Illustrator David Doran's new type-based prints explore the beauty of cities around the world

David's debut book of prints, Alphabet Cities, is inspired by vintage travel posters and his love for experiencing different cultures.

British illustrator David Doran's great love for travelling, experiencing culture and vintage travel posters has propelled his latest book - a beautiful treasure trove of 32 pull-out prints illustrating major cities around the world.

Despite being David's debut book, Alphabet Cities: Around the World in 32 Pull-Out Prints carries finesse and character. The typographic alphabet book was published by Penguin Random House last week, but David worked on the project for over a year -– drawing each print by hand before applying a digital finish.

The book contains posters of 30 different locations, taking inspiration from vintage design such as 1950s adverts and early Underground posters. The prints are designed to be be pulled out and framed, with interesting facts about each city placed on the back of each one. 

David had previously worked with Ebury editor Elen Jones, and the pair wanted an opportunity to work on another book together. With Elen’s idea for a typographic alphabet book, and David’s love for travelling, Alphabet Cities was born.

The book displays David's multi-faceted, colourful graphic style that plays out in organised chaos, such as in his poster illustration for the BAFTA awards earlier this year and his matchbook design for Bernstein & Andriulli’s portfolio book

Image: David Doran

David used one colour palette to work across the wide range of destinations, including both warm pink, red and yellow tones and cooler blues and greens.

We spoke to him about the research that went into Alphabet Cities, how he decided on which elements from each city to include, and what it's like to work within a formulaic layout.

Image: David Doran's London pull-out print

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Miriam Harris: How did you decide which landmarks from each city to include?

David Doran: "I wanted to work with a combination of recognisable landmarks and more subtle elements of a city which captured the atmosphere and character of the place.

I enjoyed using Big Ben as the focus on the London poster, and in contrast focussing on the water towers of New York, rather than a more obvious choice like the Empire State Building, or the P for Paris being found in a lamp post.

The level of which the letters stand out in each picture varies from page to page. My plans were for readers to be able to discover the letters for themselves and to be able to enjoy the posters on multiple levels."

Image: David Doran

MH: Which was your favourite city to illustrate and why?

DD: "New York is one of my favourite cities, I love to dip into the busyness for inspiration. I enjoyed working with the composition of the poster for New York, and the level of detail I could bring into the image. There’s something very satisfying about working with the shapes of New York buildings."

Image: David Doran

MH: Talk us through the creative process.

DD: "Each poster began with researching each city (unfortunately the budget for the book didn't stretch to cover a world tour for research purposes) I’d then create sketches, finding ways to involve the letters for each location.

I draw each image by hand, first with pencil, then ink pen. Then, the drawings are scanned in and worked on digitally, adding textures and tones, working in layers in a manner that takes inspiration from traditional printmaking techniques."

Image: David Doran

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MH: How was illustrating for Alphabet Cities different to your other work?

DD: "The scale of this book was vastly different to my normal projects; I've worked on many quick-fire editorials or ad campaigns which have taken a few months, but this book took over a year from beginning to final publication.

I really enjoyed working within the boundaries of a formulaic layout; My aim was for the book was to have good rhythm and continuity from page to page, offering something different to see in each city, but remaining part of the same world.

I enjoyed the challenge of making the one colour palette work across each varying poster, highlighting different elements of the cities climates or culture."

Image: David Doran

MH: Are you wanting to illustrate more books after this one?

DD: "Absolutely! There are plans in the pipeline. I love how books balance out more commercial illustration work."

MH: What other upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?

DD: "I have on-going editorial and advertising work, as well as hopes for more books. There are also plans to travel more and create work inspired by these experiences."

David works from his studio by the sea in Falmouth, illustrating for international brands, editorials, festivals and publishers.

Image: David Doran