His name is what would first come to mind when you think of responsive web typography and subtle, retro grunge. Trent Walton is one-third of Paravel, the guy who writes about the future of the interwebs, and one of the designers behind The IE9 Lost World’s Fairs. His taste for typography, fluid web design and textured faded art is what makes Trent Walton one of the many great designers we all look up to and admire. And here at The Industry, we just got the chance to interview him (spontaneously!) on Paravel, what motivates him, how living in Texas impacts the way he designs, and what an alternate universe version of him would do.
I think the most interesting way to begin an interview is by asking the person how they got into design in the first place. Where did you start, and how did you get into design?
The furthest I can trace things back would be to my tendency to collect things as a kid. I’d buy things like car badges, logo patches, and old car manuals for no reason other than I liked they way they looked. I think these early experiences at car shows and swap meets helped form my love for type and design in general. The rest is pretty typical. I bought Photoshop and started color burning layers and all that.
How long ago did you start designing? Actually, how long have you been designing?
I’ve been a web designer in some form or fashion since 2002 when Dave Rupert taught me HTML before heading to teach English in Japan.
Nice! That’s not too long ago, either! Now, where and what places have you worked at?
Aside from a year or so designing in Houston, TX for a few industrial contracting companies, I’ve pretty much been working as the founder of Paravel. I really like it that way.
You’re 1/3 of Paravel, and the Paravel brand is a really big brand people look up to— including myself! Who do you look up to?
Outside of web design, I’d say my father. He helped start a successful company and stuck with it for 30+ years before retiring. I try to mimic a shred of the patience and dedication he’s shown in my own life.
What affects the way you work? What inspires you? Motivates you?
The more I know about the objectives & goals of a project the better. What story are we telling? What are we trying to connect users / visitors to? Constraints are good.
I also get excited when things change. I think I’ve been spoiled by web fonts & responsive web design in that way. I thrive on uncharted territory, so experimenting with new stuff is when I’m happiest. That’s where things like Lettering, FitText, and FitVids come into play.
What was a defining turning point in your life? What was the riskiest decision you think you’ve made?
Quitting a job to start Paravel was risky, but I’d say that things became more intense when Dave & Reagan decided to join up. I was humbled by their trust and think that initial commitment to stick together for the long haul has paid off.
I also became a father last year. I love it. It’s like someone took a huge chunk of my hopes and dreams and put them in this other person. As Dwayne Smothers (the owner of our local car wash says), “Parents, man. They just want their kids to shine.”
— Photo by Trent Walton on Flickr.
What’s an average day like for you? What does your workspace look like?
Up early (around 6:00) to get breakfast, hang out with the family and exercise before climbing the stairs to my above-garage office at 8:00. The rest of the day is improv, and usually centers around Basecamp and Campfire. For more on my office: http://twa.lt/w1wocr
Cool! Though, that’s just an average day for you, I’m guessing. How does Paravel work? Do you, as a team, collaborate often or…?
We each work out of our home offices, but get together weekly for planning & sketching days. Because we’ve known each other for so long, we’re able to communicate effectively though text / chat.
We’ve found that extended periods of working together tend to degrade to afternoons spent watching Double Dare outtakes :)
Haha! Okay, so you live in Texas, right? How does your location impact your design?
I’ve found that there’s no substitute for living where you want. I’m happy in the Texas Hill Country, and I plan to stay here.
Very nice. Now, where or how do you position yourself as a member of our community— our industry we call “design?”
Oh, I don’t know… work hard and be nice.
Where do you want to see yourself in 5-10 years?
Still at Paravel. Maybe we’ll decide to build something for ourselves one day soon. We’ve got some ideas, but are pretty picky about being sure they’re fully-developed before we dedicate lots of time to them. Whenever we hit that switch, we want to be sure it’s going to be fun.
What’s playing? What kind of music gets you “in the zone?”
I usually prefer older stuff when working, just to feel less digital. It’s rare that a day goes by without listening to Willie, Waylon, or Bob Wills at some point.
If there was an alternate universe version of yourself, what would you be like there?
I’d love to beam myself to a land where I get to work outside, maybe as a farmer. But then again, I’d also have to be stronger and less lazy to pull that off properly. And while I’m at it, how about trading the nutritive properties of things like cheese and bacon for broccoli and Kale?
Ending the Interview
Well, at least now there’s someone else I know, aside from myself, that loves listening to Bob Wills! Thanks Trent, for that wonderful, insightful, interview. Personally, I’m a true fan of his work too, and having the chance to interview him (spontaneously!) was a delight.
You can find Trent Walton on his blog— where he writes about things he’s learned for and from the internet— on Dribbble, Twitter, Flickr, and at the Paravel website itself. He’s also big on Zootool, and Rdio, too.