Alumni Spotlight: Richard Pool
Tell us about yourself. What do you do?
My name is Richard Pool, I graduated from the illustration program in 2010. Straight out of college I worked as a product designer in the home decor industry creating products for Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Target. While that was awesome and I really got to sharpen my skills, producing over 450 in-store products in 5 years, I felt like it was killing me designing things that would largely end up in the landfill as soon as the next trend came along.
At the time Instagram was still new, and I decided I would focus on my passion for cycling and bicycles with a dedicated illustration account to get noticed by that industry. I did illustrated bike part reviews at first (I do them to this day, so fun) then @bicyclecrumbs took off within the first year and I was doing collaborations with major brands left and right, including illustrations for Bicycling Magazine and other major publications. Eventually I got a cold call with a job offer to run the soft goods, hard goods, and paint design for the company I am with now, Speedvagen, out of Portland, Oregon. We packed up and moved west for the job. Over the last 5 years here I've worked my way up to Creative Director and Head of Marketing. I visually design some of the best custom bicycles in the world.
What led you to this profession or why did you choose it?
I feel strongly that your best work will come from what you love. You might love being a designer, but if you are designing for an industry you are not in love with then what will drive you to get better? You won't produce your best work and eventually you will be looking to move on. I love cycling and bicycles, I wanted to chase that as my full time job.
What does a typical day look like at your job?
Ha! It's so different day to day, as we are a small show of 10 people. My role is also pretty robust. From Design, to Photo, to Website.
Most days start with a 4 mile bike commute to the office. There I answer pressing emails on the marketing front. Before moving into my design duties. We own our own paint shop so we do custom bench mix colors for almost every bicycle. Early in the day I will review and approve colors for upcoming bikes, then likely move on to the paint design for the next ones in line. I do a lot of physical mock ups wrapping tube shapes with paper to make sure everything lines up well. Usually at lunch we as a shop do a 10-20-mile bike ride then come back and it could be updating our website, or photographing a completed bike or designing our next run of soft goods.
From there I head home, I still do a ton of freelance illustration and design work every night after my kids go to bed.
What is a favorite project you have worked on and why?
AHHH!!!!!! There are so many. Just recently we collaborated on a paint scheme with Nate Van Hook a legendary Nike shoe designer who designed The Air Yeezy 2. It was rad to play art director to someone so big from a different field.
My first illustration for Bicycling Magazine was such a trip, I still love the art and it's a good example of my earlier style. A hyper digital skewed perspective. Opening that magazine to see your work is so rewarding.
My favorite has to be a recent collaboration with Pursuit Cycles. Carl Strong is one of the best bike builders on the planet and someone I greatly admire. He made me a custom carbon fiber frame for me to do whatever I wanted with the paint design. I came up with this super poppy, house plant paint scheme. I just love this bike and the happiness it brought during the pandemic.
What advice would you give your college self?
Dead honest (I'm sorry, Barry) I wish I was more serious. I partied a bit too much and my skills really didn't start to show until late into senior year. I limped through the program and I feel like if I would have been more dedicated, I would have known earlier what was right for me. I wish I realized sooner that the day you graduate, everyone standing next to you is your competition. You should have a hard and honest look at your skills and how you stack up to your peers. This should be your motivation.
The years you are there you should take every piece of advice and tip seriously. The educators there have an amazing skill-set and are allowing you to tap into that. That's an incredible resource you all should take advantage of.
What makes you proud to be a KU Alumni?
We have an elite program, and the education is top notch, you will 100% get out of it the effort you put into it. KU was a fantastic place to grow as a person and expand interests in art. I met my wife freshman year at the dorms (we were on the same floor of McCollum) 11 years later Lawrence is still so special to me and my family. I can only hope my kids will choose to go to KU.