How to Create a Competitive Cookbook

There are a lot of reasons I love cookbooks. Each one is its own special focus in the world of cuisine, a filter that allows me to discover something new and interesting. The good ones have carefully selected, edited, tested, and illustrated recipes.

cookbook page design

Caroline Hale’s book, Live Simply Plant Based is such a book—hundreds of recipes, especially appealing to anyone looking for an all vegan, all gluten-free experience. Aside from being a book designer and publishing consultant, I’m an incurable foodie always on the lookout for new recipes and cuisine. For me, one of the points of traveling is to discover and enjoy new foods. Even in my own home city, I can’t resist searching the Mediterranean, Indian, Asian, and Mexican grocery stores for something new to try.  So I was very happy to be able to help Caroline Hale put together the Live Simply Plant Based book project. While this is a vegan recipe book, it is much more than recipes. Even if you’re not interested in a vegan diet it is easy to see that this book is beautiful.

cookbook front cover design

The recipe book market is super competitive. There’s always a lot of nice cookbooks coming out.

So I was pleased that Hale was receptive to my recommendations to make sure this turned out top quality. My recommendations included hiring a skilled food photographer that could capture her recipes beautifully. Food photography is in a special category of difficulty best left to someone with experience. Next, I made it my goal to create a design—and this was a bit challenging—that blended two opposites, a clean modern look that was also suggestive of the natural and sustainable aspects of the vegan lifestyle. This includes a special logo design for the “Live” title that would be featured on the cover and title page, as well as graphics for the chapter openers, running heads, and tables.

cookbook title page design

cookbook table design

I also created a decorative pattern made up of plant-based food graphics for the book’s endpapers.

cookbook endpaper design

This same pattern is featured on the design bars that are on the top and bottom of the book cover. For the final print process, I created a spot-varnish template so that the plant-based foods in these design bars, along with the clipped food photos on the cover and cover type, could all be highlighted with a high gloss spot varnish over the matt laminate finish. Check out this video to get an idea of how the spot varnish worked out:

Normally, to get a competitive price point for a coffee-table book of this quality would require sending it offshore. But there are downsides to offshore printing, such as long shipping times that some clients can’t accept, so I was happy to discover a U.S. printer able to handle the project at a comparable unit cost. The samples looked good, but it was still a bit riskier than my usual offshore options. U.S. printers don’t do wet proofs or dummy books to test the jacket fit. This is not a problem for simpler books, but for this design, 100% accuracy was important. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint. The final fit and production are solid and I look forward to sending them more work.

If you like recipe books, check out Caroline Hale’s Live Simply Plant Based.

Even if you’re thinking, “I like meat, this isn’t for me” — there are whole sections of smoothy recipes, snacks, and energy breakfasts where you are unlikely to be missing meat.

And when you want to invite a vegan over for dinner, you’ll be equipped to please everyone.

Caroline Hale—who holds a degree in natural health and a doctorate in naturopathy—provides in her book a detailed and practical guide to the benefits of the vegan diet and how to easily make the transition. This is a very comprehensive guidebook with background nutritional information that even includes convenient tables for what to stock in your pantry and refrigerator as well as how to cook grains, beans, and lentils. Want to take it to the next level, she’ll help you do that with instruction for how to make your own cheeses and nut milks. And when you are out and about, she has vegan tips for eating out and when traveling.

cookbook back cover design

If you’re already sold on the idea that a vegan diet is a healthier way to live and a good way to treat animals and the planet, you’ll want to go straight to the over 200 recipes. And wow, things have changed. Today’s vegan diet is not what our hippy parents were eating. There’s a lot here that anyone can enjoy without ever knowing it is vegan or gluten-free.

This has been a great year for book design projects, and this project is definitely on my top picks for 2018.

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