PASTA & PRINTS COOKBOOK
WHO - WHAT - WHY
Pasta & Prints is an Italian cookbook I created with a friend. She had a collection of recipes from her mother and grandmother and wanted someone to create illustrations to match the ingredient-based, authentic & accesible intention she had for her book. She also needed someone who could build a design for the pages that felt modern, elevated, and welcoming to all levels of cooks.
Create a cookbook that also can be appreciated as a coffee table book, integrating art with cooking and the essence of artistic Italian living.
Design and execute images that reflect the recipes.
Use illustrations instead of photos to take the pressure off users so they don't feel intimidated by idea of making a recipe that perfectly matches a cookbook photo, and therefore make Italian recipes from my clients heritage accessible to all.
Create a brand design that reflects the clients aesthetic, which blends a young and modern feel with classic Italian imagry.
User feels empowered
Clear, easy to read in a busy kitchen
Appealing, sellable and buyable
UX / UI Designer
Illustrate recipes and design intro, outro, and recipes pages.
InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator
In order to learn about the desires of my client, I did an in person interview with her to ask her about what she imagined for her cookbook theme. I asked her to show me some cookbook ideas that she found inspiring and what the vibe of the book she would like to create. She said her target audience was cooks of all ages and walks of life. She wanted the book to feel high end and for it to be a blend of a coffee table art book as well as an accessible cookbook that could be used every day. She wanted it to feel like something that could be sold at a boutique or a small bookstore and look appealing to men as well as women.
To gain a better understanding of what kind of cookbooks were trending or tried and true, I researched popular and high-selling books such as Dining In, Salt Fat Acid Heat and the Joy of Cooking. Through market research, I was able to gain a more thorough understanding and fill in the gaps of my knowledge about the industry to better inform my design decisions moving forward. Here are some of the key insights that I discovered:
Users value a clean and simple book cover that delivers information clearly with a simple image that draws the user in.
The font and design in the interior of the book needs to be easily readable as people are in motion while cooking; readability is tantamount in recipe success.
Users value a book that has a specific theme, but covers different courses or styles of meals i.e. starters, main dishes, desserts, etc.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
After researching other modern and timeless cookbooks, I evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each to see how Pasta & prints could fill in any gaps as we created the book. I found that many cookbooks included perfect photos of immaculately prepared food. Risi wanted to take that pressure away from people making her families recipes, and redirect the attention to the ingredients, so illustrations of the food would be a perfect way to highlight their essentialsim.
I mapped out a table of contents to imagine the way our users would move through the book. It needed to mirror other cookbooks for familiarity purposes, starting with an interior cover page, then a dedication page, and a table of contents. After, an introduction page that explained Risi's family history, her intention behind the book as well as how to read through her 'isms' to help the user flow through the rest of the book with ease. Then the usual cadence mirroring a meal, starting with starters/sauces, followed by salads, then mains, and finally dessert.
I created a page layout to create continuity between pages. Doing so provided a way of organizing the text to make it easier for me to make better decisions while building the cookbook for the readers. It helped me map out the relationship of different pages and think about the best way to organize recipes & content to create success for the user.
SKETCH & ILLUSTRATE
Taking what I had learned throughout my process to this point, I started to make decisions on how the recipes and content in Pasta & Prints would be organized on the pages and how the elements I had illustrated would be integrated. The sketches helped us decide that one ingredient would be featured next to the ingredient list and the dishes or another main ingredient would be displayed proudly on the opposite page as a statement artistic piece. If needed, a cooking tip or recipe spillover could be shared at the bottom of the page so the reader would not have to flip pages often while cooking and get inspiration from the imagry at the same time.
I created a moodboard to showcase the look Risi had expressed she desired for the book. I wanted to translate the feel of her Italian heritage tied with a modern and elevated feel. I chose images of watercolor food, beach scenes, and colors that matched the peach tones many homes were painted with that I had seen in Italy. I saved prints of food I thought I could imitate with my own illustrations to use as pages that delineated sections of the book. We wanted to transport the user to a different time and place with the tone of the book and creating this ambiance within the moodbaord would direct the user toward that feeing.
I chose a blue tone that matched the light waters of the Italian coast as well as a soft peach I saw in many tones of beach watercolors and produce photos that felt Italian and dreamy. A bright Aperol Spritz orange was chosen as an accent text color. I included a bold font that mirrored what I saw in popular cookbooks as well as magazines and other upscale print media. The font needed to be easily readable, friendly and feel elevated and Montserrat covered all requirements.
Combining the planning behind the recipes, the design guide, the layout design, and the structure of the book I started building pages in InDesign. I focused on building an example page for Risi to review of a main pasta recipe to show how it would flow. After using these frames to create a sample recipe and get feedback I could make needed updates before completing the full design for the rest of the book.
I then created the pages that would start the book. An interior cover page to remind the reader of the name and creators followed by a dedication page to the people that we owed our knowledge in cooking and creativity to, so the reader could root their experience in the cookbook back to our story and intention. A table of contents came next to tell the reader what their journey would look like, and an introduction page explained the 'isms' Risi wanted to coin within the recipes so the reader wouldn't become confused or think things were spelled incorrectly, and be in on the family jokes Risi and her family used to talk about their cooking.
END PAGES & FILL PAGES
To create clear separation between sections, I created fill pages. I isolated some of the main thematic illustrations in Photoshop and then put them into repeat patterns in Illustrator. I did the same with the garlic print as it is an ingredient used in most italian dishes for the end pages that would wallpaper the interior of the cover.
The cover was an incredibly important part of the design process, as it would beckon the user to take the cookbook off the shelves, spend their hard earned money on it and take it home with them. The design shown below is what was sent to the printing press, it can be imagined that this would be printed and wrapped around the arhitecture of the book like a present. I chose a simple message on the back to explain our story, the title of the book with a tagline underneath, and images of three dishes as a teaser of what could be found inside.
USEABILITY TESTING & EDITING
We began to share the recipes with friends to test if the process was intuitive for the user. There was some feedback that the font needed to be a bigger size overall, and that it would help if we increased the size of the numbers for the measurements. Users overall said the recipes were easy to follow overall and produced crowd-pleasing food. We also had multiple people proofread the recipes. As shown below, some of the users requested clarity around some of the phrases such as 'parsley water' and '00 flour'. I updated mismatched indentation and font sizing so there would be formatting continuity and the users eye would clearly move through the instructions.
Compiling all the information I had worked on thus far I completed all of the updates to my InDesign files and complied finalized PDFs to send to the printing company. With Pasta and Print’s design theme defined, I worked on incorporating a more polished and fully actualized book design. I added multiple pages of just prints at the end of the book that the user could tear out and frame if they so desired.
1. HAND-OFF - Because the book would be final after sending the PDF to the pinter, I reviewed and revised multiple times to ensure there were no typos or errors. After many cross-checks, I emailed the final pages to the printer and the book was created.
2. REVIEW AND USE - After the first version of the book launched, we took note of people's feedback in case we wanted to do second or third editions. Some people thought that certain recipes weren't intuitive for beginner cooks, so that is something we could improve upon for next time.