Alex Trochut: Man of Letters.

The Graphic Designer On His Intensely Textural Typography.

One of the newest members at the Workspace, Alex Trochut is a Barcelona-born designer who has been based in Brooklyn for the last five years, where he has created a distinctive style of heavily-stylized type treatments. A poster campaign for Coca Cola is based around a red straw dotted with airbrushed beads of condensation that twists into an italicized "Ahh"; for a cover of Time Out London, pancakes layered with bacon are slathered in maple syrup whose drips form a treacly "BRUNCH" as it cascades down the stack. Trochut's hyper-realistic renderings are layered with letter treatments that often threaten illegibility but compel the eye to linger through painstaking detailing and a rich suite of Op Art-style illusionist's tricks. His treatment of words often has intensely cultivated dimensionality and visual weight, recalling masters of display types like Herb Lubalin and Milton Glaser, but as often as not they are then rendered in neon, highly reflective materials more familiar to Peter Palombi or the worlds of Hipgnosis.

Tell us about your education, where did you study and learn your art?

My background is in graphic design – I studied at ELISAVA in Barcelona, and little by little I've been incorporating illustration into type, and creating my own rules [for] typography. And that's what I do most of the time as a commercial artist.

I had great experiences with my bosses [early in my career], two years of experience in Toormix – they're more like Swiss-design oriented studio, they do branding, signage. They really helped me organize my ideas: I learned to justify everything – give it a purpose. And then I worked for Bruno [Selles], from Vasava, which was an amazing experience for just the opposite reason. It was a very nice playground, where I could learn from all the ways he used to express himself.

A lot of your work is typographically-oriented. Do you make whole alphabets?

Not really. My work is always for the custom user, for a very particular context: a logo or headline. I look at text as a puzzle, so I like to see how many pieces I have to play with. If I have to play with a whole alphabet, it becomes way more systematic reasoning. It becomes almost engineering.

But you use typography a lot, as well as illustration; your projects demonstrate a lot of different skills.

I think I was a product of my time. At the time that I started to work as a graphic designer, the tools for digital illustration were becoming more and more accessible. So that allowed a lot of craft to enter into the use of computers. And with my background in graphic design, naturally my language is letters – graphic designers appropriate from other disciplines, but typography is the one that's purely ours.

And typography is like a fashion, or music styles, it ties into our identities – it has a really specific place in time. Every country, every moment, has a translation into typography. Sometimes you don't even have to really read it to know what it's about.

I remember I did a job once just using "lorem ipsum," I wanted to do something cool with the letters, but the letters themselves had no meaning. I just used that as a pretext to work. That's where it started to click for me: I just wanted to play with these structures, to make something that's readable, but is really an image in the end, not a text.

Where did you get the impetus to start imbuing the letters with such intense, tactile, textures?

It's a game: as a designer, it's not your own idea, especially with text. The context is dictated by a message. And it's your job to give the message a style in the text, but at the same time it's not really your style. So I've always enjoyed that navigation: so now I have to do this airbrush looking thing to feel like the '80s, and another time this other technological feel. So I sort of shaped my style through my clients. Little by little it becomes like a restaurant menu, you know: "I want that macaroni."

Tell us about some of these experiences.

The covers I did for Penguin last year, [the Galaxy series] the sci-fi box set. It was a very nice brief coming from Paul Buckley. It was one of those projects that hit all the boxes for a dream job for me. And he also put some goals into it, some limitations that they were demanding: "there is not going to be any illustration," which isn't very typical for sci-fi. [Usually in sci-fi,] everything is about the illustration.

Whenever you have the opportunity to work with a good title, a good musician, a good book – it always makes your work better. Of course it's elevated.

Lately I'm really into the digital format for musical artwork. There you can really just forget about readability. Because it's always going to be printed in the iTunes or whatever. That's a big plus, and working with musicians, on projects that allow you to get a bit more loose.

It's funny, your memory always triggers things that you're not even aware of. Sometimes you look back and you realize this has so much of this and you were not even aware of it, it was a subconscious memory. It happened to me with an old piece from 2008, called Hyperspectrum – it's gooey, dripping texture of colors, it's a bit psychedelic, and it's cute, but it has a nasty feeling in it.

And then when my friends were showing me their collection of Garbage Pail Kids, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course: these shapes, this melting quality.

What projects do you have in mind for the Workspace here?

To use the 3D printer and the CNC – I'm looking into the idea of creating walls that could be divided by modular pieces of tiles. To make them in a way that they are ornamental, but also physical. The same way that Islamic art uses geometry but trying to use ornament in a physical way, in three dimensions. I would like to try to create structures that could be styles, but for walls.

I'm interested in experimentation – to have the space here, it's not like a weekend workshop, where you get excited for a few hours but then you just realize how little you know about that world, and you go back to your reality. This seems like a way to really go deep into something, and that's something I'm very excited about.

I always wanted to step out of the image, in the form of a screen, or a print. In the digital world everything is infinitely reproducible, I came here to create something unique.