Early on, David Plunkert wanted to be a cartoonist, even going to the length of drawing full books for Marvel Comics when he was in high school. Ultimately he chose a different path, starting his career in graphic design and then moving into the world of illustration. He has developed a timeless tone that can be shaped to work for a huge array of applications. With a portfolio that spans They Might Be Giants to the New Yorker to WIRED Magazine, Dave has been able to create art that speaks, functions, entertains, and surprises.

Co-founding Spur Design with his wife, Joyce Hesselberth, Dave and the Spur team use design, illustration, photography, and more to help build identities and communications for all kinds of clients. As you listen to this episode, you’ll hear a very considered, humble approach, along with a sense of humor that is prevalent across much of Dave’s work. It becomes easier and easier to understand the demeanor and attitude that has enabled Dave to excel across disparate clients and media, along with driving through (and past) wave after wave of design trends.

If you had the opportunity to visit the Spur Design headquarters, you’d feel both a cohesive aesthetic and an experimental vibe, along with a healthy respect for the history of illustration and print media. Look deeper, and you’ll see sculpture, character development, and a level of storytelling that would be ambitious in anyone’s view. That’s the setting where we interviewed Dave, and here are Three Big How’s that will help any aspiring illustrator or designer get better at their craft:



“You have to be ready to make donuts every day, every week, every month, every year.” Replace donuts with pictures, and you have the recipe for continual growth and experimentation. This will also help you practice enough to then be able to solve any ask from a client. This “How” is as much about loving what you do as it is about always driving forward, accepting that getting better will always be based on exploration of your craft.


Treat the client and other artists like you want to be treated. In a profession where you are interpreting someone else’s need through your own creativity, there are many moments of debate and disagreement. Dave continually remembers that you all want the same things, and mutual respect will be a key to a successful outcome.


Develop something that’s just yours. Sure, pull from other artists, get inspired by what you see. But create something that is your own. This “research & development” will keep you satisfied and curious at the same time. You don’t necessarily have to aim for creating a new, groundbreaking, iconic aesthetic—you can if you want—but bring something to your art that is truly yours by researching what’s out there, finding inspiration in the everyday, developing a fresh take.

These all seem straightforward, but there’s much more to hear in this episode. We’ve kept this brief to respect your time, so spend your time on listening to Dave’s wisdom and insights in the podcast itself. Enjoy!

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