designed by Edward Johnston in 1916, it is familiar to most people as the typeface for the London Underground and carries with it a slightly old-fashioned but comfortable and familiar idea of Britishness. This sense of Britishness is important: the Canteen restaurant and the book, are built on an idea of traditional - and somewhat old-fashioned - British dishes: pies, stews and puddings.

The cover also has echoes of the morale-boosting ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster produced by the Ministry of Information in 1939, during the second world war. The poster itself is set in Gill sans but the layout is strikingly similar. By referencing this poster, the design of the book taps into the nostalgia, amongst certain people, for aspects of the British character that was seen as at its best during wartime: a stoical, stiff-upper-lipped outlook that sang its way through the blitz. This nostalgia for a mythical British past can be seen in the middle classes’ embracing of retro items such as the Roberts Revival RD60 radio and Cath Kidston’s chintz teacups - the design of the Canteen restaurants taps into this nostalgia adding a contemporary design twist.

A further connotation, created by the reference to the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster, is of wartime identity cards and ration books; a time of great hardship but paradoxically, a time that the population of the UK was fit and healthy on a restricted diet that largely consisted of home-grown seasonal vegetables. This practical and sensible approach to eating, brought on by adversity, reflects the ethos of the book and of the restaurant: simple, unfussy dishes made from seasonal British food; an idea that is perhaps, like the poster itself, perfect for a time of recession when the population are not only tightening their belts but are seeking comfort and familiarity of the past.


Inside Pages
The book is 16 cm by 22 cm and is printed full colour on recycled grey uncoated paper. Like many recycled papers, the choice of paper here has a tactile quality and contains small flecks and inconsistencies: this echoes the choice of paper for the cover and gives the book both visual and physical interest and appeal. The layout has a clean, crisp simplicity, it is based on a grid of two equal-sized columns with a narrow inside margin, a wider outside margin and a shallow top margin containing running heads and pagination. Body text is ranged left with a ragged right.

The book uses the two typefaces used on the cover: Garamond and ITC Johnston. One size and weight of Garamond, in Roman and italic is used throughout the book. Three sizes and one weight of ITC Johnston are used: recipes are set in uppercase, ranged left and indented from the body text; recipe titles are centred, slightly larger than the body text; running heads are the same size as the body text and are set in uppercase and placed towards the central gutter; chapter openings are centred uppercase in a slightly smaller size than on the cover. The hierarchy of the different types of information is created in a fairly traditional manner that will be familiar and comfortable to most readers - the design maintains a contemporary feel by hanging all of the body text from the top of the page under a printed line that divides the pagination and body text with unequal column lengths creating a varied space along the bottom edge that is pleasing to the eye; this small detail also very cleverly stops the book feeling too retro.

One slightly jarring typographic note is the use of old style/aligning numerals: old style ITC Johnston numerals are used for quantities in the ingredients list which look odd because the list is set in uppercase and the numerals appear at the start of each line; elsewhere ITC Johnston aligning numerals are used within the method to number each part of the process; in the method itself, aligning Garamond numerals are used which is surprising, given that Garamond has a very elegant set of old style numerals. I suspect that this perhaps unconventional use of numerals is an attempt to make the design feel less traditional, creating a contemporary feel by using these awkward quirks.

The book is divided into chapters that cover different meals: Breakfast and All Day; Starters, Small Dishes and Soups; Mains; Puddings and Deserts; etc. The Mains chapter is divided into sections that deal with types of main courses: Pies; Stews; Roasts and Grills; etc. The chapter and section openings are designed in the same style as the front cover and generally appear on the verso. This is an easy book to navigate: running heads indicate the reader’s position in the book; a contents page with a well-considered typographic hierarchy clearly shows the contents; and a simply designed index allows the reader to locate specifics within the book.

Colour photography is used to both illustrate the finished dishes and in a more documentary manner showing food being prepared and served in the Canteen restaurant. In addition, there are photographs of still-lifes that show faintly surreal tableaus of food within the natural environment; in some of the images, stuffed animals - chickens, hares, deer and hedgehogs are placed alongside the food. This is quite disconcerting and, in a couple of images, which juxtapose large mice with English cheeses, just seems wrong and sends out confusing messages about the standards of hygiene in the restaurant. Most of the photographs, with or without wild animals, are heavily styled: a jug of cream is arranged on a pile of crockery, its contents pouring onto a steamed syrup pudding - and all over the tabletop; elsewhere, a Christmas pudding is precariously balanced on a skewed pile of pastel-coloured plates. Despite these theatrics, the food generally takes centre stage and is presented on a collection of crockery, glasses and cutlery that channel the forward-thinking but comfortable design of the Festival of Britain, however, the viewer is likely to be distracted by the sometimes odd choice and placing of accessories - flowers stuck in a bowl of mustard or in a pepperpot, or a thrush about to land on a soused herring for example.

Photographs are generally shown full bleed - usually on a single page but with some double page spreads. The food is photographed in a variety of ways but unity is achieved by consistent lighting and colour: the photographs have heightened natural colour, they are rich and saturated with golden browns, dark greens, rich reds and warm oranges dominating; the photographs have been shot in a diffused light with few shadows - despite many of the photographs being shot outdoors, the diffused shadows and even light suggest that artificial light was used.

Further Thoughts - Half-way Crit 15th June 2011

After reflecting some more about the feedback from the half-way crit two weeks ago, and after some useful email conversations with Paul and Steve and with others at LCC, I feel a bit more on track. I'm still not sure exactly what my final outcome will be but I am taking time to pause and reflect; to look at solutions for presenting recipes beyond books; and to read in more depth about typographic elements.

The main points that I need to keep in mind are: to restate what I'm trying to achieve; to focus on my research question; to state my critical position; and to make my question a question not a statement. Paul identified a problem with my work so far which is that it has become very subjective - too closely associated with my personal ideas about taste and attractiveness.

Once again, I feel I need to reiterate that the project has two strands: one strand is concerned with typography, the construction of language and how typography aids the understanding of a text - in Paul's words 'mechanics, formal structures, image/text relations, progressive disclosure of information, typographic hierarchies, typographic sequences, legibility, comprehension, memory'; the other strand is concerned with how design reflects the assumptions or ideologies of a specific audience.

Paul pointed out that the author is less important than I imagined. Previously, I had looked at how graphic design constructs the authorial voice. I think this still has relevance: the design methods used to construct Delia's voice are very different from those used to construct Jamie's voice and I have learned a lot in analysing them. However, in cook books, the author is generally a member of the group that he is addressing, or is attempting to speak to that group, hence the audience is perhaps more important than the author.

My work until now has addressed a specific audience which is perhaps the audience that most cook books speak to: middle class, Guardian reading, professionals, who shop at the Ginger Pig butcher. Steve suggested a list of possible audiences that I could think about: 'perhaps a cook book for children, or the elderly, the blind, the obese, the fantastically rich, audiences with specific needs that you as a designer you can solve'. Paul suggested thinking 'of the ways in which visual languages (and clichés) address defined audiences and structure a new set of visual pieces that seek to speak to those audiences. One would need first to specify the audience and then a visual vocabulary that is appropriate'.

Paul recommended some books which are slightly different to the books that I have been analysing as part of my cookbookdesign blog - these books have tended to be commercial cook books, usually, but not always, tied in to TV series. Paul reminded me of Jake Tilson - I'd forgotten about his cook books, though I'm familiar with Atlas magazine. I've ordered a copy of A Tale of 12 Kitchens - it will be interesting to look closely at how Tilson uses collage, unique typefaces etc to create a language that is addressing a (possibly) very different audience from the audience of most cook books that I have been looking at. Likewise, Tassajara Cooking, a vegetarian cook book first published in 1973, is coming from a very different place than the majority of cook books I have been looking at. A further recommendation (and one that has been recommended before by Paul and by others) is Len Deighton's Ou est le Garlic? This book was reprinted last year as Len Deighton's French Cooking for Men.

So, aside from reading cook books, my immediate plans are to:
  1. Re-think/re-focus on my research question and restate what I am trying to achieve.
  2. Think of the ways in which visual languages address specific audiences.
  3. Think of an audience that has specific needs and structure a new set of visual pieces that seek to speak to that audience.
  4. Test and retest alternative arrangements, formats and finishes appropriate to those audiences.
  5. Continue to analyse existing cook books, exploring how they work typographically and how they address users/readers/lifestyles etc.
  6. Continue to read and make notes about typography and language and the specifics of how typography functions on the page.

Rethink Canada – Pie Crust 101



Pie Crust 101 is a project by Rethink Canada for the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver. Pie Crust 101 is a pastry recipe printed on usable parchment (baking) paper with step-by-step instructions, illustrated by Ashley Ross. The parchment also includes a crust-rolling template. This is a really great idea: I love the fact that the pastry is made and rolled out on the parchment, saving a messy worktop, then goes in the oven with the pie to stop it sticking to the tray - so practical.

'Pie Crust 101' refers to a traditional Canadian recipe that has been used for generations.

Advertising Agency: Rethink, Vancouver, Canada
Creative Directors: Chris Staples, Ian Grais
Art Director: Lisa Nakamura
Copywriter: Jordan Cohen
Illustrator: Ashley Ross
Published: August 2010




Abi Solberg – The Sum of the Parts

The Sum of the Parts is a method of visualising a recipe created by Abi Solberg. Based on a grid system, it represents the amounts of individuals ingredient in a recipe, but also shows the proportions of each ingredient as part of the recipe.







Aggregate!


An A5 double-sided flyer I designed for an exhibition, Aggregate! by David Murphy and Kate Owens, curated by Shama Khanna, at E:ventGallery. Read more.


Elektromotive - Scatterbrain Cover




A CD cover I designed for a mix by the Berlin-based DJ, Ace Blair.
The mix can be heard and downloaded here.

Man Food!

Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need
Edited by Ryan D’Agostino



From www.chroniclebooks.com

So long, dude food. Most men who love food have a roasting pan and a decent spice rack, but they're still looking for that one book that has all the real food they love to eat and wish they could cook. Esquire food editor Ryan D'Agostino is here to change that with his unapologetically male-centric Eat Like a Man—a choice collection of 75 recipes and food writing for men who like to eat, cook, and read about great food. It's the Esquire man's repertoire of perfect recipes, essays on how food figures into the moments that define a man's life, and all the useful kitchen points every man needs to know. Satisfying, sexy, definitive, and doable, these are recipes for slow Sunday mornings with family, end-of-the-week wind-down dinners with a lady, Saturday night show-off entertaining, poker night feeds, and game-day couch camping. Or, for when a man is just hungry.


David Meldrum – the Food Illustrator





David Meldrum is an illustrator and graphic designer who decided to record everything that he ate or drank, every day, for a year, starting on 15th June 2010, and recording the results on a website: www.thefoodillustrator.com.

The result is a visual diary of 365 illustrations that use acrylic, collage, watercolour and pen and ink to illustrate the food that he ate in a year: cooked and uncooked; on the plate and sometimes in its packaging.

There is also an exhibition of the work at Arch 402 Gallery, Hoxton, London until Sunday 26th June.

Language and Typography

Notes from Language and Typography by Cal Swann

Chapter 1 - Introduction to language as human communication

What is Language?
Page 10: In its strictest sense, language is the system of sound signals which the human animal uses in highly structured arrangements. Language is not as effective as the theoretical concept of thought transference, but it is the most sophisticated system we have for the transmission of complex ideas.

Page 11: The 40-45 distinctive sounds which an English language speaker uses (some languages use as little as 15) represent the vowels and consonants, and these make up the smallest units (phonemes) of our language system. The structure of phonemes into words (phonology and morphology) and the structure of words into sentences (syntax) impart meaning (semantics) in a language system.

Human language is quite arbitrary. The sounds have no meaning in themselves (with the exception of a few onomatopoeic words such as 'bang', 'snap', 'crackle' and 'pop') and whatever meaning is placed upon a sound is entirely dependent upon the speech community. The word 'bang' is a representational sound whereas 'dog' or 'cat' are symbolic sounds which stand in for particular things. The sound symbols have to be learned and are not inherited as are the cries of animals.
Page 13: We think in terms of m // language and having a language structure enables us to develop thinking into action. The interconnection between thinking and the articulation of thought is inextricable and language-dependent. Marshal McLuhan (among others) went further and described 'typographic man' as a more intellectual human being who was able to develop rational thinking through being literate following the advent of the recorded word in writing/printing. This commonly held view is contested by those who subscribe to the view that oral cultures have alternative systems to articulate explicit ideas and that no evidence exists to show that writing/printing cultures have superior thought processes. What is not is doubt is that thinking takes place by making use of a language and many support the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which states that the way people view the world is conditioned by their native language and that this dominates their thinking.

Page 17: Signs which have become codified and depend on learning are like a form of language. they are symbols which are arbitrary and stand for something other than themselves in the way that 'd' 'o' 'g' or 'c' 'h' 'i' 'e' 'n' stands for an animal. a drawing of a dog is a representational sign whereas the surrounding circle with a bar across it is a symbol like the arbitrary signs of the alphabet.

The communication process and codes
Page 19: Language is a central feature in the communication process, particularly in transmitting abstract or complex ideas. In order to understand further the whole area of verbal and non-verbal elements in this process it is necessary to examine the nature of the activity we regard as communication, self a much abused and over-used word.

There are two main definitions which are generally seen to be at extreme ends of a spectrum. Broadly, one view is that communication has taken place when a message has been sent form a source, by some means, and a recipient has received it. The assumption s that the sender has expressed the message correctly and that the receiver has decoded it with the intended interpretation. This one-way process is sometimes referred to as manipulative communication.

The second view is that communication is a participative process and that an intended message is only communicated when the receiver shares with the sender the cultural interpretative values inherent in the signals themselves, and interacts accordingly. In between these two poles are many shades of emphasis: the one-way definition may have more relevance in the area of media communication, whereas the participative view may be more appropriate in face-to-face situations where interaction is expected to take place.


Chapter 2 - A developing and living language

Language registers
Page 29: Language arose in face-to-face encounters in either single or small group situations and direct communication was limited to the distance the human voice could carry until the development of writing. The transmission f language in a visible form allowed a speaker's message to be heard by receivers at a distance of space and time. The invention of printing enlarged that process enormously and current technology provides a multitude of recording and transmission methods which exercises the language in manifold strategies and effects. In this domain of multi-media channels it is important for the message makers to understand the qualities which are inherent in the spoken language, and the overlapping of major differences in the transmission of the language in alternative (and often parallel) channels of transmission. The conversion of the sound signals into visual signals is what we now refer to under the various titles of written, typographic, visible, or graphic language. The nature of these transmission channels entails pre-planning, and designing the most appropriate form requires a detailed understanding of the orthographic (written/printed) system.

Chapter 3 - The visual system

Defining the visible language
Page 31: Visible language is a term which has found favour in recent years and more appropriately incorporates handwritten, drawn or mechanically constructed letters, all the orthographic forms, in fact, perceived by the eye. It is distinct from the term visual language because it is a system of arbitrary symbols which correspond to the smallest units of sounds in the spoken language, as opposed to more general images representing an expression of objects or concepts.

The orthographic or typographic system
The Western visible language is made up of a number of symbols (orthographic) which in the main represent sounds, plus some others (paragraphological) representing punctuation, mathematical signs etc.

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
1234567890&,!?£(;"=+

Page 32: The letters of the alphabet (graphemes) usually correspond to a sound (phoneme) but there are a few logographs such as & and - which represent a whole word. The system works by placing graphemes side by side to make larger units of sound consisting of syllables and words. Each word is separated by a space and series of words are organised into phrases and sentences which are marked by punctuation. Punctuation is vitally important and can change meaning dramatically.

Page 33: Capital letters are used to mark the start of proper nouns and sentence beginnings. The Western language system is read from left to right and in lines from top to bottom. This seems a simple and logical system to Western eyes but it took a long time to evolve and other cultures developed systems in different ways.

Most of the research into legibility and the psychology of reading has been carried out using prose as 'continuous' text and the book as the norm. Comparatively little research has been undertaken on the visible language in the media and visual environment. However, the conditions which constitute the norm in prose form are important in considering the effects on the visible language when those conditions are varied.

When graphemes are juxtaposed the letterforms make up a 'word shape' and the skilled reader sees word shapes, not just individual letters. The 'correct' juxtaposition of the letters is very important if the word shape is to be perceived in its familiar and recognisable form; letters must be arranged side by side, and reading from left to right.

Page 34: Considerable research has been done since the last century on eye movement in reading, and this, along with other recent studies, is well set out in The Visible Word (1968) by Herbert Spencer. In summary, the eye moves along a line of text in a series of rapid jerks (saccades) and pauses at a number of 'fixations' which take in 10-12 letters (and spaces) at a time. It is surprising how close together the words can be in order for the space still to be noticeable in normal reading. Too much space between words is actually unhelpful for they eye to take in a reasonable number of characters, which can be as many as 30 characters in some cases. The eye seems to anticipate the left to right flow and takes in slightly more characters to the right of the fixation point. The average English word contains five characters plus one for the space and a normal line of text will contain around 60-70 characters, equivalent to ten or twelve words. It has been shown that lines of ten or twelve words allow the eye comfortably to make its series of 'saccades' before it sweeps back to make another series on the next and successive lines. Shorter lines may cause too many eye movements and become tiring if read in large quantities, and longer lines make it difficult on the return sweep to pick up the right line again, which means lines can be missed out.

It is important to remember that these 'optimum conditions' refer to adult reading in book form. Approximately 2mm high, the characters are usually 30-40cm from the eye and are presented as large blocks of text, which involve the least 'interference' in this channel between the author and reader.

Page 35: during the last four or five hundred years of book production, many variations of the roman letterform have been created, but at the size and distance in the reading conditions set out above there is no significant difference between one design and another. Given good conditions, skilled readers will reach a reading rate of 300 words per minute.

The visible route to understanding
Page 39: Previously, it had been assumed that decoding the written or printed word and understanding the meaning of the symbols was dependent on the auditory system. When a word is spoken, the hearer identifies the sound from a known 'bank' of words and refers this to a semantic system to interpret the meaning. It was thought that reading a word set up a visual reference which was then converted into the auditory version before 'plugging-in' to the auditory word bank. Although this can happen, it is now accepted that skilled readers have a direct visual route to the semantic system in the brain. Research into computer recognition of the visible language and the evidence emanating from patients suffering from brain damage have supported this view.

Page 40: It has been suggested that writing might be less efficient than speech for good communication, but that writing is better suited to the way the brain operates.

Page 42: Speech is often characterised by short bursts of information which are relatively independent whereas writing is usually in slightly longer units which are more dependent upon one another.

In speech, the number of ideas expressed in one utterance are usually quite brief and simple. It is thought that one idea in a clause of seven words is as much as our 'short-term memory' can handle. These phrases are expressed in about two seconds, have a coherent intonation and are preceded and followed by a pause. Each clause contains at least a verb and noun phrase as appropriate and although these conditions are not always present, they may e considered a norm for clear communication. Speech is composed spontaneously and can be further improvised on the spot to clarify or elaborate what has just been said. The act of writing is much slower mechanically but the writing can be re-composed and worked on in order to communicate clearly. It is read quickly, bit can be re-read many times and ideas may be absorbed at the reader's individual pace. The visible language usually contains more information than speech because ideas can be condensed in normally up to 11 words by the re-structuring which takes place in the writing.

Reading continuous text
Page 44: The ends of lines in book settings are somewhat arbitrary and have been described as 'linear interrupted' (as opposed to the more standard term 'continuous').

Prosodic visual cues
Page 48: In speech, variations in pitch, loudness and speed are referred to as 'prosody'. In print, different letterforms have been used to signify stress or emphasis since the end of the nineteenth century. The typesetting machines which dominated print production in the first half of this century contained a range of up to six or seven variations of the alphabet which were available in one size.

The standard triad range of roman, italic and bold typefaces have been extremely useful in subtly but distinctly indicating different nuances in the language intended by the writer. Used consistently, they represent different levels of discourse to be communicated between author and reader.

The opportunity for personal interaction is not normally available in writing/reading and all other forms of mass media communications. There is a 'distance' between the originator and the receiver. There may be more than one reader/receiver at a time whether the form of communication is a poster, newsprint or copies of books spread across different continents, and the collective source of the authorship is often unknown. In addition to the structure and density of the information in the composition of the visible language, all the visual equivalents of the prosodic cues that can be mustered are invaluable aids to communication. The small variations in weight or style of type may have little effect upon the legibility of the visible language, but they can have an important effect on the tone and attitudes which the author wishes to convey.

Page 49: In larger displays of visible language such as posters, advertisements and notices the style of letterform and layout are greatly exaggerated and have a conditioning effect upon the attitude of and interpretation made by the viewer.

Alternative reading formats
Page 50: 'Display' text, to use the conventional typographic term, covers the design arrangement of headlines, slogans, titles, advertisements etc. This includes the choice of letterforms, how the words are arranged in relation to one another, and their relationship to the space in which they are inserted. Poetry falls somewhere between continuous text and display text, in that it is deliberately arranged to comply with poetic conventions.

Page 52: The manipulation of language in the public domain, to influence the thoughts and actions of social groups, is acknowledged as an important aspect of language awareness. The manipulation of the visible language as a visual 'tone of voice' needs to be taken into account.


Chapter 4 - Form and connotation

Content, form, context
Page 54: Content and form are essential elements in making a message. A similar distinction has been made between a 'digital' code and an 'analogic' code which expresses and elicits feelings about the message (paralinguistic, iconic). Placed in an appropriate context as the important third element, communication can take place. In the spoken language, the content is the phonology, syntax and semantic structure of the words (sound, sequence and meaning). The form is the prosodic delivery of the words, that is the rate, accent, intonation, range, etc. Prosody has been described as 'a kind of musical accompaniment to speech'. The command 'give it to me' could have the stress on 'give', 'it', or 'me' and the emphasis is changed each time.

Written language and typography have parallel levels of content, form and context. The content is the spelling, syntax and semantic structure of the words and the form is the visual nature and arrangement of the typography. In addition there are the prosodic cues of stress or intonation, and the spoken word is usually accompanied by facial expressions, eye movements and gestures as paralinguistic signs (unless one is listening to the radio, for instance). The style of the letterforms, size, weight, and spatial distribution are the visual counterparts to the prosodic cues and paralinguistics.

Shape (Letterforms)
Page 55: The connotations which are stimulated by particular letterforms re historical and social. They are interpreted by our 'knowledge of the world' and are part of the cultural context of society.

Usually (but not always), the cultural association which a reader has from any of these letter styles is rooted in their historical origin. It is easy to select typeface designs which have developed in a particular national culture and which now connote the 'ish-ness' of the country.

Emil Ruder makes this point in relation to continuous text typefaces:

'... the various cultural centres of Europe began to grow party and to print in their own national typefaces. The development of national typefaces is closely bound up with the differences between national languages. Garamond is intimately associated with the French language, Caslon with the English, Bodoni with the Italian. If one of these is used for a foreign language, it may forfeit a great deal of its effect'.

Ruder later points out that some designs in more recent times have very little 'national' character and may be used in a variety of languages - the standard typewriter letterform being one of the earliest examples of an 'International' typeface design.

Connotation
Page 57: The traditional values of strength, dignity, warmth etc have been shown to be associated with certain typestyles and abstract tests of typestyles and their connotations have been carried out since the 1920s. Connotations in German or Italian would not necessarily translate into English as connotations are clearly culture-specific. In almost all research, the varieties of letterforms have been investigated by testing styles of alphabets against associations with emotive words. In order to avoid words in a context of sentences which would condition the semantic interpretation placed upon them, alphabets of typestyles or isolated words have been used in the traditional format for this research. What would be interesting would be to approach the evaluation from the opposite end to discover the extent to which meaning may be affected by style. Professional designers use intuition in making these layout decisions, and although research has shown that this intuition is reasonably accurate in accommodating public interpretation, it may not always be the case.

Page 58: It is usually accepted that the emotive connotations of letterforms are more applicable to printed communications which are intended to 'persuade' as opposed to those which simply offer 'information'. The latter is expected to be presented in a neutral typestyle of 'maximum clarity'. It is significant therefore of the accepted associations that a less legible letterform (to English readers), the so-called Gothic or Old English style, was recommended as recently as 1970 by the HMSO publication Design of Forms - 'The use of special type for legal or solemn effect may be desirable for some declarations.' The 'Gothic' or 'Old English' letterform has a strong connotation of antiquity and, in addition to its legalistic use, it is the most frequent typestyle used by antique dealers.

Page 59: Letterforms base on 'copperplate' handwriting of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries similarly have a connotation of antiquity and are favoured by old established institutions such as those in the legal profession. These conventions are subject to changes as the social climate changes and it is sometimes quite complex for a modern legal practice to demonstrate that it can speak the language of today, and still show it has the traditional virtues of long legal experience.

Size and Space
Page 61: the normal reading size is understood to be the size used in books in setting continuous text (between 8pt and 14pt). Words set in larger sizes are generally expected to have more emphasis, or are more important, and signify titles, or headings and subheads. In more recent research projects on large type sizes, which examined advertisements set on 18pt and /or larger, no significant difference in 'readability' was found. Size in itself, seems to have little influence on legibility or readability.

Page 62: More pertinent to display is the scale of letters in relation to the surface area and any other images which may be encompassed within the same area. Words printed within a rectangular area, for example, can be set in a sliding scale of sizes which might generally correspond to whispering, quiet, normal, loud speaking and shouting, particularly if the weight ratio (thickness of letters) increases proportionately. Seen within the border of the frame, the word/s may appear more important or 'louder'. The frame provides the visual context for 'scale' to be meaningful. It is difficult to extract the purely visual factors from the semantic dimension of the words, but it is clear that although size may be immaterial to legibility, it can be significant in the interpretation.

Page 63: The use of different sizes within one frame normally indicates a hierarchy of importance. It may indicate by size, rather than starting at the left-to-right, head-to-foot sequencing, what should be seen/read first.

Foregrounding by size is a very obvious strategy often used in visual presentation and is fundamental to the hierarchy of reading order and importance. It is unfortunate that this is frequently ignored by linguists when analysing text which is 'displayed' and not in continuous prose form. An analysis of language in visual form must include the basic visual strategies of presentation.

Form versus function
Page 64: Aesthetic considerations have always played a prominent role in giving the language visible form. The traditional convention of visually balancing lines of text around a central vertical axis (symmetrical) is no less dictatorial towards the shape of the language than its twentieth-century paradigm of 'off-centred', 'range left' asymmetrical style. Jan Tschichold claimed that 'in central typography, pure form comes before the meaning of the words'.

Page 65: Each era produces its won visual style according to the cultural values of the society of that period. The practice of arranging words in square boxes at the expense of different letter and word spacings has been an aesthetic device, on and off, over hundreds of years and enjoyed another vogue in the 1980s.

Page 66: deliberate flaunting of reading conventions in creating textual visual patterns may be due to rebellion against such conventions or of visual appeal together with foregrounding of keywords within the text. Such variables may be temporary and subject to fashion changes and influences from other fields, but they can be imposed on the visual language and inevitably affect the semantic interpretation in much the same way as a regional accent or 'solemn' tone can affect the aural language.

Literacy in terms of visual communication is both linguistic and visual.

Page 73: Poetry and advertising have many language characteristics in common; the layout or structure of the typography is also similar and sometimes there is much overlap in the form. However, despite the overlap, the visual registers are clear and readers will normally have little difficulty in differentiating between poetry and advertising on sight.


Chapter 5 - Visible Speech?

Aural and visual literacy
Page 75: The visible language is a part of the visual filed, and a bridge to the verbal language. Access to knowledge of these domains is by separate avenues at tertiary level in education, or directly into professional careers. It is not surprising therefore that many public signs are produced by individuals and institutions which demonstrate incompetence in both language and visual skills. The sense, clarity and suitability to the purpose in our daily interchange via the visible language is dependent upon a much wider understanding of literacy.

Public communications and the headlines of the mass media are somewhere between speech and written prose. They have the visual sign system of the visible language and are channeled at a distance form the receiver. There is no spontaneous face-to-face interaction, but there are some similarities in signs attempting their 'turn-taking' in the babble of visible conversation pieces which are all seeking our attention in the environment. The visual prosodic cues, which are much more apparent in display text, prompt meanings form the same cultural heritage as the spoken language.

Ideology and design
Page 88: Ideology may be defined as the set of unconscious values and beliefs which provide frames for our thinking and which help us to make sense of the world. In speaking or writing or designing we cannot avoid these frames of reference which are embedded in our culture. The relationship between speech and thought is interlinked and well expressed in the saying 'How do I know what I am thinking until I hear myself speaking?' Not that everything we say or think is a conscious act and it is important to recognise that ideology is largely hidden within a culture and so are the forms of thought which underpin the social structure and preserve it.

Another important factor is the plurality of values and beliefs and then sub-set of ideologies which make up a culture. There is a complex web of sometimes conflicting ideologies within any culture and when a culture can no longer contain such conflicts the structure breaks down into a crisis of social disorder. The network of ideologies which are contained is constantly adjusting to new refinements, adaptations and new ideas which may seek to change or influence established beliefs. The constant interchange of ideas - discourse - simultaneously reinforces those ideologies and incorporates variations which affect the nature of the ideology itself for regurgitation the next time round. It is a constant process of reinforcement or change and modification. When the change or modification is significant enough for us to notice it, we generally categorise it as being creative.

Language is not ten only feature of communication in the media and there are many others relating to visual imagery which are just as wedded to cultural ideologies. Designers of the message form are just as conditioned by their visual ideologies as are the writers. In this respect, 'conditioned viewpoint' is also an occupational hazard for the analyst and if we are to minimise this effect it is important to have an objective framework upon which we can unpack the hidden ideologies in examining 'who says what to whom with what effect?'

A suggested approach to analysis
Page 89: The complex elements which make up an item of public communication are interdependent and although they have to be dissected during analysis it is only by moving forwards and backwards between text to context that we can develop an analysis in greater depth step by step. Given the additions of a first-stage 'overview' to describe the item and a final stage for conclusions, there are three main areas concerned with the physical structure, the sociological context and the psychological states of the sender and receiver.

The structural elements are usually contained in the tow main areas of visual and textual, the visual being the typographic elements with the various connotations which can be invoked by selection and creative distribution, and the textual being the vocabulary, grammatical form and general cohesion of the language and other references drawn in.

The social context provides both a culture context with all the sub-cultures and stereotypes which are present in society, and an ideological context which reflects the orthodox sub-ideologies and sub-texts that are held by society. These are the 'histories' that are being referred to in the visual and verbal languages used in the structure of the design.

Just as complex are the psychological attitudes of the sender and receiver. How much ideology is shared and is expected to be shared between the sender and receiver, and how this dictates the shape of the message and the reaction to it, becomes crucial at the point of contact - when the message arrives at its intended destination.

Conclusions
Page 93: There is sufficient evidence to show that the perception and understanding of the visible language is distinct from the reception of the orally transmitted language. The visible language is much more than a typographic system for spelling and punctuating the spoken language. It is more than is implied in the definition 'a system of visual signs for the temporal and spatial transmission of language'. Visual perception involves more than the ergonomics of legibility, it incorporates a deeply embedded culture-dependent interpretative activity. Just as linguistic communication succeeds only under certain conditions, the visual message-maker succeeds only when an attitude is intended to be conveyed and the reader recognises this attitude.

Chapter four has shown that even without general visual images, the character of the letterforms and the way in which they are arranged within a rectangular frame imparts a 'personality' to the words and affects their interpretation. The body of knowledge that is evoked from a visual frame is just as important in providing an inferential base for understanding as in any language-based culture.

designers, for their part, especially those who have to manipulate the visual form as typography, should understand the principles of language communication and apply these to the visible transmission of messages, rather than slavishly convert 'copy' into the latest visual fashion. Visual fashion - the style of delivery - is vital to the interpretation as we have seen, but it should never dictate the content of the message; it should serve to enhance meaning ad make typography fully effective.

Swann, Cal (1991) Language and Typography, London, Lund Humphries

Willi Kunz: Choice in Typographic Design

Notes from the introduction to Typography: Formation + TransFormation by Willi Kunz

Page 7: Although letters, numbers and punctuation marks are the basic material a designer works with, typography depends on additional elements , such as space, colour, and typefaces to convey meaning. These elements communicate on two interrelated levels: the macroaesthetic and the microaesthetic. The macroaesthetic level includes the primary visual components that are recognised first: the size and proportion of the space; form, composition and the colour of key elements; the structure as a whole; and the contrast between the primary components and the space around them.

The microaesthetic level encompasses the form, size, weight, and relationship of secondary elements: typeface characteristics; letterforms and counter forms; and the spacing between letters. words, lines , and other graphic elements.

The function of typography is to communicate a message's intellectual meaning as well as its emotional tone. both aspects are necessary for the message to be effective. letters and punctation, word sequences, and spatial relationships all perform a utilitarian function in conveying the 'facts' of the message. The nuances of a message, where the designer expands its intellectual content and introduces the desired emotional tone, comes primarily from the skilled and sensitive use of these elements. without utility, the message is useless because it cannot be comprehended. Without emotional tone, the message is ineffective because it does not engage the reader.

Page 8: Regardless of what style is pursued, an important criterion is clarity. Good typography is clear typography. The designer must speak with an unmistakable, clear voice that penetrates todays clamourous visual environment.

Clear typography is frugal and restrained; it is produced with an economic use of materials and resources. Too many typefaces, sizes, weights, alignments, space and colour lead to unfocussed, confusing results. Compared to the work produced today with unlimited resources and unprecedented technical finesse, the printed artifacts from the 1920s and 1930s - when materials were scarce - appear powerful and convincing. The simple means available then forced the designer to use his imagination and come up with new visual ideas.

To function effectively, the designer needs sound knowledge of communication theory, good grasp of design principles, an understanding of the intended audience, and a clear focus on the goals of communications. The more complete our knowledge, and the more fluent we are in the principles of typography, the more we can accomplish in a limited amount of time. The ultimate condition for good typography, however, is a good text.

Page 9: In typography the particular choices we make have a strong impact on design. A particular format, typeface, type size, interline space, composition, colour, type of paper, etc. contribute to the quality and expression of a design.

Having too many choices can be overwhelming. Today, the abundance of choices is most obvious in the ever-expanding variety of typefaces. many designers believe that by choosing a particular typeface the work will significantly change. variety in typography, however, is not so much determined by the chosen typeface as by the arrangement of text within the chosen format.

Making choices is difficult because good ideas and directions must sometimes be eliminated to arrive at a final solution. making choices is the moment of truth. In evaluating our work, we have to be honest about its qualities. Does it measure up to the highest standards? Is it the best result we can achieve? the final choice inevitably leaves us ambivalent because it is almost impossible to determine whether the chosen design is best.

Page 10: The typographic designer relies on divergent hinking as opposed to the routine thinking practiced daily by the average person. Routine thinking proceeds along a known path with a clear destination. the goal is to attain a predictable result with minimal effort in the shortest time. Divergent thinking is needed to deal with the economic, social, and technical demands that are difficult to define in advance and change often during the course of design.

Bombarded with propaganda, it is easy to assume that a computer, equipped with the right software is all that is needed to succeed. the typographic designer must resist thinking that with a computer, he can create solutions without much personal effort or engagement. the more sophisticated and powerful the electronic tools, the more carefully we must think about the impact they have on the way we design, and the more diligent we must be not to let the tools overrule human creativity, truth, knowledge, and vision.

Page 11: Survey of typographic variations. The choices we make determine the visual quality of typography, including legibility and readability.


Kunz, Willi (2003) Typography: Formation + TransFormation, Zürich, Verlag Niggli

Half-way Crit 15th June 2011

Last Wednesday was the half-way through the major project group crit. I prepared a screen presentation and took along the five projects that I have made so far: Ratatouille; Sunday Lunch; Sunday Roast; Sunday Lunch Extended Version; and How Did We Do? In the screen presentation I showed the projects that I have been working on: What to Cook and How to Eat and Roastpaper. I also talked about the unrealised projects that I have been thinking about: the scrapbook project and the visual recipe book that I mentioned in my previous post.

The presentation was a good opportunity to take a step back and to reflect on my project: what I've achieved; what I want to achieve; where I've been; and where I want to be. It was also an opportunity to think again about my research question:

How can typography reinforce the understanding of a text and amplify the authorial voice within it? Using recipe books as source material, this project will examine the ways that typography can be used to make a text comprehensible to the reader and how typography can be used to amplify the presence of the authorial voice.

The project has always had two strands: the use of typography (in particular, typographic hierarchy) as a way of ordering information in order to facilitate the understanding of a recipe (or, in a wider sense, a text); and the construction of the authorial voice through typography. Looking back on the work that I've done, I think the priorities in the question have changed: I am still interested in how a reader understands a text and how typography can facilitate that reading but, with the texts that I have written about cook books on cookbookdesign.blogspot.com I have become more interested in how the authorial voice is created through design - and, in particular through typography (within the context of cook books I am imagining the authorial voice as branding).

Paul's comments in the crit seemed to bear this out: he said that he thought my question had split into two projects: the first looks at the authorial voice, essentially how narrative is created through design; the second looks at cognition in typographic systems. Both Paul and Russ thought that I now need to re-think/re-focus/refine my research question. They advised me to go back to the work I have produced and see which ones are more successful, which ones work the best, and see how they can be developed further.

A criticism was that I have adopted a 'scattergun' approach, making work that is too disparate and lacking focus - paradoxically, there was also a comment that some of the work is saying the same thing in different ways. What I learned from Unit 2 is the importance - for me, anyway - of making physical things: that's how I learn and how I progress. That's why with Sunday Lunch, a project where I was exploring the notion of temporal space within the book format as a way of illustrating the timeframe of the recipe, I tried different formats, extending the project from a 48 page booklet to a 206 page hardback book - I needed to see how this would look so that I could then move on, arriving at the more modest 12 page newspaper.

On reflection, I can see that I may have lost sight of my original research question. The problem that I have been most interested in is how cook books have become about looking not cooking: I have been researching why people don't use cook books as instruction manuals but as a kind of escapism and, by extension, as signifiers of aspiration - cook books have replaced art books on the coffee table.

I have been really interested in how graphic design is complicit in this; my research into cook books has helped me understand how the brand (the authorial voice) is established in cook books through graphic design methods. I now feel I have more of an understanding of how typography creates meaning and, I think, can articulate more clearly how it achieves this. This was always one of my main aims of doing the MA.

I have also looked at how recipes are laid out with different kinds of typography: it's clear that some books are better laid out than others and that some recipes are easier to follow. John Kane, in his section on recipe hierarchies in A Type Primer was a good starting point for thinking about these hierarchies but, in the end, perhaps good typography only ever amplifies a Western left to right, downward reading of a text? Recipes are, of course, linear in nature: they have a beginning, a middle and an end and it would be disastrous (on the whole) for a cook to begin a recipe in the middle. So I wonder if there's any more to be said about this? What I've tried to do with the early books is to slow down the process, to take it away from the instant gratification of an image of a finished dish - I realise that what I have made would not work in the commercial world of cook book publishing but even so, these experimental layouts still work within the accepted conventions of Western reading.

The most successful project is also the most modest: Sunday Roast is a newspaper that extends the making of Sunday lunch over 12 pages, linking the instructions to a timetable that is divided into minutes. I think the project succeeds because it is anti-aspirational: the text-only newspaper format is the opposite of coffee table cook books that prioritise looking. The typography is considered, functional and good to look at but, the affordance of the newspaper format, means that it is not precious - readers can annotate it if they disagree with the recipe. In addition, the format has connotations of the Sunday newspapers and by extension, suggests the possibility of spending a leisurely three hours cooking lunch on a Sunday - one of my intentions had been to show that the process of cooking could be a pleasure in itself. As my best project, perhaps I should develop Sunday Roast further, see how I can make it work better.

However, the aims of Sunday Roast may be too far removed from my original research question. Paul suggested that I think more about how cooks actually use recipes as a way of developing the work further. With the Roastpaper project, I have asked people to send me their most-used recipes - the ones that they can cook without thinking about. One of my intentions was to look at the way people record recipes. I was interested in how individuals might write down a recipe, creating a hierarchy that might give me a clue as to how cooks use recipes. Interestingly, several of the respondents have remarked that they now have a new-found respect for recipe writers.

One thing that has been troubling me is the idea of taste: I am interested in particular typefaces and typographic styles, my preference tends to be for the rational and functional. Not everyone shares my taste so a problem that was identified in the crit was that the graphic language that I gravitate towards is not necessarily the best language available for a particular project. I need to think more about the relationship between the reader and the message and how narrative and the audience's values might become a reciprocal relationship: the design reflects the audiences values back at themselves.

I have been thinking, over the weekend, that a possible line of enquiry for exploring how design can reflect an audience's values could be to concentrate on a particular audience. Someone pointed out to me a recently published cook book, aimed at men: Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need. It made me think about whether there is actually a gender divide in the kitchen and whether there is any mileage in designing a book that reflects the values of a target audience of men? When I was writing about cook books, one of the most unexpectedly interesting books that I looked at was Something for the Weekend by Simon Rimmer and Tim Lovejoy: this is not a book I would have chosen myself, it was given as a present and I have never cooked from it. It was interesting to unpick what was going on in the design of the book; how the choice of colour, typeface etc, created connotations of blokey masculinity that was miles away from the sensitivities of Nigel Slater and the effusiveness of Nigella Lawson. After analysing this book I did not like the design any better - but I did understand why I didn't like it and had a respect for the designer who had very cleverly targeted a particular audience.

Paul suggested some references for further reading: I'm familiar with the work of Jake Tilson (and his father Joe Tilson) but I'd forgotten about his cook books. A Tale of 12 Kitchens, Jake Tilson's cook book that follows his family through four countries, documenting the food that they eat, will be useful to look at, especially in relation to the idea of collage in the scrapbook project. I'm not familiar with Martí Guixé - though I probably should be - luckily he has an extensive website and his book, Food Designing, is available on Amazon. Len Deighton's Où est le Garlic? has been mentioned before - and by several people - so I think I should track down a copy. Interestingly, given my thoughts on cook books aimed at men, Ou est le Garlic? was repackaged, in 2010, as French Cooking For Men - but then Deighton's books were all aimed at men anyway.



Food Imagery

“Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude. It is a way of expressing affection through a gift... That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food. The kinds of picture used always repress the process of production of a meal. They are always beautifully lit, often touched up.”
Coward, Rosalind (1984) Female Desire: Women’s Sexuality Today Paladin

Contemporary recipe books, with their seductive photographs, high production and design values are often more about looking than cooking. At a fundamental level, what is a recipe book? What is its function? If many contemporary cook books consist of ‘nice photos with nice type’, can graphic design reveal the function of cook books yet still retain a visual appeal?

One of the functions of a recipe book is to act as an instruction manual that shows the reader not only how to cook but also what to eat. You could argue that the purpose of photographs in cookery books is to inspire the reader by showing them what to eat. Photographs are important but, as Rosalind Coward argues in the above quotation, they are at the root of the problem of cook books being about looking not cooking. I wondered if it would be possible to design a cook book that was purely typographic, that was functional, guiding the reader through the stages of the recipe, but that was also visually appealing, inspiring the reader to cook without resorting to 'food porn'.

Cook books that are text only are not unusual; as I've discovered while researching recipe books, lavishly illustrated and produced cook books are still a fairly recent phenomena, coinciding with the rise of cheap offset printing, the rise of celebrity chefs and, possibly, with new digital design tools and the potential for graphic designers to combine text and image in ways that were impossible even twenty years ago. In the 1950s, books by food writers such as Elizabeth David mainly consisted of text interspersed with a few line drawings. Katharine Whitehorn's seminal bestselling cookery book, Cooking in a Bedsitter, published in 1961 contains no illustrations and is still in print today which suggests that the reading public can embrace cook books with no images. Even the very first Nigella Lawson cook book, How to Eat, published in 1999, contains surprisingly few photographs: the book is a collection of Lawson's newspaper columns and, as such, is more about her skills as a (very good) food writer rather than the celebrity she later became, with all its attendant airbrushed imagery.

With my recent book project How to Cook & What to Eat I was thinking about the two sometimes opposing functions of a cook book: the functional instruction element and the visual appeal which inspires the reader to cook - and which when the book is placed in a bookshop, inspires the browser to purchase it. The marketing demands of commercial publishing obviously need to be considered: every publisher needs to sell books and sometimes commercial decisions can be prioritised over aesthetics or visual experimentation. As I've discovered when researching cook book design, publishers tend to take a winning design formula and repeat it until it stops working (or stops selling). However, with How to Cook & What to Eat, I do not have to think about commercial ends and I have been able to make a cook book that is more experimental in nature.


My aim was to animate the recipes, using typography in a controlled manner, one weight, one size, Roman and italic, to guide the reader through the various stages of the recipe in order to reveal the process of cooking rather than the instant visual gratification of most cook books. I placed one recipe on each page so that the reader, when leafing through the book got a clear sense of how long each recipe was and how long that process took in time. I wanted to show the complexity of a recipe by revealing the individual stages of the process which also, paradoxically, simplified the process for the cook, by breaking it down into manageable chunks. On the page, I wanted the reader, especially if they were consulting the book whilst cooking, to be able to easily see where they were in the recipe.

A further consideration is the visual appeal of the book. The use of design to attract as well as inform is something that I've recently started to think more about. It's difficult to judge how attractive or eye catching something is because it's very much based on personal taste. The three books that I've really enjoyed analysing for my cook book design blog are Living and Eating by John Pawson and Annie Bell, The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater and Canteen: Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone. Although very different, the books share an easily understood typographic hierarchy that means that they function well as instruction manuals. All three are deceptively simple in their designs but, on closer inspection, are quite complex - the trick is to make this complexity seem effortless, invisible, so that the reader does not notice that they are being guided and controlled. The books have very different atmospheres that are created by their design: each one uses particular papers, covers and colours with typography, and, of course, photography, to amplify the authorial voice or brand. Of course, this is back to the idea of taste again - my liking of these books is founded on how I understand and interpret them and this is based on what I already know about a number of factors that include: the author; the publisher; and the choices and connotations of typeface, papers and style of photography.


With How to Cook & What to Eat, I decided to use Akzidenz Grotesk for all the text in the book. My original plan had been to use Garamond or Baskerville and to exploit how, when used at size as a display face, these typeface's friendly but authoritative characters are revealed - an element that is utilised in many contemporary cook books. I did some experiments with Garamond - and with Univers - but settled on Akzidenz as the utilitarian feel of the typeface suited the practical nature of the book. I had also used Akzidenz for the How Did We Do? project and I am interested in how typefaces behave in different contexts. On a purely intuitive level though, Akzidenz just felt right - I liked how it looked on the page.

A further element to the book is that the recipes are taken from my food diary so the recipes are connected to the day that they were cooked - I used this connection to give structure and variety to the book by using coloured pages and text that responded to the days of the week. Because there are not recipes for every day of the ten weeks that I was recording what I cooked, the placing of recipes within this system created arbitrary juxtaposing of colours which I hope is pleasing to the eye.


So, the question of whether How to Cook & What to Eat has achieved my aim, which is to make a book that is both practical and functional but also visually appealing is open to debate: the practical functional aspects of the book can be tested but in the end, the visual appeal of a book boils down to personal taste. Which leads me on to my next project - with this book I made a book that was purely typographic with no images; I've now started to think about a project that is purely image based with no text. Starting with the the idea of food porn, I have started to collect images of pork pies (which somehow feel vaguely pornographic anyway) as a starting point for thinking what the function of a cook book that consisted of images only might be. Pork pies are not generally made at home and, as lovely as a book of pork pies might be, I quickly decided that a dish that is actually made in a domestic setting might be more appropriate for this project. I've decided to look at Spaghetti Bolognaise, it's a recipe that, I imagine, most people have cooked; there are (obviously inauthentic) vegetarian and vegan versions of it; it's a student staple; and, looking at Google images, it's striking how different individual dishes are, reflecting the myriad recipes that must be in circulation.

It's early days yet but the results of my image trawls are below:



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