Lifetime Achievement: Designer

The former Pentagram partner and editorial design legend David Hillman is D&AD’s most awarded designer. Here, Simon Esterson, a friend and former colleague, discusses Hillman’s remarkable career

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David’s career is incredibly long and it’s incredibly varied and that does mark him out from lots of people. So it begins at the Sunday Times, goes on to Nova, diverts to a morning newspaper in France and then he arrives at Pentagram and at Pentagram he redesigns The Guardian, and also works on business to business magazines like the Nursing Times and Building. It’s been a career working in a full-time editorial environment but also at one of the best design groups in the world.

His work is bold, and it’s dramatic and it’s uncompromising but at the same time it’s appropriate. A project with a small budget gets the kind of design that works with a small budget whereas a project with a bigger budget gets the kind of design that can exploit the sensible use of a bigger budget.

David approaches things from first principles – from his own instincts and his own observation. Like lots of great art directors and designers, when everyone else is zigging, he’s zagging. When you tell David ‘this is the way it’s done’ he’s bound to go in the opposite direction.

David is involved with a story from the moment the editors talk about it. Real art direction is not simply arranging things on the page once the pictures and words have been delivered, it’s imagining those things from the beginning, imagining how to handle a story, how many pages it might have. Is it photographed? Is it illustrated? The layout is the last stage in this process. A real art director begins with blank pages and David is a real art director. I look at a layout David’s done and there seems like there was no other way to do it.

The above is an edited transcript from a filmed interview by D&AD. See the final film on the CR iPad App

01 David Hillman
02 David King
02 Mike Dempsey
02 John McConnell
05 Gilvrie Misstear
06 Tony Meeuwissen
07 Michael Johnson
08 Marcello Minale
08 Brian Tattersfield
08 Michel De Boer