Designing a Priceless Heirloom

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Design, Design, News | No Comments

HMRP_Book_front_and_backLemmee tell you about my latest crazy project: creating a prototype (and template) for a genre-busting concept: a family memoir/cookbook for the Heirloom Meals Recipe Project in Massachusetts, USA. This was the brain-child of Carole Murko, whose unflagging enthusiasm for family food stories has spawned a weekly radio show on NPR (National Public Radio), regular tv appearances, and several hour-long holiday specials for national television.

My mission was to design a template layout that would be flexible enough to accommodate a wild variety of both recipes and stories, AND… make each double-spread look good. And then there were the photos.

OMG, the photos…

Integrating and styling 300 pages of text was a piece of cake compared to processing several generations’ worth of family photos in a variety of formats, shapes, and resolutions. Not to mention tricky color adjustments for age (Polaroids, I’m looking at you). I tried to retain a look of authenticity (sepia, some color deterioration) where possible, while boosting the color saturation and lightness, to compensate for the inevitable fading effect of 4-color process. (This kind of work takes an experienced eye to know when enough is enough, and had I not survived 3 years of working in a photo agency, I could easily have botched it. See? Even the horrible job experiences pay off down the road.) By the time we were done, I’d corrected about 400 images. And did I mention there were captions? Yep. For every photo.

The best part

The best part was getting to know the author’s family through the stories and photos. I now feel as if I know and love the grandparents, even though they’ve long since passed on. Towards the end of the project, I could identify them in family photos, at different ages.

What started as a 36 page project grew and grew to a final size of almost 300 pages. This required enormous tenacity and patience to complete, from both client and designer, but the results were worth it.

The cover

My goal was to create a cover template for the book that would be worthy of displaying on the coffeetable, alongside glossy magazine, or in the kitchen as the default cookbook in the recipe holder. It needed to hold its own against the likes of Nigella and Ottolenghi, or else risk being delegated to a bookshelf to gather dust. I decided to use a family photo, but enlarge it to fill the entire cover, front and back. Then I added some modern type, and a black label background to make the letters pop. Combined with the 1960’s era photo, it’s a nod to Warhol and Dymotape labels. The result is reminiscent of a Vanity Fair article. What better way to honour the family cooks?

Print is forever, baby

Websites are great but print is forever, baby. This book (and its 10 copies) is a priceless and highly personal gift. Printed on archival paper and bound in a hard-cover, it is intended to be passed down through the generations. So it will still be around long after I’m gone. And… it’s gorgeous. I’m really happy with it, and the author is over the moon. What more could you want?

Love the idea of a memoir/cookbook? Want to be part of the next workshop? More details here: