Ingredients of a beautiful cook book design

Wild food by Juleigh Robins

 Tucked into a heavy shelf of thick cookery, travel and psychology books, it was the colour (a browny-beetroot) and the loose cursive script ‘Wild Food’ that drew me over.

The cover is nice at first glance, beautiful on the second.

The tart/tort/pie in short focus is bright with splotches of raspberry red in the crisp foreground and pitted with baked-in browny beetroot in the back. The plate it sits on is turquoise blue and dusted with icing sugar.

The title’s lettering is fat and flowing—a secondary salival trigger. The author’s name (replete with unconventional spelling ‘Juleigh’ with good mouth feel) is balanced and exquisitely tucked into the space the eye will naturally move into after absorbing those tasty crumbs.

The subtitle is what appears to be Adobe Garamond: 100 recipes using Australian ingredients. This is a well-crafted serif and one of my favourite typefaces of all time, and the favourite also of my good friend, Dave Eggers. (He may not have heard of me.)

Turn the page to the inside cover and here we go. The dust jacket is the same beety colour. Now I should tell you here and now that I have tried to determine the exact colour values of this elusive blend for years. Many years.

I have identified Pantone 209, at some stage, and various shades with differing C, M , Y and K values, and altogether dissimilar RBG.

The deception lies in its inconsistency. Differing times of day, differing paper stocks and finishes, differing screen monitors, sizes and devices—all of these change the appearance of this most volatile vermillion.

But this is the one.

It’s easy to make this colour go brown, unintentionally, but when it’s the perfect balance of magenta and cyan—and like a fine oil on a neutral-tasting square of bread, it needs the right stock to carry it—it is sublime.

The jacket copy is white, Adobe Garamond, of course. But the lead paragraph of three is larger (perhaps 14 points and italicised as opposed to 12 points and regular) and the three are each ‘wildly’ left justified with one single hyphenation toward the bottom. Like the Royal Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, this finely tuned wildness.

The inside cover artwork spreads across the 60 millimetre plus interior. It’s a tableau of excess, hedony and accidents. There are spills, smears and splatters of claret, garnet berries, sweet blood sugar, wine drops, mauvey with age.

t looks just like the lampshade my two-year-old created for my birthday. I don’t mean that to sound wry or derogatory. It’s just that it really does look very much like the lampshade my two-year-old created that is in our lounge room. Compare pictures of both.

Glimpse above or below the artwork and you’ll see that sneaky companion colour, the opposite of the spectrum and what a treat—it’s the icy cool turquoise blue. What a palette!

The subject of the book is wild food in Australia so the colour palette has to reflex that. It does with deep reds, olives and ochres, sage, forest greens and juicy dark berry colours.co

The section identities use a natural dry brush over two inches on the right panel to showcase the wild, script ingredient, picking up a colour that’s sampled from the food. The dry brush is repeated on the overleaf left sidebar but shrinks to a discreet one centimetre.

The book’s generous margination of a bottom and sides white space of 15 mills, with 20 mills on top, makes it feel luxurious, like a clean and minimal Hyatt room.

Wild Food is published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin, and written by Juleigh Robin with Ian Robin as a consultant.