Essential ingredients

‘A research publication is running an article on our changing relationship to cooking in the home and what we consider essential ingredients. Researchers took a snapshot of what people had in their fridges and compared it to what people thought they would make with these ingredients. They were interested in looking at the kinds of foodstuffs we cook with, our reliance on pre-prepared food, and whether our attitudes to cooking are changing.

Using your own fridge’s content as a starting point, create a graphic representation that shows the relationship between the various ingredients. For example you’ll probably use milk for making tea or coffee. You might use butter, mustard and cheese for making sandwiches. And you’ll need all of these ingredients if you make a cheese sauce. How can you use Venn or Euler diagrams and/or the Isotype system to plot this graphically?

Don’t forget that this is a graphic design task not a maths exam, so be playful and visual in your approach.

You may want to do your own research into these three important representational systems before you start work on this exercise. Make notes in your learning log.’



Euler diagrams, Eulerian circles and Euler’s constant are named for Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–1783)

The overlapping shapes are most commonly square, but not always

Cartoon Venn diagram by Randall Munroe

Isotype – International system of typographic picture education. NB My laptop keeps correcting the spelling to Isotope, which is of course something scientific and entirely unrelated!

Otto & Marie Neurath

As the title below suggests, we humans have used pictograms for a very long time (though I think the sometimes the picture suggested ‘vowel’ sounds) Modern Isotypes were of course meant to transcend language.

1964 Olympics – oh these are gorgeous!

I do find these images appealing – they are distilled down just like logos



Isotypes are entirely different from Venn and Euler diagrams, and as such I found the brief a bit confusing. The former identifies and shows quantities, the latter two relationships.

Exploring ideas

I considered developing a range of little food icons (or isotypes) based on the contents of my fridge – here’s some roughs

Thinking about recipes and relationships…

And considering diagrams

Having worked on my roughs, I decided that the brief was more about connections between food and how its used, so I decided to have a stab at some diagrams. This is a little out of my comfort zone as I would more happily develop little pictures/icons/isotypes all day long!

I started with some basic items, setting my fill to multiply to allow the overlapping colours to ‘make themselves’. We were told this isn’t a maths exercise – so I started creating offshoots (consequently this isn’t a proper Venn diagram) I simply used my notes to pick the relevant ingredients, and shuffled a bit until I was happy.

But how to connect the satellites? What kind of line? How informal should I be?

Like this?

I decided on straight lines to connect the extra circles. Here’s my first completed diagram. Some of the text is a little dark, later I tweaked it and the colours of the connecting lines to give a better sense of unity.

I wanted to add a second diagram – this time using the live paint tool (just to explore methods of building in Illustrator)

This is my nod to Euler. The typeface is Over The Rainbow (nice and informal)

(And I scrawled a little person with the brush tool because the brief said we could be playful so I had a bit of fun)

Here they are:

Essential Ingredients


I enjoyed using some bright colours, and putting this together. Maths is not my strong point so I was glad we weren’t asked to be very technical.

If I had gone for Isotopes instead Im not sure how I would have used them? They often appear on graphs and Im not clear what a graph would say on this subject?

I think this went OK – Im not sure if I have gone in the best direction, but its alright?!



2 thoughts on “Essential ingredients

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