Diet books are all about marketing, not diets. Find a vaguely qualified nutritionist, come up with some catchy copy (the secret ingredient that lets you lose weight while eating your favorite foods every day! works fine for just about any of the lesser ones), and throw in some recipes. So why not a diet book made by a top ad agency? Can design gurus tell you what to eat better than most? Yeah, I’d say, most likely. And if not, hey, at least it’ll be laid out well.
So: Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter, two of the top guys at major agency Crispin and Porter, are publishing a new book called the 9-Inch-Diet: Exposing the Big Conspiracy in America.
It’s not actually a diet book, for which we should all be thankful, but rather a handsomely designed book on portion sizes. No recipes in here. Bogusky tells Creative Review how the idea came to him when an old cabinet wouldn’t fit modern plates:
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘What kind of idiot makes a cabinet that won’t fit plates?’,” he explains. “You know, it’s always hard to see your own culture. I realised that no idiot does that, the plates must have grown. So I started looking into it and they had grown a lot over a period of about 40 years. So I thought ‘I’m going to write a diet book’ – it’s not like it’s a goal or something that I dreamed of doing.”
The 9-Inch-Diet means a return to the smaller plates that, apparently, we all used to eat from. Bogusky is taking an approach that often pays big dividends: isolating one aspect of a larger phenomenon (how we eat) and using it as a microcosm for a much larger argument. I hope he pulls it off.
Speaking of food, there are a few books floating around now that use the fundamental “what’s wrong with what we eat” premise, with more on the way. This is a good thing. 10 polemics per year in this vein is a useful contribution. I’d love to see the market saturated with these books to the point where almost everyone has read at least one. These aren’t diet or recipe books in any way, but rather in-depth, fascinating studies about American food culture. Michael Pollan is the tops in this field, and consistently at #1 on the Times best-seller list, and the author of the one essential cookbook everyone should own is working on his own book in the same field (check out a great talk he gave at the TED conference below).
None of them have yet been described, however, as “full of pop culture references and expert advice,” or as “the first diet book that’s as comfortable on the coffee table as it is on the kitchen table.” The design hands behind the book should make it stand out in a burgeoning field–here’s hoping the writing holds up its own end, as Pollan’s deep research and readability have set the standard nice and high.
One thing that’s interesting is that Crispin and Porter have done a lot of work for Burger King: they were behind the subservient-chicken video that was popular online a while back. Burger King serves some big-ass meals, and even bigger drinks. To my knowledge there isn’t a fast food chain around that’s exempt from the push towards bigger serving sizes, actually. Increasing portions is good for business and advertising agencies alike, so the book kinda needs to address that inherent complicity. And it does–these guys don’t run one of the top agencies in the world for nothing. Check out the product description:
Bogusky and Porter run what is arguably the most creative advertising agency in the country, if not the world. With years of experience manipulating the masses, two of the best tricksters in the industry explain how you as a consumer are being duped, and how you are actually a part of the conspiracy to make you fat.
The 9-Inch-Diet comes to stores in December. And here is Mark Bittman’s fantastic 20-minute talk at the TED conference on What’s Wrong With What We Eat:
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