Profile: Alex Trochut

His technique of combining typography and illustration has garnered this young Catalan graphic designer an impressive client list of local and international brands. John Stones talks to the self-styled digital craftsman in his Barcelona studio

With his work gracing magazine covers around the world, and advertising agencies falling over themselves to get a piece of his distinctive mix of typography and illustration, Catalan designer Alex Trochut can safely be described as being at the top of his game. Despite being only 28 and having set up on his own just three years ago, Trochut already has an enviable client list, including the likes of Nike, Microsoft’s Zune, British Airways and Cadbury.

’A graphic designer who uses illustration and type’ is how Trochut carefully defines himself. And while type is in his blood – his grandfather, Joan Trochut, was an innovative typographer – Trochut found his personal way to the subject before discovering the work of his grandfather, who his family had always simply referred to as a printer.

After studying in Barcelona and a brief stint of two months in the studio of Javier Mariscal (’I only really met him like twice,’ he says), Trochut went to Berlin where he learnt what he describes as ’the discipline of formal information design’. Back in Barcelona he worked briefly in a similar vein, before joining Vasava, a quite different kind of graphic design consultancy which, he says, allowed him to adopt a much more ’personal and expressive way of working’.

In 2007 he went freelance in his home city of Barcelona. ’I love the feel and attitude of the creative people here,’ he says. ’I feel very Catalan, and would love to do more locally, but the commercial market is very conservative.’ As a result, nearly all his work is conducted by e-mail. ’At the beginning I went to some cities, but now I think it is better to have a good website than go knocking on the door,’ he says.

While most of his clients are major international brands, he also works for Catalan pilsner brand Estrella, recently completing a print campaign for ’the beer of Barcelona’, inspired by local greats Joan Miro, Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali. Like their work, much of Trochut’s output features highly involved organic shapes, such as his recent poster for US rock band The Decemberists. ’It is important to know your roots and to connect with the things you have seen growing up,’ he says. Art Nouveau and psychedelia, too, have clearly impacted on his style, while Non Format and Mario Hugo are contemporaries he particularly admires. But Trochut says he is just as happy to draw inspiration from medieval art, such as the Book of Kells.

What is it that Trochut thinks attracts people to his work? ’People can see the hours of dedication. The work looks classic, but also contemporary,’ he says. ’I am like a digital craftsman – doing something not so big, small things where people can see the time you put in using typography or illustration, but always to solve a problem.’

Being flavour of the month has its own terrors – does Trochut worry that he might fall out of fashion as quickly as he fell into it? ’Of course. It puts a lot of pressure on you, and makes you want to evolve and change your style. A style is a dangerous thing and it will expire,’ he says. ’You can’t live with one style for a long time in the age of the Internet.’

Trochut is currently busy with commissions for several major clients, such as Chivas Scotch, Fila trainers, a UK science fiction festival and Zeit magazine, as well as Estrella. He is also a featured designer at Pick Me Up, the graphic design festival at London’s Somerset House in April, but says he may be too busy to attend.
While the craze for lettering continues, Trochut is keen to explore new avenues and prove he’s a designer using illustration techniques, rather than a pure illustrator. He has already moved from lettering into pure typography with his dazzling large-scale font Neo Deco, for boutique foundry Hype for Type. And as part of the quest not to be typecast (excuse the pun), Trochut is also currently studying for an MA in 3D design, ’just to see what that can give me’, he says.

All work by Alex Trochut

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