David Plunkert is an American illustrator, graphic designer, poster artist, and co-founder of Spur Design LLC in Baltimore MD.
His works have appeared in numerous Fortune 500 companies’ advertising campaigns as well as newspapers, magazines, and recording labels. He has been featured in many books including New Masters of Poster Design, Mixing Messages, Typography Sketchbooks, The Greatest Rock Albums that Never Were, and others. David has received gold medals from the Society of Illustrators NY and the Best Film Poster Award at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). His cover for The New Yorker titled “Blowhard” was named Magazine Cover of the Year by The Association of Magazine Editors (ASME). The artwork, a reaction to Trump’s remarks on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was widely covered in U.S. news media. His conceptual works are in two styles, Dada-influenced collage, and spare blocky graphics.
Can you tell us a little about you?
I was born in Frederick Maryland. I’m married to the illustrator and author Joyce Hesselberth. We have 3 kids. Our studio is in Baltimore MD, USA.
President Trump’s weak pushback to hate groups—as if he was trying not to alienate them as voters—compelled me to take up my pen.” David Plunkert, The New Yorker
How did your journey into design start? What motivated you to become a creative artist?
As a kid, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I enrolled in visual communication in college without really knowing what it was. When I figured it out around my sophomore year I was in love with graphic design.
Who influenced you as an artist?
Jack Kirby, Pablo Picasso, Ben Shahn, Paul Rand, Seymour Chwast to name a few.
What is your philosophy? What’s your creative process?
There’s more than one way to solve a problem. I always start with thumbnail pencil drawings and build from there.
How did you develop your personal style?
I don’t rely on technical skills as much as clear ideas that hopefully surprise the viewer. My visual style is a collection of influences but I typically emphasize shape and concept.
What were the biggest challenges about this kind of art at the beginning?
Finding clients that were the right fit. That can still be a challenge.
What’s the impression you want to give to your audience with your illustrations?
I want the visual to support the text but not replace it. Hopefully, the art enhances the content in a memorable way and is identifiable as my work.
How long does it take to complete a project, from the concept idea to the final design?
Depends on the size and scope. I can usually take a single picture from sketch to final in a week or two. That allows me to fit it into a schedule of existing work and wrestle with it for a bit before presenting ideas to the client. I can work faster if I have to. When I’m putting pencil to paper I usually have a couple of ideas in an hour or two.
What makes an illustration, something really good?
I usually like the stuff best that retains the energy of the sketch. The idea has to be memorable and surprising.
Do you think the COVID pandemic influenced the world of design?
I’m sure it did like it influenced everything else. Designers on a whole were well suited to work from home during the pandemic. However, the pandemic stalled or stopped a lot of performance and culture-based work.
Matteo Damiani is an Italian photographer and author. Curator of the sites Retrofuturista.com; weirditaly.com; china-underground.com and others