Today I spoke to the multi award winning designer, keen cyclist and triathlete Bruce Doscher to chat about his own incredible annual illustration – based Tour de France. Bruce goes through the daily deadline pain barrier to produce a poster for every day of the Tour de France as it happens.
Tell me a bit about your career?
Well, I’m originally from New York and I started off studying engineering but realised after a year it really wasn’t for me. I thought it was going to be more like architecture, designing bridges and impressive structures like that, but it was more mathematical and mundane, and less aesthetically pleasing and creative than I’d hoped. I then switched to Electronic Media Arts, I graduated in the late 1990’s and worked at a number of advertising agencies in New York and San Francisco.
What gave you the idea to produce the Tour stage posters?
It was a self promotion idea. When my wife and I moved over to New Zealand we spent 6 months or so travelling around the country before deciding where to settle; Auckland seemed like the place for us. Initially because I was now a freelancer I needed to get my work noticed so I did a project based around the soccer [football] World Cup which was taking place that summer . I always watch the Tour de France and decided in 2010 it would be a great summer project to work on while watching the Tour, it combines two of my passions and it gives me a good excuse to watch the Tour de France. I can say it’s research! I probably didn’t stop to think how much work was involved at the time.
Are the images all digital or a combination?
I usually sketch a few ideas out before moving to Illustrator and Photoshop, I certainly did that last year a lot more, this year less so. The final output is always digital.
How long does one image take to produce?
I do one design a day, it’s a tight deadline but It’s doable, but I have to fit it in around my day job which is designing for paying clients so it involves a lot of late nights for a month! It’s a labour of love.
Do you plan your ideas before the tour starts?
I do tend to look at maps of the region and the stage profiles to get ideas, I also look at what the region is famous for to see if that inspires me. I did some early drawings for about 8 stages before the tour this year but they didn’t make it to the final designs. I’m more influenced by the action as it develops out on the road each day, and try to tell that story.
What are your design references for the images?
I mainly just use kind of old school art history books. I picked a couple of old books up from the library, One simply titled “Art Nouveau” by Berghaus. There is a similar book on Art Deco posters that I can’t remember the title of, possibly by the same author. Google was a huge resource. A search for Art Deco Cycling Posters is something I sifted through pretty regularly. Another site ffffound.com was and continues to be a valuable tool for inspiration. I just found and picked up a book called “Crazy4Cult: Cult Movie Art” which has some amazing (and current) poster art.
I really like the nostalgic feeling of old cycling posters, and was trying to incorporate that look. Maybe because just riding a bike feels a bit nostalgic, like when you’re a kid riding around your neighbourhood.
The style I like is somewhere between deco and nouveau. It has more precise angular, clean line of art deco, but not losing some of the hand-crafted feeling and charm of art nouveau. I lean more to the deco side I guess. It’s one of those things where I continue to find ‘my style’ by doing the work. My goal is to tell the story of each stage as simply as possible. Turning out a poster a day while balancing a full-time job and being somewhat social means time is always against me. In a way it’s good because it really does force me to boil things down to their simplest forms. The power of the deadline forces me to make decisions and live with them.
Have you ever thought about having a go at jersey design?
I have actually. It’s something I’d really love to do, but to get a small initial run produced can be so expensive. I’ve seen lots of companies online that allow you to design your own jersey but the production runs are probably more than I’d need for a trial. I’d love to do a collaboration with a cycling jersey manufacturer or have a go at designing a full pro cycling team kit.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
Actually I wasn’t into cycling at a young age. When I was a kid I would go out on my bike with my friends but nothing more than that, I was more of a runner, I wasn’t great [chuckles], but I found cycling in my adult life as I was training for marathons and then I started taking part in triathlons.
Have you ever been to the Tour de France?
I haven’t, I intend to at some point, but I’d have to set aside the time and fit it around work. I’d love to ride an Étape.
Your favourite or most memorable ride?
It wasn’t a race, but my most memorable ride was a particular training route in San Francisco. That’s where I really started to get into it. My usual training ride was “The Headlands loop”. About 18 miles [29K]. I would do it once or twice a week before work. It takes you out of the city over the Golden Gate bridge, and up into the Marin Headlands. A good hill workout. The view from the top of the sun rising over the city was always worth it.
Your biggest sporting acheivement, or the one you’re most proud of?
That would be the participation and training for the 2007 Ironman Arizona. I was in San Francisco and I agreed to take part in a triathlon in Arizona, so I started training on my bike as well as running. Then I moved with work and had to continue training in the freezing New York winter. I remember turning up to the local hardware store to buy pocket hand warmers and the staff thinking I was slightly mad when I said I was going on a 80 mile [128k] training ride. “80 miles?! I don’t even drive that far in my car!” was the guys reaction.
What’s the longest ever ride you’ve been on?
I did a 155 mile [250K] ride from New York City to Montauk, the eastern tip of Long Island. Long Island is pretty flat, which is good. Growing up there it felt good to conquer the distance.
Do you belong to a club?
I don’t belong to a club but I am aware of clubs in the Auckland area and I ought to get involved, at some point I will. At the moment I tend to ride solo, which I quite enjoy, but a club would be good. Maybe they could introduce me to some new routes. New Zealand has amazing scenery and places to explore.
Your worst injury?
I’ve not really suffered any major sport related injuries, but as a kid I broke my arm 4 times and it wouldn’t heal as I had a bone cyst. In the end I had to have a bone graft from my hip. This put me out of action for a long time and as a child it’s hard to deal with an injury like that, you see all your friends socialising, running around and having fun. Without realising I think this may have driven me later in life to take part in marathons and triathlons, When you’re ill for a period of time you do find yourself thinking about what you can achieve when you’re back to full fitness.
What would be your dream bike?
I don’t really have a dream bike, I have a trusty old Cannondale R700 and she treats me just fine.
What customisations have you made to your ride?
It’s fitted with time trial aero bars. It’s a triathlon bike as that’s mainly what I use it for, but I bought it already like that.
Do you have a favourite piece of classic cycling design or memorabilia?
I love the old cycling jerseys, I think I’d like to start a collection at some point.
Who are your cycling heroes?
Again I don’t really have any mainly because I came to cycling quite late on, I have current cyclists I admire, at the moment it would be Andy Shleck, he seems like a really nice guy and a very focused young rider. Lots of potential.
Your tip for the jerseys in this years tour?
Well it’s a difficult one to call, but I would say for GC probably Andy [Shleck] he’s not really had a chance to shine yet because they haven’t really hit the mountains. Cadel [Evans] is looking good too, but I think it will be Andy.
For green I’d like to think it’s going to be Mark Cavendish, but he will have his work cut out, there aren’t many flat stages left, he will have to continue to fight for intermediate sprint points and win the stages, but he’s tenacious. King of the Mountains jersey is a hard one to call, I wouldn’t like to commit myself. Same with young rider, I don’t know enough of the guys who are in contention this year.
Favourite coffee and apres tour treat?
For me it has to be a Latte, now that I’m in New Zealand, a Flat White. I don’t just have coffee after a ride, if I can get a few in before and during I’m happy! My post-ride snack would be a chocolate chip muffin, but I’m more interested in my caffeine fix.
Bruces sporting acheivements:
Nine Time Marathoner (PR Paris 3:14:58)
Ironman Triathlete (PR Arizona 12:37:49)
Bruce’s Design Awards:
Cannes Cyber Lions — Shortlist
New York Addy — Gold
Communication Arts Annual (2008) Creativity Awards — Platinum, Gold
New York Festivals Award
5 Webby Honoree Awards
FWA — Site of the Day (2010)
Creative Review Annual (2004)
My thanks to Bruce.
©Copyright 2011 Anna Magrath @ Cycling Shorts. Please do not reproduce any content without permission from myself or Bruce Doscher.