Beyond the Cover: Short Stack Prosciutto by Sara Jenkins

April 17, 2015

We’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but what about its photography, layout, typefaces, paper—and how they all interact with each other? Each week, we’ll be sharing a book spread that’s worth taking a close look at for one reason or another. And we’ll ask you: What do you think about it?

Today: How to design a publication so its red pages aren't distracting.

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Prosciutto di Parma by Sara Jenkins
Short Stack Editions, Volume 14 (2015)
Design and illustration by Rotem Raffe

It's rare to find a book, magazine, or anything in between (like a Short Stack) with bright red paper as pages. On such a saturated color, will you be able to read the type? Will it look harsh or distract from the recipe? The Prosciutto edition of Short Stack solves these conundrums with smart design. Here are the four design choices in the above spread that make the fourteenth volume of Short Stack pleasing to the eye, approachable, but still audacious:

  • The thin-lined illustration leaves enough negative space for the visual to read on such a saturated background. Any more detailed and the emphasis could move away from the lil' pig and fishes. And what a shame that would be.
  • Whereas the illustration melts into the red a bit, the strong typeface of the recipe title, page numbers, and serving size contrasts with the red and becomes a focal point of the spread. Your eyes need somewhere to land, and mine go first to the recipe title, then the serving size, then the image—what about you?
  • The heft of the headnote typeface adds importance to the element on the page. Without reading it or knowing anything about the author's intent, I feel as though the headnote is important—it should be read regardless of whether I make the recipe or not. I feel like there is a great story waiting for me in that headnote.
  • On the other hand, the two-column design of the ingredient list makes the recipe seem friendly—not consuming of time to source or execute, nor a focus on the page.

 What about this spread sucks you in? How 'bout those red pages?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • amysarah
  • Ali Slagle
    Ali Slagle
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


AntoniaJames April 17, 2015
I won't buy a book with red pages, period. I don't care how beautiful or thoughtful the other design elements might be. It's just too user un-friendly. What a shame, because I generally like Sara Jenkins' recipes and writer's voice.
I like the inclusion of line drawings - wish more cookbooks had them instead of photos! ;o)
amysarah April 17, 2015
Maybe not intentional, but black ink on red background thwarts copying (at least on commonly available copy machines.) Re type - not crazy about 3 different fonts in such small space, but with that array, I'd have used the serif for the headnote (easier to read in larger/bolder size) and the sans serif for the body text (easier to read in small point size, especially against red.) Could I give a more nerdy reply?
Ali S. April 17, 2015
Bring on the nerdiness.