Side Dish is a series of mini-monographs dedicated to the topic of food and how the history of everyday foodstuffs can reflect the flow of history. Each publication is dedicated to a specific dish or ingredient, whose historical path — its origin, how it came to be, the methods of cooking, etc. — is traced and visualized with typography and images.

This project was awarded the John C. Kerr Chancellor Emeritus Award for Excellence in Design

Side Dish Spreads Display

Volume 1 of Side Dish examines the French colonial influences on the Vietnamese cuisine, with the first issue focusing on the historical route through which coffee had established its current significance in the Vietnamese cuisine. From a drink with Islamic religious meanings to a highly sought-after commodity of colonial practice, coffee’s history reflects multiple political, social, and cultural shifts that have happened during the journey from its original birthplace in Ethiopia to its current cultural significance in Vietnam.

Side Dish Cover
Side Dish Inside Page
Side Dish Inside Page
Side Dish Inside Page

How Side Dish came to be

Food is a universally familiar yet complex and multi-layered medium that can reflect the socio-cultural changes happening around us. The introduction of new ingredients to a cuisine results in new flavours and new ways of cooking. The process of colonization has greatly altered many cuisines with the distribution of native ingredients from one geographical region to another. These social, cultural, political, and historical shifts have resulted in the subsequent changes to food practices from cultures that bore the influence of these shifts.

I am interested in examining the invisible and hidden truths behind the everyday food items. Prompted by the relationship between food practices and social, cultural, and historical shifts, this project examines the different external cultural influences on the social lives and food practices in Vietnam through history, starting out with the history of coffee. With food bearing both physical and emotional significance, Side Dish explores how we can document, learn about and reflect on history — whether of the world or of our own culture — through the transformation of food.

Vietnamese workers harvesting coffee berries on a plantation in Tonkin, 1931, photo from L’Indochine by Henri Gourdon.

Coffee plants were brought to Vietnam during the French colonization era.

Audience & Bilingual Publication

The publication, written and designed in both Vietnamese and English, targets Vietnamese and people of Vietnamese descent as the main audience. I want to ensure that the project is linguistically accessible to both Vietnamese and people of Vietnamese descent who may not be fluent in reading Vietnamese text. Side Dish is a reader-friendly, comprehensible, and accessible resource for the readers to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and history through the examination of Vietnamese food.

Side Dish Biligual Photo

An inside page of Side Dish, with a botanical drawing of the coffee plant.

Content research

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Precedent research & initial readings.
Photos of food with colonial history in Vietnam.
Research in the General Sciences Library of HCMC.
Research specifically on the history of coffee.

Visual research

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Old newspaper & printed ephemera.
Historical visual & typographic research.
Type explorations & test prints.

Final publication

The publication is to be printed on the Risograph printer with fluorescent orange ink, with the images and black text inkjet-printed in CMYK.

Size: 6.8 × 11 in.
Saddle-stitch binding with staples
Cover: yellow cover-weight newsprint
Inside: Canson 30lb newsprint

Roslindale Deck, by DJR.
Garamond Premier Pro, by Robert Slimbach.
Halyard Micro, by Joshua Darden.

Side Dish Flip Through

About Triet Pham

I am a communication designer from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, currently based in Vancouver, BC.

My work includes visual identity, print & publication design, creative direction, and type design. I’m interested in collaborative projects that use design as a means to examine cultural identity and address social issues.
LinkedIn — Triet Pham


I would like to thank my instructors — Katherine Gillieson, Jon Hannan, and Gabe Wong, for all the helpful support and advice during my concept development and design process. Thank you, Doan Truong, for helping me proofread and edit the Vietnamese translation of the text. A big shout out to all my studio friends for all the thoughtful feedback as well as the brainless banter! And most importantly, I’d like to thank my parents for giving me this opportunity for higher learning, and especially for going on fieldwork and taking all the documentary photos of Vietnamese food for me, while I am in Canada!