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Best practices for designing your cookbook

I attended the IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) last fall, and sat in on a plethora of interesting and valuable sessions on how to cook for, write, photograph, and market my blog or cookbook, but I found a slight gap in the itinerary. There seems to be a lot of information out there on how to conceive of and publish your work, but very little on the process that falls in between: how to create a visually appealing product.

I love food as much as I do book design, so a good cookbook exemplifies both of these parts of me. But as much as I relish the medium, I am even more critical when a book is presented in poor design. Even if the recipes are sound, if the pages are not visually appealing—much like your finished recipes should be on the plate—then I am not hungry nor inspired.

Think about how often you notice the design of a book. Probably not very, unless something has gone awry—a typeface that is contradictory to the tone of the book; type that’s too small/large with poorly justified lines; low-quality photos and illustrations—any of these can detract from the beauty that is your prose.

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Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite designs. Please peruse my portfolio links above for a broader sampling.

 

“A” is for Apple

I’m taking a food writing course this fall, hoping to hone my writing skills and discover more about myself as a potential food writer. Yesterday’s “Writing Prompt” (a fifteen-minute daily excercise) really hit me on who I am as a whole. The prompt is this: “Much has been made of the apple as cultural and literary symbol.  Write your own apple memory– be it the first apple pie you made, planting an apple tree (you Johnny Appleseed, you!), apple streudel, apple eaten down to the core, apple blossom parade or festival (there really are such things), drawing an apple on construction paper, the Wicked Witch’s apple in Snow White, apple whatever.”

Here’s my response:

I wish I could say that when prompted by the word “apple” that it conjures memories of the iconic fruit — so engrained in our society and culture through fairy tales, fables and lunch boxes. I could say that it harkens me back to my grandmother’s apple orchard, and her homemade applesauce that to this day, I cannot find any that compares. That I was always the first one served the steaming, fresh-from-the-pot sauce because I was a chubby kid and I wasn’t allowed to have sugar in mine.

I could say that it reminds me of the first time I ever visited my husband’s parent’s house and I picked an apple from their crabapple tree, not knowing that crabapples must be the spawn of the Sour Patch Kids.

I could also say that “apple” reminds me of learning to type in school on an old Brother electric typewriter, the hum of which is still stuck in my head. That the word “APPLE” was one of the first words they had us type in order to limber our fingers while learning the QWERTY keyboard.

Alas, no. None of these things come to mind immediately when hearing the word “apple”. These are memories that had to be dug out and re-cultivated. For me, when I hear “Apple”, it’s inherent meaning is my computer. My livlihood. Apple Computer. Macintosh. For over twenty years, I’ve had one incarnation or another of an Apple computer, usually several at one time, and cannot imagine my life without it. My first being an Apple II SE, a tiny all-in-one unit with a 12″ black and white screen and a whopping 20MB hard drive, which by the way, is displayed proudly on a shelf — I never had the heart to get rid of it. So even though the apple is the daddy of all fruits, that which keeps the doctor away, or poisons wayward princesses, to me, it’s home for another reason. It sustains me as a designer and every morning when I sit down at my desk and look at that little apple with the bite out of its right side, I know that today, life is good.