Interview by Sally A. Edwards
This interview first appeared in the print edition of BLAG Vøl.2 Nø 10, 2008
Introducing Alex Trochut, illustrator- extraordinaire. Alex caught our attention with his stunning typography. We wanted to share his work with you and discover how he makes these gorgeous pieces.
Please introduce yourself, including name, age and occupation. “I’m Alex Trochut, 27, born and bred in Barcelona. I always loved drawing and spent many hours doing this when I was a child. I wanted to study fine arts at the beginning of my adolescence but finally decided on graphic design because I thought I would find more fun in that field – don’t ask why. When I started studying some teachers told me design is not art, and then others told me the line that separates them was very thin. I always liked the second way of seeing design more.”
You’ve got quite a CV of education from study to internships, can you tell us where you went and some of the valuable lessons you were taught along the way? “I studied in Elisava, Barcelona. I did an Erasmus in Berlin, and started working with Alexander Branczyk at Xplicit and Moniteurs. I worked as an assistant for a typeface Alexander was working on, I learnt “eye- discipline” from him and also how to look at shapes with a geometrical and type perspective. “Then I finished my studies at Elisva and started working for Toormix. After two years working there, I learnt good methodology for being in a team work situation – such as finding a concept and developing it together throughout a rational process. Every idea that came through went via a meeting where everybody would talk, present new ideas and focus to arrive at the same concept. So it had to have justification from everybody in the team, in order to communicate in the most direct way to the receptor. Toormix gave me a solid “graphic design perspective”, which in turn helped me to create a clever synthesis in order to communicate an idea. I learnt so much in Toormix from the rational to the rules side of design. It put a stamp on my professional career. However, after two years I needed a new way of looking at design. I always loved Vasava – since I was in school, and there weren’t many studios like Vasava in Spain. I wanted to explore different visual languages to find a way to express myself and Vasava was basically the place to go.”
When did you first get into designing type?
“Vasava gave a very broad freedom and trust, working with Bruno Selles was the most intense and fun experience I had ever. It was a dream to me because I found the right clients for the kind of design I wanted to do. To find the people that need what you want to offer them is very important I think. I’m not saying the designer should not be flexible and adaptable, but it is key that you find a good combination between the brief and yourself to make it shine, particularly when we’re talking about emotional design. “Vasava were my best years and experience before going freelance. The solutions to a project would multiply themselves, there wasn’t a unique solution anymore, so the process was very intuitional and spontaneous. I think Vasava has a special atmosphere, and makes you learn from your own experience, just by being in contact with the visual side of design that everybody there is sharing.”
Typography is pretty complex and verging on mathematical. How do you start a new typeface? Do words inspire you, or is it the shapes of other design? “I’m more of an image consumer than content consumer – which is a subject I’d like to balance, but since I started to work as a designer, shapes were the ones that gave me all the inspiration that I sought. When I work on new typography or lettering, I usually try to work on a structure, a geometric or modular base that makes the designs feel graphic. It always depends on each case, but that usually always works well as a starting point.”
Your work is stunning and has a full life lifting from a flat page, I’d ask you your secret, but that wouldn’t be fair. So instead, can you take one piece of work and describe it for us? “I usually work on quite literal ideas, not so much in the way of concept translation or communicating an idea through a synthetic representation of it – not like a rational process. Sometimes I like to express ideas more through a visual game, and see the design as a puzzle that connects the present ideas. This was the case for the Xfuns Type / Soul miniseries of posters, in which I wanted to make a maze of abstract shapes that hide actual letter forms in the centre of the composition. So in the middle of the poster you can see a meaning from the abstract shape, which says Type and in the other one Soul – which is quite a statement for me too, as I think letters are a very flexible material. So this work was about bringing the ideas into this visual game, and putting the line between sense and no sense close to each other.”
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You’ve done some great work including The Rolling Stones record cover. Can you tell how this came about? “This was a commision from Zip Design, the guys there knew exactly what they wanted for the Rolled Gold cover including a golden ribbon that bends into lettering. It was a pitch and after doing many tests this went into a focus group, which is basically a room full of people, with no relation to the project, who give opinions about the work presented and say what they think works better. It is always a very scary stage, as they don’t usually give you the expected results. I’m not a fan of focus groups at all! However, the design got through and after few minor changes went to the stores!”
A lot of artists use music to get them started and while they work. Are you in their gang? If so, what do you listen to? “Yes, I need to work with music. The good work appears when you have a particular kind of concentration, and music really helps me to have that and an isolation for my work. I basically listen to a lot of electronic music.”
If you could choose one word or phrase right now to use for a design, what would it be and how would it look once you’re finished with it?
“I just did a design recently with the statement Old is Cool. I really like the way designers worked in the old days, the time they put into their work and how crafted it was. Nowadays everything has to be done fast, to be consumed fast, people don’t work so much to make things last for a long time.”
What’s the future for Alex Trochut? “I hope I can keep learning and evolving, and be able to change at the same time that changes comes.”