Type News

Reading Pile: Tasty Stories

June 17, 2015 by
Yves Peters
Yves Peters

As my main area of interest is the crossroads where typography and pop culture meet, I was happy to discover this little (quite literally) book. The tagline of Tasty Stories perfectly describes the content – “Legendary Food Brands and Their Typefaces”. Belgian type designer and Reading graduate Joke Gossé tells the story of over twenty brands in the food industry through the letters that grace their logos, packaging and advertising, tracing some of them back to the infant days of commercial art.

Evolution of the Quality Street logotype, from the 1940s to the 1990s. On the next spread it is compared to Bauer Bodoni, Poster Bodoni, Didot and Walbaum.
Evolution of the Quality Street logotype, from the 1940s to the 1990s. On the next spread it is compared to Bauer Bodoni, Poster Bodoni, Didot and Walbaum.

The food brands Gossé examines range from local to Western European to American, which is understandable as she writes from her own perspective and experience. After concisely establishing the history of each brand, she focuses on their branding and marketing, gradually zooming in in great detail on the letters and alphabets that make up the identity of the brands. She analyses word shapes and letter forms, explains changes in design and the evolution of the logos and puts them into context, and draws parallels with prevailing art movements and typographic styles. The text is peppered with anecdotes and sometimes surprising, little-known facts. Most importantly, Gossé manages to find a nice balance – she is knowledgeable without getting too geeky. This makes her book accessible for novices with a passing interest in design and typography, yet still interesting enough for the discerning type-lover and seasoned typographer. The only downside of this approach is that – to me personally – the content of the book, while entertaining, felt a teensy bit ‘light’.

Advertising posters for Campari, from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Advertising posters for Campari, from the 1920s to the 1960s.

What immediately struck me is the wealth of illustrations in the book. Besides typographic samples and reproductions of logotypes and packaging, there is also gorgeous art by legendary (commercial) artists like American pop art icon Andy Warhol; Marcello Dudovich, one of the progenitors of Italian poster design; celebrated French painter and poster artist Firmin Bouisset; Dutch graphic artist Jac. Jongert; Italian artist, designer, and inventor Bruno Munari; French illustrator Benjamin Rabier;… as well as contemporary names like Eley Kishimoto; Dutch graphic artist Parra; Belgian graffiti artist Dennis Meyers;… They turn leafing through the book into pure joy. The design of the pages is very classy; a two-column lay-out that nicely accommodates the mix of text, images, and type and lettering samples. The classic typography – serif for text and sans for titles and captions – serves the content very well. It leaves ample room for the pristine reproductions of vintage artwork and typography to shine.

The Pepsi Cola logo throughout its first four decades, and a Pepsi drinking glass from 1961.
The Pepsi Cola logo throughout its first four decades, and a Pepsi drinking glass from 1961.

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This is where I make myself quite unpopular with a number of readers, but I have to abide by my own rules. While the tagline for the book promises Legendary Food Brands and Their Typefaces, strictly speaking there are only very few ‘real’ typefaces featured in the book. The only commercially available one is based on the daring rebranding of St.Raphael by Charles Loupot, who introduced a dynamic, angular script in the tradition of great French typographers like Roger Excoffon. New York designer and illustrator Laurie Rosenwald collaborated with Cyrus Highsmith – the latest recipient of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize – to produce a magnificent adaptation named after the French designer. Elsewhere Joke Gossé does compare many of the logos with existing typefaces and makes connections with typographic styles, yet the actual alphabets and logos are either hand-lettered or custom-designed, a minority of which were made into bespoke typefaces.

The groundbreaking logo designed by Charles Loupot for St. Raphael.
The groundbreaking logo designed by Charles Loupot for St. Raphael.

The book as an object is really successful. Its shape and dimensions clearly communicate what type of book you are about to read. I just love the compact, square size – at 18,5 × 18,5 cm / 7.3" × 7.3" it is small enough to take along with you in a waiting room or to the beach, or as reading material on the train. The sewn interior pages and cardboard cover lend it a high-quality feel, and the pages open beautifully. Because it is both sturdy and lightweight you can easily hold it in one hand while reading.

The subtle changes in the Heinz tomato ketchup bottle.
The subtle changes in the Heinz tomato ketchup bottle.

This is the perfect book to give as a present to your type-loving friend (or yourself). The individual stories are all brisk reads, and can be consumed one at a time just as well as in bigger chunks.

Tasty Stories
Luster
Author: Joke Gossé

English publication
144 pages full-colour hardcover
18,5 × 18,5 cm / 7.3" × 7.3"
ISBN 978-9-46058-101-4