Working In the Cycling Industry: Iryna Baklanava
Interviewed by Anna Maria Diaz-Balart
Photography by Laura Wilson
I met Iryna at a reception at her office at Cannondale in Wilton Connecticut. We sat outdoors taking in the gorgeous New England fall. As the leaves fell we chatted a bit about her work as a graphic designer, her inspiration, and how she dials in her designs for the female bike customer. Iryna comes across as every bit the creative type, but its clear that the passion for cycling is in her blood and drives everything she does.. She has a quiet, calm nature but is quick to crack a smile and laugh. Perhaps whats most clear is that she loves working with the women who make up so much of the team at Cannondale.
How did you get into the cycling industry? What did you study?
My family is tightly connected to cycling: my father, a former professional, is now a masters cyclist, and my brother used to race as a junior. Thus being around bikes constantly, and riding frequently, and just loving the road myself was my gateway to cycling industry.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I personally love industrial design and architecture. A lot of what I do is based on new ideas in IND. Fine art has a place on the inspiration shelf as well.
Is your work very collaborative? Who do you work closely with to make the final product?
We collaborate within a design group, as well as with other teams at Cannondale. Collaborating with the IND team allows us to show off the best features of the bike that they have been working on. We work very closely with product managers. Everything from getting ideas of the market trends to consumer preferences. The collaboration extends to what colors to chose for which bike, and which components on the bike will most elevate and support the design.
Are you ever really surprised by what consumers like?
So far there have been no surprises for me. We are trying to stay on-trend and look several years ahead, so most of the things that were proposed make it into the market and are successful.
Do you see women’s tastes change as they move from beginner cyclists to more advanced? Like is there a design equivalent to aggressive geometry?
Having spoken to a number of female cyclists, I have noticed that as beginners, women tend to go for either something a bit aggressive, or alternately something really simple and low key. They look for something without any gimmicks thats not too "girly." As they progress, and become more confident riders, I see them choosing loud graphics and really bright colors: pinks, purples and magentas. Not to say that this applies to all female athletes. At best this describes maybe half of the market, that’s what makes our job challenging!
What are you most proud of having worked on?
When I joined the Parts and Accessories team, I worked on changing the entire line of products within one calendar year. On a granular level, it doesn’t seem like a lot of work. But when you see the whole line together, you realize how much effort was put in in such a short period of time.
What is it like to work with so many other women that ride?
It's very rewarding to have the culture of cycling integrated into your day to day work. It can be a stressful day, a week, a month. But when you hit the pavement with the girls during lunch ride, or get in really early in the morning before the workday starts for a quick, flat “wake me up” ride – it clears your head. Riding with the other women at Cannondale, you get to share tons of cool ideas on the road. Also everyone understands that no matter how busy it gets, if you need to get away from your desk and ride, its absolutely, totally normal. What’s even better than that is that the women here can kick ass on a road bikes and mountain bikes. Just as much as any of the men that work here!