Creative Book Design: ‘The Menu Project’

For more than a decade Chicago foodies have attended communal dining experiences as part of the Sunday Dinner Club, always searching for a new taste or texture to enjoy. And design studio Kitemath has been an integral part of bringing these culinary experiences to life by producing equally hand-crafted menus, going out of their way to play with different paper textures, die cuts, foils and more. Not surprisingly, the book they published celebrating these delectable print pieces is as sumptuous and unconventional as the meals – and menus – themselves.

Right from the outset you know you’re in for a treat thanks to the chunky wood-grain cover made from 111 lb. Gmund Savanna Bubinga Cover duplex laminated to 160 lb. Strathmore Premium Mahogany Double Thick Cover. Stroking that wonderfully tactile texture, you can’t help but think of an enormous hardwood table just perfect for the Sunday Dinner Club’s intimate meals.

Digitally printed in White UV ink by our good friends at O’Neil Printing are the design studio’s name, as well as a ruler, paintbrush and X-Acto knife flanking a dinner plate where your usual cutlery would be positioned, with an image of the “Menu Project” title comprised of handmade pieces at its center. This, it turns out, is actually peeking through a large die-cut window. Opening the cover reveals the full plate photograph printed on 9.5 pt. Chromolux 700 High White Cover for a fantastic shine.

Inside, each handmade menu gets the deluxe treatment with rich, moody images digitally printed on uncoated 65 lb. Mohawk Options Smooth Cover [PRO members: Get Swatchbook!] Many of the print pieces were photographed on table tops and against other wooden backgrounds – a nice echo of this book’s own thick, wood-grain cover.

Careful attention was also paid to the way the menus inside were shot, with pieces often placed at angles or inventively styled, lending a sense of vibrancy and drama to the images.

And speaking of drama, one of my favorite touches is the way the designers inserted a few dimensional enhancements into the book, such as weaving a length of string through a series of holes along the tines of a printed fork to recreate a menu they created using this same technique. Meanwhile, a pop-up cube menu dutifully pops up when you come to the appropriate spread, thanks in part to pages that have been duplex laminated together to supply the paper thickness necessary to support the pop-up effect.

Other little sparks of creativity, such as a vertical Bronze foil stripe printed opposite an image of a glowing electric light, demonstrate a breathtaking marriage of fine art photography (courtesy of Kelly Allison and Tyler Mallory) and book design.

Underscoring the handmade aspects of not just the menus featured but of this volume, “The Menu Project” book uses a Smyth-sewn binding with an exposed spine, provided by our friends at BindTech-Roswell, the Brown thread running through its signatures matching its wood-grain cover.

Note: “The Menu Project” book can be purchased here.

While Smyth binding was the perfect choice for an art book that is meant to lay flat for multiple readings, the designers had a number of different options from which to choose. For a handy guide to 12 of the most popular, as well as vital specs for each, be sure to download our free Binding Cheat Sheet right now.

Project Details

Title The Menu Project Book Client Self Design Kitemath
Print Printing: O'Neil Printing, Phoenix
Binding: BindTech-Roswell, Phoenix
Paper Cover: Gmund Savanna Bubinga 111 lb. Cover + Strathmore
Premium Mahogany 160 lb. Double Thick Cover
End Sheets: Chromolux 700 High White 9.5 pt. Cover
Interior: Mohawk Options Smooth 65 lb. Cover

Production Details

Printing Method Digital Finishing and Binding Smyth-sewn binding, die cuts, foil stamping, duplex lamination
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