Thursday 20 November 2008

An Interview with David Drummond

You NEED to click to see a bigger version of these gorgeous covers

One of the best book designers working today, and a regular and deserved winner of accolades and awards, Canadian David Drummond was kind enough to agree to be the latest victim in this series of interviews. When selecting images to accompany this interview, it was incredibly hard to make choices: visit his Salamander Hill Design website or his blog, and you'll find beautiful cover after beautiful cover.

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CAUSTIC COVER CRITIC: What's your design background? How long have you been doing book design?

DAVID DRUMMOND: I have a degree in Graphic Design and worked for about 8 years doing corporate design before starting book cover designs.

CCC: Most of the photographs you use in your book covers seem to be your own, rather than stock images. Why do you prefer working this way?

DD: I would probably describe my work as photo/illustration and I find I have the most control over final outcome if I photograph it myself and then really get to work in Photoshop.

CCC: Some of the books you've done covers for seem like the sort of thing that, at first, would make most people go, 'How the hell am I going to do this?' (I'm thinking of books such as Mapping Marriage Law in Spanish Gitano Communities), even though the final covers you come up with are really clever. Do you have a specific process for books whose title/theme doesn't immediately suggest something visual?

DD: I am sort of a victim of my own success I guess, because I often get covers where the first line of the brief is, “We couldn’t think of an image and thought your conceptual approach would be perfect for this.” When they are really tough, like another book on multiculuralism in Canada, I just start off by saying, “OK, how can you find a solution that puts a new twist on it?”

CCC: Can you tell us a bit more about working on the 'Parker' novel covers? Are you doing the rest of the series as they're brought back into print? And what's it like doing a matching series rather than a book cover which stands on its own?

DD: I just did three more in this series and as far as I know there will be more next season.

I really like working on series and try to always find an original way to tie all the books together without being too monolithic. I originally wanted to commission illustrations for the Parker series but because of budget constraints decided to do the illustrations myself.

CCC: What's it like presenting several possibilities to a publisher, and have them choose the one you least like? How common is this?

DD: To be honest, for most of the publishers I work with I start off presenting only one concept. For the times when it is rejected it gives me a clear idea of how to re-orient and get closer to the right solution. I would say 70 percent of the time my first presented concept is the one that makes it all the way through.
Above: David's first nine covers for the 'Art of Living' series from Acumen in the UK
Below: A great cover that ended up unused

For the publishers that ask for multiple concepts, I always state my recommendation. If it isn’t chosen at least I feel like I presented my case. One of the pitfalls of presenting multiple concepts is that you are not there to defend them, and you are really leaving it up to a committee to decide with no chance to rebut. A really strong direction could be killed because someone doesn’t like orange.

CCC: What's your favourite rejected cover?

DD: I am not sure that I have a favourite rejected cover. I don’t really consider them covers unless they are printed.

Two very-much-not-rejected covers: the Striphas cover makes use of a book dunked in water and then 'sculpted' into shape

CCC: Are there any other book designers do you admire?

DD: Too many to list. There really are a lot of great cover designers working today.

CCC: Ever been asked to design/cover/illustrate a book you couldn't stand?

DD: No. But there have been books where I really do think I made the book look more interesting than it really is.

CCC: Thank you, Mr Drummond!

Fame at last for David's dog, Beau.


Ian Koviak said...

My favorite formt his interview with one of my favorite designer:

"Sometimes I make a book look more interesting than it is"


"Usually I only present one concept"

The book design Gods (and they exist) have smiled upon dear David Drummond.

My clients would shit their pants if I showed one idea... 'nough said.

Ian Koviak said...

oh, and for the record, if i have not said it before. This man is my favorite book cover designer. Chip Kidd and Mendelsund can kiss my...

No, no, I love their work too, but really, David is my top choice. His work is sincerely timeless and so very pure.

Keep it up.

JRSM said...

It really was so hard not to just keep including every cover of his I could find: there's SO MUCH good stuff--every time I visit his blog there's more brilliance on display. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying these interviews, JRSM, though I have nothing to add about this one - other than to say, "Wow, nice covers!" - as I didn't know Drummond's work before.

Might I put in suggestions for other potential interviewees, such as Bloomsbury stalwarts William Webb and Nathan Burton (responsible for the wonderful reissues of Patricia Highsmith as well as others? I remember Bloomsbury used to have a slogan on their jiffy bags: "Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover."

JRSM said...

John, I'll see what I can do!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been slowly working my way back through your posts for a while now; and coming to this one it reminded me about a small UK publisher called Donut Press. I don't know many details but I recall being told that all their books are designed by just one guy who often goes to quite some lengths to get the image he wants, e.g. embroidering a label to be sewn to a shirt collar with the author's name or title (I can't recall which) then photographing it. I just thought it might be a designer/publisher you hadn't come across yet and which you might be interested in. [NB I've nowt to do with them myself or I'd give you more info, though it was because of an interview you did with my own publisher some years ago that first brought me to your site - and a very good site it is] - Jo

JRSM said...

Thank you, Jo. I will investigate Donut Press and see what I can find out.