Q and A with David Drummond


David Drummond is an esteemed book designer, with a modernist approach. He now resides in Quebec, Canada and has a degree in Gaphic design. His career took off in 1995 when his sister recommended him to produce the cover of her scholarly book, which was due to be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

In 2002, he became the founder of Salamander Hill Design. The business produces posters, book covers, promotional materials, magazine illustration, packaging and identity development and has featured in many magazines. David’s work has received awards from AIGA, Communication Arts Magazine and Print Magazine.

David Drummond sees a project as solving a visual problem and the trick is to find a new way of expressing the idea. He mainly take photos and produces illustrations to create his designs, which he then manipulates in Photoshop, this is as he feels he then has more control over the finished product. He also uses a limited number of fonts on his covers, but spends time experimenting with the layout. He then keeps ‘hacking away’ at the design until he arrives at something he is happy with. Sometimes, ideas are disposed of, but other times he comes back to them early in the morning, during the ‘farmers hours’, as he calls it.

He often receives briefs which state they couldn’t think of an image, but they think that his conceptual approach would be perfect for the book. This puts pressure on him to achieve but it makes him work hard as he knows they want to be surprised by the solution. He states that ‘I really do think the creative faculty is like a muscle that you have to keep flexing.’

He works with a range of clients and their requirements vary. He has worked with around 40 publishers and self-publishers and around ten of those offer regular work. He usually begins by presenting them with one concept, around 70 percent of these are successful and finds an alternative solution for ones which are rejected. Some publishers request multiple concepts and he states which he recommends, but he isn’t there to make a case for the ones he believes in, instead he has to let the committee decide. He explains in an interview with Caustic Cover Critic that ‘A really strong direction could be killed because someone doesn’t like orange.’ and highlights that he doesn’t really consider them as a cover unless they are printed.

small crimesWHO HAS HE WORKED FOR?
Many university presses including McGill-Queen’s University Press, University of Chicago Press Columbia University Press, and others such as Véhicule Press, Acumen Publishing, Polity, Les Éditions XYZ, to name a few. Also produced work for self- published authors and magazines.

David thinks the story has a big impact when he is creating his covers. It allows him to find the right visuals that link up to the text, and the cover should be smart if it is to be successful. Titles can also be important, he likes working on covers that have a title that presents the subject in a new way as it helps with the imagination. He has also created series book covers before such as the Parker novels. For this he finds an original way to tie all the books together. Originally, he wanted to commission illustrations for the Parker series but because of budget constraints he had to illustrate them himself.

David Drummond: ‘Doing this type of work is a perfect fit for me and I hope to continue doing it for as long as it lasts.’ (Dan, 2011)


How much information are you usually given by a publisher to create a cover?

I can get as much information as I need really. I work with so many publishers that it really varies. Sometimes I will have a conference call with editor and author. Sometimes it is just a really good brief. When I have time I will read as much of the manuscript as possible. That is usually more often the case for fiction covers. If my first sketches don’t hit the mark they are still really useful because they get the conversation going about what works and what doesn’t.

How much does this influence your work?

Completely. I will dig and dig until I find the right hook that will best encapsulate the book. I use the brief or conversation with the publisher to present the cover as a visual problem that has to be solved. Something will twig and get the process going.

Do the specifications ever limit you on want to create?

Not at all. The challenge is to use the specifications to frame the visual problem that has to be solved.

How many concepts will a publisher ask you to produce?

Varies really. Some publishers they really have to have 3 up front.  For other clients if I really get a strong direction I tend to present only that one up front and then take it from there. I am a really believer in going to bat for a concept if you really believe in it.

What is the process you normally undergo to create these designs?

Once I have the problem in mind I kind of bombard myself with random visual images to see if that sparks something. If not I put it aside and let it percolate for a while.

What types of books do you most like to work on?

Love working on poetry and fiction covers. I do a lot of scholarly covers. Those are always a challenge.

Do you have a favourite cover and why?

This one is a recent one that I really like. Perfect title and subtitle.

missing linkBIBLIOGRAPHY
Drummond, David. David Drummond Work, (Online), Available at: http://daviddrummond.blogspot.co.uk/ [Accessed 2nd February 2016]
Caustic Cover Critic: An Interview with David Drummond , One mans’s endless ranting about book design, November 2008, (Online), Available at: http://causticcovercritic.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/interview-with-david-drummond.html [Accessed 2nd February 2016]
Crow’s VowAF , 10+2 Qs for David Drummond, The Book Stylist, June 2013, (Online), Available at: https://thebookstylist.wordpress.com/tag/david-drummond/ [Accessed 2nd February 2016]
Dan. (2011), Q & A with David Drummond, The Casual Optimist: Books, Design and Culture, March 2011, (Online), Available at: http://www.casualoptimist.com/blog/2011/03/01/q-a-with-david-drummond-salamander-hill-design/ [Accessed 2nd February 2016]
Friedlander, Joel. (2015), e-Book Cover Design Awards, June 2015, The Book Designer, July 2015, (Online), Available at: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/07/e-book-cover-design-awards-june-2015 [Accessed 7th February 2016]
Salamander Hill Design, About, Salamander Hill Design, (Online), Available at: http://www.salamanderhill.com/about.html [Accessed 2nd February 2016]


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