by Laura Otto Rinne, Senior Art Director, School Library Division
Like many of us, I annually resolve to eat better—less junk, less fast food. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find a new vegan restaurant in my city that makes a perfect knock off of “the-franchise-which-must-not-be-named” signature hamburger. In place of the two all-beef patties was a mix of wheat and soy protein. It was tasty and sustainable; proof that it is possible to satisfy a fast food craving without the heart disease or carbon footprint.
This shift in perception helped guide me as I explored a cover design for our new young adult title on the future of eating: Diet for a Changing Climate by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich (Twenty-first Century Books, October 2018). The book introduces a young American audience to what most of the rest of the world has been doing for centuries: eating wild, invasive species, notably weeds like dandelions and kudzu, predators like the lion fish or feral pig, and, most fascinating, insects and worms.
While for most teens (and adults!) the idea of eating bugs sounds like an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods or a horror movie, the fact is that these creatures are a part of an ecologically sound idea of how to sustain humans. The design challenge for me then was how to get teens to pick up this book to expand their minds and palettes? How do we take this idea and make it something that greeted with “Yum” and not “Ick”?
What Does Good Food Look Like?
When approaching the design for this book, I knew I didn’t not want to show actual food on the cover. Most images of preparations of insects and worms are photographed on faraway continents and to show that context removes it from the idea of “American” eating. Instead I thought to take a friendly approach and evoke a tasty familiar treat:
On closer inspection, the word “Diet” is created to look like worms and graphic dandelion greens adorn this fast food staple.
The fun continues inside as a bright and retro-cool background shows off simple and teen-friendly recipes which have the twist of these new ingredients. I’m not sure when I’ll bake chocolate chip cookies with crickets or meal worm tacos, but even I’m more inclined to take the leap into a new world of sustainable eating with familiar favorites showing the way.
In the Lerner design department, we are always thinking about the end user and how we can get kids engaged. Using giant bugs on the cover may have had more “wacky/ick” appeal but the message of this title is too important. By making design and content approachable and grounded in fun, hopefully we can help kids feel comfortable to try new things and discover a tasty way to help the planet.