In an increasingly digital world, the value of a beautiful, well-designed book can't be underestimated. As well as the words and images they contain, gorgeous books are treasured objects and carry their unique sense of worth. And it's this aesthetic appeal which was recognised by the British Book Design and Production Awards earlier this year.
Split into multiple categories, including best jacket design, best educational book and best graphic novel, the British Book Design and Production Awards have a long and illustrious history of commending landmark editions in the publishing field. And in this year's lifestyle section, Wild and Sweet, published by Hoxton Mini Press, went away with the prize.
Tapping into the growing trend of wild foraging, Wild and Sweet is a cookbook that sees foraging expert and award-winning author Rachel Lambert reveal what you can rustle up with your seasonal finds. In its pages, she introduces readers to the fruits, roots and leaves waiting to be discovered, encouraging people to disconnect from the digital world and eat in tune with nature.
As a topic, wild foraging presented Hoxton Mini Press with a unique opportunity. As Creative Director and Co-founder Martin Usborne explains: "We've started to explore some aspects of food, but since it's a saturated market, we want to focus on fairly niche topics that we can do with some style and quirk. We have done well with a book called The Urban Forager and felt like this might make a good continuation of that."
Having been in contact with Here Design for many years, Martin felt that they would be the perfect companion to the publisher's foraging exploration, not to mention the fact that they admired the studio's work and that they were both entrenched in the same area of East London.
"Here Design was responsible for managing the illustrations," Martin adds. "We briefed them to work with a simple, almost-naive aesthetic using block colour reminiscent of screen printing. They then took direction from Rachel on the shapes of the leaves, fruits, roots and flowers, and produced the lovely shapes and colours that run through the book."
This call back to screen printing underpinned the almost hand-made feel that Hoxton Mini Press wanted to feature throughout the book as it reflected the nature of Rachel's recipes. "Hence referencing the block shapes and colours of screen-printing with overlapping colours," Martin reveals. "A sort of anti-digital simplicity. This, combined with the very rough uncoated paper (Munken Print Cream, not really intended for fine colour printing, more mono), added to that feeling."
The result of this fruitful collaboration is a book that appears a little rustic and somewhat homespun but is packed with charm and character that is totally in line with its subject matter. It's no wonder then that it went home with the award. Speaking about why he thinks it stood apart from the competition, Martin adds: "Here and ourselves spent an age going back and forth making it work. It was a fairly painful process, but I think worth it!"
News of Wild and Sweet's win is indeed a cause for celebration, but if it has inspired you to look into the world of book design, Martin has some words of warning for budding creatives. "It's probably not the most lucrative aspect of design, but if you work with the right sort of publisher – dedicated and independent is good too! – it's an area that can offer a lot of passion and creativity," he explains.
"On the whole, the people in publishing are a decent lot," he concludes. "I'd say it's also fairly competitive, so don't get into it unless you feel passionate about making books that deserve to sit on people's shelves for a long time.
"Books are threatened by their digital counterparts almost every day, so it's good to have people fighting the corner for books as beautiful objects."