Caz Hildebrand couldn’t have known for sure she was designing one of the most recognisable and iconic cookbooks of all time – Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2018 book SIMPLE, an emphatically stark cover which featured just the title, author name, and an embossed yellow lemon on a white background – but she knew she was onto something.
"We had quite a battle with the cover, but I was very determined and stubborn about it because, well, Yotam loves lemons," says the chef's long-time collaborator. "For me, it’s the perfect form and it encapsulates potential, and I knew that printing techniques would enable us to get that lemon texture. Having had a very successful cover, which also was much adopted by booksellers and marketers… it was a dream come true.”
So the team set themselves a challenge for FLAVOUR, Ottolenghi’s new cookbook with Ixta Belfrage. SIMPLE, Hildebrand says, “was universally recognisable at a thousand paces, so that’s often my brief to myself: Can you spot that book from a thousand paces? We really set the bar high.
Again, design plays a significant part.
“Food marks so many occasions in our lives”, says Hildebrand, “and a cookbook can become fully associated with those important moments. So it does sort of have to be your friend and companion; it has to be usable. If you make it too inaccessible in design terms, it fails at the first jump. To that end, I think it’s my job to make it incredibly inviting. The design should not be noticeable, but natural.”
For FLAVOUR, Hildebrand had to ensure the book flowed between recipes, essays and visuals.
"You have to figure out the structure and the hierarchy of material. But also, we wanted to make those essays not feel too much like hard work to read. And Yotam was keen to leaven them with some sort of visual material. So, unusually, we decided to choose to use an illustrator to separate that work from the photography of the actual recipes. We found quite a range of illustration styles, and it was a matter of finding something that felt right for the book. Someone who could express the concepts but also complement Jonathan Lovekin’s very exquisite photography and Ixta and Yotam’s very beautiful food.”