Rouleur Cover Stories: Sir Paul Smith on Henri Cartier-Bresson

Sir Paul Smith, the designer of our subscriber edition cover of issue 50, chooses his favourite from the previous 49 editions.


Rouleur: Which cover is your favourite and why?


Paul Smith: I love the photograph on the cover of issue 34 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, taken in the Paris velodrome in 1957. It just sums up the wonderful atmosphere at track racing events at the time. His composition really shows the excitement of the sport.


Does it inspire or intrigue, or both? Or neither?


It’s a photograph that more than anything shows the power that’s required in cycling, especially on the track where the competition is so intense.


Any ‘highly commended’ runners-up that should be mentioned?


Issue 38 features a photo of Miguel Indurain which, interestingly enough, I own. When Indurain was at the height of his success, I was dressed head-to-toe in Banesto team kit myself, because he was one of my absolute heroes. He was just so strong, he had this incredibly low heart-rate. I was privileged enough to meet him last year at the Giro and he’s still looking amazing. Also his son is now a very good bike rider.

Another runner-up is issue 9, which shows the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The riders rode there this year during the Tour de France in appalling conditions and it was when Chris Froome was really taken out of the tour with broken bones in his hands. Riding any form of cobbles is just so difficult and it’s really admirable.


Colour is obviously hugely important in your work. Does that pull you more towards the colour images or illustrated covers, or do the black and white shots resonate more?


The black and white images to me have a lot of power because it’s very much about the mood of the occasion rather than it being a literal translation of the scene.


What was the starting point for your cover for issue 50? Your exhibition at the Design Museum showed an empty table in the middle of the office totally surrounded by a wonderful jumble of inspirational items from all over. Did that come into play, or was there already a clear idea in mind?


Absolutely, it’s a part of the reason for this cover. Anybody who has seen photos of my office will know that it’s full of an amazing array of things, including a very large collection of cycling memorabilia, racing jerseys and bicycles. And so the cover really is just an example of the way I can find inspiration in everything and also my interest in all aspects of cycling that can go from photography to jerseys to the highly technical machines of today.


Riding the bike, especially solo, is good creative thinking time. Does it work that way for you? When you actually get the chance to ride, that is…


Cycling is a lovely time for thinking; the wind in your face and the sound of your tyres. One of the things that I found interesting when I was stood watching Ride London go by recently was the quantity of cyclists and the sound of the tyres. The streets were empty because it was pouring with rain and it was a really magical sound. So yes, very inspirational, because my life is very busy, so to be out on the bicycle on my own gives me time to think. It’s a delightful thing to be able to do.


Sir Paul Smith designed an exclusive subscriber’s cover of Rouleur 50. 

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