Despite only having graduated in 2002, David Pearson is one of the UK’s top book designers, and has won a D&AD Yellow Pencil for his work for Penguin. Last year he set up his own studio, David Pearson Design.
Who was your mentor?
My typography tutor, Phil Baines. The first time I went to his house he told me off for not aligning the letters on his hot and cold taps. I was already nervous enough as Phil had invited me to co-design a book with him.
The next task was to sit down and learn how to use QuarkXPress à la Phil Baines. You can just imagine how fastidiously constructed my documents were – and still are – such was my nervous disposition. Thanks Phil!
Who is the best creative you’ve worked with?
I’m currently working with Stanley Donwood, who was a major reason for me wanting to become a designer. I’ve always admired the way he refuses to rest on his laurels, instead continuing to produce groundbreaking and challenging work. I think it shows great character and integrity to step away from something that is clearly working for you, to reinvent yourself with each new project.
Since starting your new studio, what projects are you most proud of and why?
When striking out on your own, there’s a big part of you that believes you won’t get any work so, honestly, every job that comes in makes me enormously proud.
The satisfaction is so much more tangible when you are in touch with all the facets of a company and, weirdly, I’m really enjoying learning more about business. Also, I now have a much more direct relationship with my clients, which is making the design process a whole lot easier.
Which campaign, design or book cover do you wish you’d created?
I’d love to be the official designer for Resonance FM (104.4). I like the idea of designing a letterhead for an organization that thinks nothing of broadcasting a refilling cistern or insects having sex.
What has been the biggest change in the design world since you started out?
Increasingly, a designer’s job description is becoming all-encompassing. It’s now reasonable to expect a designer to pitch for work, execute it, manage the repro, buy the printing and then manage the print run.
This is probably a very good thing as it forces us to consider budget, print processes and the virtues of the tactile but you can’t help spare a thought for the highly-skilled production managers, repro houses and typesetters that appear to be falling by the wayside.
What’s the biggest challenge for design agencies like yours?
I think, to stay small enough to ensure we’re doing creative work most of the time, and yet have enough presence within the industry to attract interesting new clients.
What gets you up in the morning?
I’m lucky enough to have a job that feels more like a hobby.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the design industry?
You don’t necessarily have to position yourself as a jack-of-all-trades in order to find work. In an ever-swelling market of multi-skilled, technicallyliterate designers, it’s often a more singular, focused approach that can lead to a more regular, trusting client base.
What’s the most amazing piece of design you’ve seen recently?
A friend rsent me a video clip of Marion Bataille’s joyous pop-up alphabet, ABC 3D. It was more proof that books are not yet looking for a quiet place to die.
What are you working on right now?
The third and final series of Great Ideas (Penguin). Although at times it can feel like the ‘difficult third album’, we’re having fun trying to reposition the series and see how far we can push the ‘type as image’ concept before it becomes apparent that you can’t actually read the things.
David Pearson’s design work has included Penguin’s Great Loves (above, top), Great Journeys, Popular Classics and Pocket Penguins series; and the relaunch of Zulma (above). His design direction and cover work on Penguin’s Great Ideas collection (below) won him at Yellow Pencil at the D&AD Awards in 2005.
David Pearson, www.davidpearsondesign.com