David Doran Draws For All of Us at Politico EU
There is so much going on in the world these days that it’s practically impossible to keep up with the news. There’s just too much happening, too quickly to keep stock of it all. Each news organization is doing what it can to keep their readers informed, but in a digital age they need more than deep investigation and brilliant analysis. They need to grab our attention and tell the story in a single composition, while remaining sensitive to the issues. It’s a tough balance but one David Doran has mastered. For months David has been working with Politico EU to help visualize some of their biggest stories and bring a creative approach to storytelling. And it requires him to be savvy. “It’s keeping a constant eye out on what’s happening in the world and being engaged with stories as they’re developing,” says David. “It’s finding something that translates nicely into visuals and has the potential to be explored differently through pictures rather than through a story.”
Whether it’s contextualizing the French Presidential Election, visualizing the Women’s March protesters and their effect on the national conversation, or understanding some of the issues around North Korea’s missile tests, there’s a way to look at these issues through illustration and design. David teases apart the issues and packages them in ways that are prescient and immediate. “I’m so really fortunate to work with Tim Ball, the creative director at Politico, and a lot of the time he gives me a lot of freedom. He has a lot of confidence in the ideas I come up with,” David explains. “It’s kind of a dream situation when you have someone who places that confidence in you.” They go back and forth on the concepts a lot of the time, but David is able to consume, digest, and compose the news and events in his own creative way. That means that what we see ends up being a pure creative expression of a response to world events.
David’s work has touched on most of the stories that have arrested global attention, but some stick out in his mind more than others. “I think my favorite to date might be the Women’s March piece. It’s called “Women with a Capitol W,” he says. “With these topics a lot of them are quite sensitive and so to be I had to be able to communicate that in a way that sensitively touched on the topic and gave respect to the women that were marching.” When we consume political news it’s easy to forget that every political actor is a human being, whether they’re sitting in a powerful seat, or marching against that seat. Each political action is a human action with human consequences, and ultimately the story of a politic is the story of a people. That’s what David illustrates, for Politico or for anyone else: our story.
Around the World with David Doran
The world gets smaller and smaller by the day. It’s not just that you can jet to the other side of the globe in half a day, but as we connect digitally the spaces between us disappear. We live in a global community with friends in cities from every time zone, include places we’ll never visit. But when communicating is this easy sometimes it’s easy to forget to actually get out there and see the world. David Doran wanted to bring the world a little closer to all of us in his new book ‘Alphabet Cities’ that features a unique construction of 32 different pull out prints, each as if it were a travel poster for the city. “It’s a collection of prints not just the normal way of looking at the book,” explains David. “It was born from a love of travelling and seeing different cities, to exploring places, and hopefully the book will give the reader a chance to explore different places.” The idea for this format came from his editor, but making travel posters is something that David is always down for.
To inspire the look of his work for the book, David references early Twentieth Century travel posters, a consistent source of inspiration for him. Usually he brings that inspiration to bear on work in different contexts, whether it’s a corporate advertisement or social media work created as an influencer. For ‘Alphabet Cities’ he got to actually make travel posters. “I find those images really inspiring,” he explains. “I always source them or mention them as a point of reference for visuals and aesthetic, and the way the images were created using really traditional printing techniques. This is the most direct reference to those posters, the most direct way of citing them as a reference.” Obviously he couldn’t print this book the way those posters were printed in the Twentieth Century, but the look and feel can be kept alive.
The book is a beautiful way to travel around the world and get an impression of 32 different cities, but the world is bigger than what fits in this book, so David had to look at the entire world and figure out which cities should be included. At least one city matches each letter of the alphabet for the purposes of the book, spurring a process of elimination. He explains what the final list of cities represents: “Both my favorite cities and then also just researching and finding some of the more hidden cities and places that people don’t quite know about, but will discover through the book,” says David.
Once the list of cities was finalized he only had a single poster to represent, and in some ways explain, a whole city. So he had to be discerning with the representation: “In all cities there are particular elements that sum up the total feel for the place. So for example, New York City: the water towers make a lot of people think of New York but maybe not really think about how much of New York thing that is, so I use that as my main point of reference.” Each poster offers David’s impression of the city, a distillation of its identity in unconventional ways.
‘Alphabet Cities: Around the World in 32 Pull-Out Prints’ is currently available from retailers all over the world including Waterstones.
David Doran Brings Us to Croatia with Nissan
In the last couple years Dubrovnik has become a center of creativity. The Croatian city is a major location for Game of Throne’s shooting schedule, and has hosted Star Wars productions and named as a location for an upcoming Robin Hood film. It’s an unexpected and unique place, offering aesthetics that the visual culture hasn’t grown tired of yet, so it’s the perfect location for any artist. Earlier this year Nissan invited David Doran to go with them to Dubrovnik and test out one of their new cars, the Micra. He loaded up into the new, teeny car with his supplies, touring the area and bringing back with him an impression of the place for us to understand.
Dubrovnik is on the North shore of the Southern half of the Adriatic Sea, down near Bosnia and Montenegro, giving it a nearly subtropical classification: it’s a nice place to be. The city has been around for at least a thousand years, jamming together ancient architecture with modern comforts, and roadways that dance over that history. David’s images play with these elements, focusing on how nature and the coasts of Croatia interact with each other. He created a collection of imagery in both his more commercial digital work, and through his sketchbooks.
The digital pieces show off the rich colors and lines of the sea and sky, with pieces of road and flora cutting between them as the touch of humanity peeks through. His sketchbooks pieces do more to show off human development: a pier reaching into the water and a corner of the city revealing that heritage architecture.
Not all of us get invitations to explore the newest, hottest creative location in the world, so we’re lucky that David’s there to take us along with him.
Photo of David Doran by Alex Penfold
Seeing the Unseen this Holiday Season
Every holiday season we’re awash with joy. It’s the reason for the season, after all, to come together and celebrate everything that we have – be it family or material things. But there’s a lot that goes unseen. This year many will go without, and whether or not we see them they will experience the holidays in their own way. This holiday season B&A teamed up with the creative agency Aesop and Unseen to create Unseen Christmas, a physical representation of the stories that go untold and a way to honor them in Christmas tradition.
Radio, Andrew Rae, David Doran, and Tom Jay each provided illustrations inspired by modern day slavery and they’re available to purchase or download and be turned into paper chains – a traditional way to decorate during the holidays. All proceeds from the purchases directly benefit Unseen, a non-profit that works to end slavery in all of its forms.
For his contribution, Andrew Rae’s work is connected to the story of Asif who escaped a torturous cycle of low or non-paying jobs after years. Andrew looked to literature for visual inspiration, diving into a story that’s no necessarily true but pervades our collective culture. “Charles Dickens was an inspiration for me for this project as he created characters that helped to educate people to the plight of people at the bottom of the pile,” explains Andrew Rae. “It seems to me that society is much more divided again as it was in Victorian times with all the wealth in the hands of a small elite and so it’s time to try tell these types of stories again.”
Tom Jay was provided with a story about an African immigrant who came to the UK chasing hope for a better life but found herself thrown into unpaid service for her aunt. “Manisha came to the UK to live with her aunt who said she would get her into school and look after her. This didn't happen and she spent her days cleaning, cooking and doing housework and was beaten,” explains Tom Jay. “It was important to me take part in this project as slavery in this country is real and happening right now, often behind closed doors. I hope this project can raise awareness of modern slavery, and help support victims that come to Unseen for help.” The circular pattern that Tom Jay’s illustration turns into when a link on the paper chain reflects how infinite this daily pain can become.
David Doran was given the story of Grace, an African woman who was kidnapped into sex trafficking. Instead of focusing on the horror, David made his work about Grace herself, celebrating her humanity and what it took to escape that horror. “I like to use illustration as a way of communicating visually, and often focus on including hidden concepts in my work. The idea of incorporating a lock and key in the Christmas themed pattern seemed a strong but sensitive way to communicate the topic whilst avoiding being too crass or graphic,” says David Doran. “It was an honour to be able to work with Unseen and to help raise awareness of a situation so shockingly close to home.”
Finally, Radio tells the story of a worker from Unseen who is burdened to see what most of us never will. Facing such darkness is a service to the idea of freedom and the sacrifice of gazing into that darkness hoping for chance to pull someone into the light is blessing to us all. There’s pain in there, but it is worth all of our celebration.
This holiday season do not forget those who have less, and say a prayer for them, and for all of us.
David Doran's Rich Cultural Brew for Nespresso
Coffee is a finicky plant. It requires very specific conditions, and minor variations result in different flavor profiles, textures, and consistencies. As a result, coffee is imbibed in as many different forms as there are varieties, and to celebrate a culture’s way of drinking coffee is to celebrate their people. This year Nespresso is celebrating the unique tastes of Brazilian and Columbian coffees and invited David Doran to help. Through a huge range of illustrations, David created a veritable library of imagery that Nespresso used for packaging, social media, advertising, and in-store installations. “It’s really nice to see. It’s good to walk into a coffee store and see people talking about the coffee, to search the hashtag and see everyone enjoying it,” says David. “And it’s really exciting to have a brand like Nespresso trust me with the illustration.”
To offer a fair representation of these cultures, David needed to understand them so he could translate them into a visual language. He couldn’t make the trip to Brazil or Columbia, so he grabbed as many references as he could. “I’ve was given loads of reference material, and the ad agency that I was working with was visiting so they were making a video,” says David. Those visual references gave him cues that he used to bring an honest depiction of these places. “Picking up on the small details, the small nuances in the buildings, the way the roofs were tied in with all the small lines inside the buildings... that makes it very distinct,” says David. The personality of a culture is locked away in their aesthetic details; David uncovered those details and placed them at the soul of his work.
Often when a brand approaches an artist like David it’s to create an image or two that is repurposed across the brand's messaging. That kind of project can be limiting since every concept needs to be jammed in a single composition. David was liberated by the sheer volume of work he had to provide. It was a lot, to be sure, but it ended up creating a better context for the story he was helping to tell. “It was really nice to have the opportunity to work on so many pictures. It’s kind of another world and I think that comes across in the whole campaign that they’ve invested in creating something,” says David. “The project itself is just trying to be genuine and respectful to the people and what inspires them. Hopefully that comes across in the pictures.”
David Doran Explores Aesthetic for Vogue
When David Doran was approached by Vogue to create a bespoke image for their latest piece about solo travel, it was a new client but it was also a thematic fit. David always brings his sketchbook with him wherever he goes. “Travel plays a large role in my work and is a theme that is constantly reoccurring,” says David. “I love to focus on different landscapes and always enjoy opportunities to illustrate different cultures.” Not only do those themes appear in his private work, he also draws deeply from the aesthetic tradition of the old ways of making postcards. This is on purpose.
The look is similar to old school printing because of the way he designs the images, but his process is obviously much different. He’s created a new way of building his imagery that makes for a wider range of creative agility, “It’s a bit similar to the screen-printing process where you have layers of color and then instead of printing at the last minute, instead I put the layers through the computer and draw everything together,” explains David. Each layer comes together into a final composition that acts like a screen print, and can be edited like a screen print, but shirks the unpredictability of that traditional process, and makes for a consistent and editable look that is so important to larger clients.
“I enjoy the tactile way of creating the layers by hand and taking influence from the past and traditional ways of working,” says David. “The old ways they printed books, using four colors and offset printing; it really does influence the way I think about making a picture. I think about it in terms of how many layers of color there will be and how the layers of color will overlap and create different tones and different textures.” As each subject enters his artistic periphery, he’s already breaking it down into its constituent parts, and assembling the final image through his unique process.
He’s been working this way since the beginning, but each client offers unique challenges that shape their final outcome. “Vogue is quite a chic client, and they influenced the way I approached the project,” says David. “To create elegant pictures where the compositions are simple there are areas of space in the picture and the colors are quite sophisticated.” Vogue’s aesthetic became David’s aesthetic, melding with his process to create a final image that was true to David’s process while feeling familiar to Vogue’s readers.