This illustration case study unveils the process I used, when I was part of a product development team, to create mock up recipe illustrations, for an interactive, tablet-based cookbook prototype. The book was designed to appeal to people who love to cook but don't want to waste food. The tablet would be sold in a modern, hard-cover jacket for a timeless, archetypal look.
Each recipe in the cookbook has interactive ingredient icons that lead to several secondary recipes. These secondary recipes feature left-over ingredients or food scraps that are used in a novel way.
The research revealed that a surprising number of people thought that cooking felt a little bit like witchcraft! Ergo the visual and graphic concept for the cookbook emerged out of that colorful analogy.
Clearly, there was a need to make the cooking process approachable and fun. I was inspired to combine the mystery of grimoires like the Arbatel de Magia Veterum (Arbatel: Of the Magic of the Ancients), with the colorful style of contemporary visual art journals.
I tossed in the playfulness of urban sketches, to create modern, mixed-media watercolor recipe illustrations brimming with whimsy and vitality. The style made the cookbook (at least the prototype pages) feel hand-made -even though it was an electronic device.
Prototype recipes: Morning Matcha Smoothie Bowl & Banana Au Chocolat.
PROJECT CREATIVE BRIEF
Illustrate two prototype recipes for an interactive cookbook for people who love to cook and want to avoid wasting food.
CLIENT: An Innovation and Progress entrepreneurship course.
RESULTING PROJECT (Illustration assignment-only):
- One (1) Style Guide/ Product Design Trend board
- One (1) one sheet of preliminary thumbnails concepts
- Two (2) final sketches
- Two (2) watercolor recipe illustrations
Recipe illustration + art journal + cookbook format + Grimoire +urban sketching
...into a colorful, whimsical watercolor and ink loose recipe illustrations that could belong in a book of spells.
The design idea emerged after going through several rounds of brainstorming, researching and preliminary prototyping as follows: Gathering insights through primary research, customer interviews, shadowing and studies.
Surprising insights were pulled from the product development market research stage. Ideas for ways to connect a “use-it-up-recipes” like Banana Au Chocolat at a secondary level to one of the main breakfast recipes, Morning Matcha Smoothie Bowl, were becoming clear.
Findings Around Re-using Food Scraps in New Recipes
Brainstormed ideas for real recipes that tasted fantastic. Analyzed how they were visually presented in the media, the layout used and the type of visual information that was prioritized.
Also took note of moods and color palettes. We tried to understand what flavor of recipes, would appeal to the largest portion of the target demographic, based on the type of ingredients they had in their pantries, freezers and fridges.
Defining the Problem & Possible Solutions
Once the team had gathered enough data, we then switched to finding possible solutions for the cookbook and its aesthetics. Across several iterations, we kept on defining the problems we needed to solve. At this stage, each team member knew their roles, based on their skill set, talents and interests.
As the only illustrator of the group with experience in product design and development, my role was to flesh out the visual vocabulary & brand of the product. At launch, the aesthetic appeal of the product would make and break the cookbook. So we spend the next phase clarifying what the cookbook could look like inside and out, starting with a product illustration trend board.
I studied what was already available in the marketplace in terms of books, cookbooks across several publishers. I was trying to discover and classify similar “cookbooks" concepts in a variety of topics.
In the process, I learned about the details that could work with a "modern archetypal” vibe in terms of symbols, textures, decorative patterns, iconography, lettering, color palettes etc.
Most importantly, I wanted to discover how I could interpret this new visual vocabulary in my own style.
Out of twenty-four concept explorations, I selected one to develop into two different recipe layouts.
Pencil Sketch Final Drawing
I ended up using a loose, sketchy style of drawing. I later used this same stylistic approach to paint both watercolor illustrations. I started developing this style, in a sketch workshop I took on Bainsbridge Island, WA some years ago with an amazing artist.
Final Art Page Prototype
The result was the two ethereal and whimsical painted illustrations below: the Matcha Smoothie Breakfast Bowl watercolor (left) and the Banana Au Chocolat watercolor (right).
Before & After
Clickable Icons Page Prototype
In the final interactive cookbook, each “waste” ingredient from a primary recipe (Matcha Smoothie Breakfast Bowl, left) led to a clickable, secondary recipe (Banana Au Chocolat, right) where it shined in a totally new way.
- Want to check if this atmospheric watercolor illustration is available for licensing? Or, would like us to create something similar, but customized to your own project (marketing, book, editorial, stationery etc.)? Simply submit a request in my contact form with what you have in mind or review the Custom Illustration for commercial use page, send us the details, we'll take it from there.
Written and illustrated by Patricia Jacques. She's a freelance food & travel illustrator working with individuals and commercial clients with a passion for slow food, slow life and slow travel.