"Chicken: Low Art, High Calorie" provides a tremendous visual dictionary of quickfood restaurant chicken sales including signage, menuage, etc. The book does not actually analyze the high caloric nature of chicken as the title suggests, rather concentrating on the visual aspects or "Low Art" of the product. It can be taken as a serious study of the design aesthetic of (largely London) chicken shacks or as an ironic look into a region of primitive or naive arts. The book is, as expected, very well illustrated with dozens, if not hundreds, of chicken related designs. I would highly recommend this book for: 1. chicken purveyors and their signers 2. chicken consumers 3. commercial artists with clients in the poultry industry.
Graphic Design fanatics will flip over this book, which looks closely at Fried Chicken establishment signage. Most of the restaurants shown are in London and most are shown to be named after American City/State/Place names such as Carolina, Dallas, and Texas. One of my favorite parts of this beautifully photographed collection are the catch phrases at some of these Chicken restaurants. Not to say that the signs themselves are beautiful! You will get a laugh over seeing a sign declaring one restaurant to have "The Best Breast in Wales", "Taste Me" or "Dunk Your Dipper"!
The signage, food, and phrases may not be new and should certainly be familiar to Americans who see fried chicken restaurants all over. What this book does is shows you, what I think to be, the sameness in the world of fast food. The burgers, fries, wings andsandwiches are all familiar. The names are different, as well as the phrasing, but there is no sense of 'other' when looking through the book. It is a well-put together collection of photographs and signage that will make you smile and possibly reminisce about your favorite fried chicken shop.
Housed in a book cover that is hilariously vinyl (so that greasy fingers might not soil the reading inside) is graphic designer Siaron Hughes' richly photographic monograph on the subject of fast food Chicken establishments in the UK and the USA. In an introduction, warm and humorous, Hughes shares his decision to investigate the impression that the popular American dish - Fried Chicken - has on fast food eateries throughout London. The majority of the book is a vast array of color photographs of the signage, menus, and establishments that tempted Hughes' palate. But also sprinkled throughout the text are interviews with some of the eatery owners and decision makers about how to attract particular ethnic neighborhoods to the very American style dish.
For instance, many of the 'chicken establishments' offer chicken kebabs along with other Middle Eastern favorites, yet the chicken items are presented with a nod to their origin, whether that be a red, white and blue graphic or the name of a popular USA chicken-famous town. Hughes has a rather extensive interview with a sign maker, one Morris Cassanova (aka Mr. Chicken) that rings with both bite and humor while defending the use of the American influence to market his product.
The design of the book as well as the choices of placement of signs with menus along side photos of shop owners and the countless images that represent American chicken make for a tasty book that will satisfy not only students of graphic design and sociology, but also those of us with a sense of humor about one of our 'sacred icons' - a lasting food offering even with the advent of 'health foods!' This is a delightful art book with a strong message that will leave the reader smiling and a bit embarrassed about how the world views the USA. Grady Harp, March 09