Anatomy of a Cookbook Cover

A few months ago, this was our dilemma: when one of the main points of our book is that it’s impossible to singularly define Canadian food culture, how do we attempt to visually define that same culture within an 11x8 inch space? 

In other words, when Random House asked us our thoughts on a cover design, we were stumped. We did know this: we didn’t want it to be a photo of food, firstly because we were aiming for something a little different, and secondly because, if we’re honest, we never would have been able to settle on just one image. Since we typically refuse to answer the question, “What is THE quintessential Canadian dish?” it would have felt hypocritical to pick one out for the cover. So if food was out, then what? 


Canada’s diverse and impressive terrain is one of its most recognizable features, however this led us down the same confusing path. With everything from the Arctic Ocean and fields of wheat to mountain ranges spread across this ridiculously large country, how could we pick just one terrain-heavy photo from the thousands and call it “Canada”? We could not.  

So here's what we did: we started making very basic lists of what we think of when we think of Canada, as well as the kinds of aesthetic we like to look at. We ended up sending a mashup of ideas to our book designer CS Richardson, slightly concerned we sounded like people doing a poor job of trying to describe their weird dreams. Ultimately, these were our two main inspirations:

1) The Group of Seven

They always come to mind when we think of classic Canadiana, and paintings like these by Lawren Harris—abstract representations of Canadian mountains—seemed like a good place to start.

2) Vintage Travel Posters

We were already big fans of the designs that came out of the 1920's and 30's, but recently became particularly obsessed with those that advertised Canadian travel. They're bright, dynamic, and classy (except for the ones that poorly represent First Nations people--those ones are not classy) and were an aesthetic we kept coming back to, particularly for their use of colour.  

As it turns out, our designer is apparently quite capable of dipping into people’s dream worlds, and handily came up with this:

It's ‘diverse graphic landscape meets vintage travel poster,’ and WE LOVE IT.

In his design, Richardson layered mountains with three other prominent features of the land: forests, prairies, and water. It has the abstract nature of Harris' mountains, the beautiful, almost-textured tones of those vintage travel posters, and so much more. 

To tie in our logo, Richardson added a spoon running vertically through the title. Whether this was intentional or not, to us the top looks like a moon rising through the mountains, and at its bottom like a canoe paddle dipping into the water.  

We were in two different cities when this cover design was sent to us, but got on the phone as soon as we could. We then proceeded to scream at each other (out of joy) for quite a long time. It felt amazing to have another person’s design match the difficult-to-articulate thoughts that have been floating around in our heads, and to know that every time we look at this cover, we will only grow to love it even more. Thank you for that, dear Mr. Richardson. 


ps - looks who else loves Lawren Harris......

pps - the book comes out March 7th/2017, but we'll be releasing pre-order details ASAP!