the cycling poster according to jackie swann

jackie swann design

around a week ago, i learned that our local council was offering what seems a particularly generous amount of money for a successful 'creative' applicant who would subsequently be charged with designing a series of posters ultimately destined for shop windows in various towns across the region. these, it transpired, would extol the virtues of shopping locally, as opposed to sending a lot of money in the direction of it seems that, despite claims that the world of print has declining relevance in today's pixelated, facebooked and twittered world, there is still demand for the printed word, at least in poster format.

jackie swann design

it's a situation with which i've had recent experience, in the light of the printed matter that currently adorns the office windows. these are mostly designed to advise that the premises remain closed to the public, offering alternative means of contact, while others entreat passers-by to support their local newspaper by way of a subscription. printed news has been in decline for some time all across the world, a situation we were once relatively shielded from by the nature of the community in which i live. however, the coronavirus pandemic closed many local businesses, at least temporarily, wiping out the bulk of newspaper advertising overnight. the recovery is proving a slow process.

but recovery has also proved to be the source of yet another poster campaign, on which visitors to the isle are asked to observe the current restrictions and advised to wash hands, wear facemasks and socially distance where necessary. unfortunately, this particular campaign seems hellbent on defying the whole point of a window poster in the first place. any poster that hopes to inform, midst a forest of surrounding posters, ought best advertise itself with a loud voice. those featured in the recovery programme err heavily towards subtlety, rather contradicting their intended purpose.

jackie swann design

but posters, as a genre, are not necessarily all about telling you stuff; some, like those produced by jackie swann, inhabit a more decorative role, geared more towards adorning sitting rooms, lounges, man and woman caves, or even cafés and bikesheds. for jackie has directed her considerable talents towards the veocipedinal realm, digitally illustrating cycling-related subject matter such as the 'vale of belvoir', bradley wiggins' hour record', and 'mont ventoux'.

"All of my career has been in Design (that's 23 years now!). I'm a qualified textile designer and I've designed all sorts of commercial products and worked for some big corporations. But seven years ago I was made redundant, offering the opportunity to go freelance, something I'd always wanted to try."

at this point, i couldn't help thinking of the archetypal joke that asks how you would make £1 million from cycling, the answer to which is "start with £2 million". freelancing is all well and good, but rarely is such a step taken to enter the world of cycling illustration exclusively. we might all spend more than we've got on carbon fibre and componentry, but none of the cyclists i know are inclined to spend heavily on framed wall accoutrements.

jackie swann design

"For the first few years, I created designs for gift wrap and greeting cards, lots of Christmas stuff, all of which honed my digital illustration skills. But the cycling illustrations really started because my husband is a very keen cyclist and time triallist. I created my first illustration of him racing on his bike in his club kit for his birthday, and that was shared on social media, which received lots of positive comments. Suddenly other people wanted to commission their own piece of art."

mr swann may well be a dedicated and competitive cyclist, but with no disrespect intended, his name hasn't featured greatly in the results of this year's milan-sanremo or tour of lombardy. closer examination shows that he's not even due on the tour de france startline this saturday. bringing those illustrative skills to the attention of a potentially adoring audience probably required a slight widening of scope.

jackie swann design

"I went on to illustrate Wiggins and Cavendish, in the hope that these popular cycling legends might appeal to a wider audience, and that maybe people would want to buy them. These caught the eye of a local Triathlon centre, asking If I'd like to put some of my artwork into their coffee shop. That was a great opportunity too good to miss, even though I actually didn't have too many designs at that stage. So I decided to expand my collection by illustrating some of the iconic cycling climbs of the French Alps. I wanted something contemporary that would look good on the wall, even if you aren't a big cycling fan."

i can see precisely from where jackie is coming from. even when i'm reviewing a bicycle costing several thousand pounds, i'm more than well aware that there will be very few readers actually in that sort of market, and even fewer considering that particular marque. so, while still trying to explore all aspects of the bicycle in question, i'm always hoping that the review is entertaining enough to be of interest to the majority who actually continue reading. jackie swann's poster designs would appear to have nailed it dead centre.

"I've continued to gain commissions and in-between doing those, I've added other climbs to my core collection. Majorca's climbs came after my own cycling holiday there. It's such a popular cycling destination, so I knew it would appeal to lots of people.With each collection, I've tried to maintain complementing colours and tones, so that they sit together well. I wanted Majorca to have hot, earthy colours that represents the terrain.
"However, at this stage It was all still just a sideline and hobby alongside my other design work."

jackie swann design

the mark of a good illustrator is an ability to create artwork that belies any possible lack of interest in the subject. it's rarely a great opening line to inform the client that the subject under discussion is a) not your particular cup of tea or b) the very theme in which you lack the necessary skills to create a lasting impression. but there's little doubt that enthusiasm can go along way, if only because that enthusiasm is likely fueled by at least a modicum of knowledge.

"I'm a keen cyclist myself and member of the local cycling club. My fellow club mates kept asking me to do some local scenes and hills. I don't live in a particularly hilly area but I though maybe, that incorporating some well-known local landmarks and cycling cafes might appeal. But time always seemed to be against me, and I kept putting them on the back burner. Then lockdown happened. Suddenly my part-time contract ended.
"So I was gifted this extra time to focus on updating my website and adding an online store for ease of ordering. And finally, I created those local illustrations and the response was quite overwhelming."

though i'm reluctant to, once again, use myself as an example, reviewing stuff eventually provided enough experience to engender a comfortable level of confidence when committing thoughts to pixels. it might surprise you to learn that the experience gained reviewing a pair of eyewateringly expensive carbon wheels is at least partially transferable to reviewing a cycle jersey from lidl.

"My style has evolved and I've incorporated my surface pattern design background, by adding geometric patterns into the landscapes. These really seem to appeal to a cross-section of people, not just cyclists, which is so rewarding.
"This sideline, hobby, passion or whatever it's called, has kept me busy over lockdown. I've never seen creating these illustrations as a job; I just love doing them and have a list as long as a very, very long arm, of iconic climbs, particularly in the UK, that I still want to create.
"I'll just keep going and see where it takes me."

jackie's impressive range of cycling prints can be seen at, and purchased from

thursday 27 august 2020

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................