Meet the father-son duo behind Stages Cycling design
Did you catch our April Fool's Day post, launching the Stages Duo tandem bike? Or catch a glimpse of the thoughtfully detailed custom bike surprise for Stages Cycling CEO Jim Liggett at Stages' 10 Year celebration? Stages Cycling's only full time in-house designers are father-son duo Michael Stowe and Ilin Graves, whose synchronicity has been key for tackling projects from all sides of the business. Whether a project request is for a Stages Cycling professional cycling team, or for launching the newest commercial indoor bike, these two work together to meet the need.
Michael Stowe is the Senior Designer at Stages Cycling, and has been with the company since its beginning, even designing its logo. As business grew and Stages Indoor Cycling launched its custom bike program, which leans on Stages designers to bring a studio's vision to life, Michael's son, Ilin Graves was hired to fill out the team. Michael and Ilin work in a variety of mediums out of Stages' Boulder, Colorado office, ranging from video to photography to brochures to bike decals.
Q: What is your relationship with cycling?
MS: I have been involved in cycling since my early teens. With my dad and two brothers all into cycling and racing, my father’s checkbook alternated between groceries and our local bike shop. Eventually my dad decided it was cheaper to just buy the bike shop, which he did. I quickly became the head mechanic and went on to work at several more bike shops through school and world travels that eventually lead me to Schwinn headquarters in Boulder where I met and have worked with [Stages Cycling Executive Team] Pat, Doug, Andy and Eric for around 25 years.
IG: Personally I've only dipped my toes into cycling a few times in my life, I used to do a lot more BMX a few years ago but I've also done a little bit of road cycling since my father's side of the family is very into it. Either way, I've been around cycling for my entire life so I'm no stranger to the scene at all.
Q: What are the fun projects for you at Stages? What do you enjoy most?
MS: I enjoy anything that checks the box for the person that has a request. Every ad, every design, every video request is somewhat unique. If we get it right and folks are happy at what we create, that makes my day. The fun projects are things like the April Fools ad, ten year anniversary bike, cool t-shirt designs, fun posters, etc.
IG: The most fun projects in my opinion are when we get to go out and film some of the more exciting stuff for our outdoor and real-life videos. Being able to watch a sunrise from the mountains while filming video out of the trunk of a car is by far the coolest thing I've ever done for a job and I'm always stoked to be a part of anything like that. Beyond that I usually have a decent time creating some of the more interesting indoor bike designs for gyms all over the world, some are more fun than others but it feels good to have a hand in creating them.
Q: You two are in a unique position at Stages Cycling in that you have daily crossover between the outdoor consumer business and indoor commercial business. How does that enable a unique perspective? How does working on a project for outdoor differ from working on one for indoor?
MS: We do get unique perspective across the two sides. I try to keep the two aligned as far as look and feel but they do have their own special flavors. The indoor side is more playful and flashy quite often while the outdoor side is more matter of fact. On the outdoor side we focus a lot on cyclists and teams that use our products to train and race. On the indoor side we focus on you, the user and your personal experience.
IG: I'd have to say that I definitely spend a lot more time working with indoor than outdoor, but that being said I think the outdoor side of things definitely has a much more straightforward feel than indoor does a lot of the time. With outdoor I think our style and presentation is very refined, while indoor is still growing and changing to get to that point, so working on anything art-wise for either one can be a very different process.
On the outdoor side of the business we focus a lot on cyclists and teams that use our products to train and race. On the indoor side we focus on you, the user and your personal experience. - MS
Q: What is it like working together? How does your relationship affect how you work as a team?
MS: Ilin and I make a great team. I have backed off of the 2D and graphic design space and focus mainly on photo and video. Ilin is a much better artist than I, so it works out well. We often both touch the same job and the results are generally seamless. Guess that happens when it’s a father son team.
IG: Being able to work right next to your father might not be something that a lot of people would enjoy but I can definitely say my dad and I have a synergy that I would have a hard time finding anywhere else. That's probably due to the fact that he taught me nearly everything I know when it comes to the basics of artwork and composition, so when it comes to asking questions or brainstorming on any ideas we can always come to a common ground with ease. I always look forward to anything we work on together, and I also enjoy doing things on my own and getting his thoughts as well as vice-versa. Things just flow really well between the two of us in general.
My dad and I have a synergy that I would have a hard time finding anywhere else. That's probably due to the fact that he taught me nearly everything I know when it comes to the basics of artwork and composition, so when it comes to asking questions or brainstorming on any ideas we can always come to a common ground with ease. - IG
Q: Tell us a bit about your own artwork!
MS: I am all over the map as an artist. I have done everything at some point metal sculpture, stone sculpture, drawing, painting, jewelry, stained glass, photography, video. Photography was always my favorite though. Probably because I don’t have to keep that muscle flexed as much. I look at my drawings from back in the day and think, wow, I can’t draw like that now! So strange how it can go away if you don’t use it.
IG: My personal artwork is so far from anything I do for work so it's usually a surprise for people that see it for the first time. I mainly work on 3D-fantasy type artwork and it's all done digitally so I'm able to find some very unique spaces creatively, and I'm proud to say that my work is always something people haven't really seen before. I really can't do it much justice with words so if you feel inclined you can see my work on instagram.com/oozium.
Q: Are there any similarities in how you approach a Stages project with how you would approach working on your own art?
MS: Approaching a project at work is often quite stressful because you have to try to create what’s in someone else’s mind. And sometimes, you just don’t get there. When it’s your own project, no stress at all, you’re just out to create and if people like it, great! In fact it is a stress reliever when it’s your personal work.
IG: I'd say that when it comes to composition and making sure that the basics of how good artwork is laid out there are definitely some similarities between my artwork at Stages and my personal work, but beyond that the two are very different.
See samples of Michael and Ilin's artwork below. The first 3 images in the gallery are Michael's art and the second 3 images are Ilin's.