A Dozen Questions for Mr Walton
Trent Walton is a designer, speaker and relentless typographic experimenter with a passion for car culture, specifically 60s car culture of the United States of America. He lives and works in Texas Hill Country.
Walton is a founder and 1/3 of Paravel, a small web design company that combines his talents with those of Dave Rupert and Reagan Ray. Together the trio have been designing and building for the web since 2002 where their successes have included, amongst many others, the site for Microsoft’s Lost World’s Fairs project which gave rise to the creation of Lettering.js.
When not working at Paravel, Mr Walton is a tireless web typographer, forever pushing the boundaries of typographic possibility at his blog where he has championed an inquisitive and sharing approach to all the web has to offer in these typographically exciting times.
We asked Mr Walton a dozen questions.
Where did you learn your craft?
I’m self taught… sort of. For the past 10+ years I’ve been extremely fortunate to collaborate with people more talented than I am. I’ve done well to cherry pick skills and knowledge from my friends. Above all, the relationships and working environment we’ve built at Paravel is conducive to continued education and innovation. We’ve always been unafraid to try or learn new things because we’re so supportive of each other.
Who inspires you?
I’m most inspired by those with whom I work and collaborate, whether daily or with one-time projects. I love the experience of seeing how people approach their work. Understanding of how and why choices are made inspires me more than simply looking at final products.
What are your influences?
When I was a kid, I’d go to automobile swap meets and spend my allowance on car badges like this one from a Cobra, or this one from a Shelby. Of course, they never found their way back to actual cars, but I thought they were so badass that I just had to have them, so I stashed them in an old shoe box. I know I talk about 1960s American car culture a lot, but I believe it’s the formative foundation for my love of type and sturdy design.
One of your essays, ‘You Are What You Eat’, struck a cord with us. We’ve been pushing this sentiment to our students for some time. What did you eat to get you to where you are today?
I ate whatever the hell I wanted to! By which I mean, I pursued and experimented with whatever I was interested in and shared it online. Whether it’s experimenting with web type, or writing extended essays on movie stars, at Paravel we do what we love.
Your company, Paravel, consist of a jolly collection of childhood friends. Would you be able to produce the high-calibre work you’re undertaking if you weren’t shacked up with your high school sweethearts?
Who knows. I wouldn’t prefer it. This pattern of finding a team and sticking together for the long haul has been modeled for me extensively. My Dad was with two co-founders at his company for over 35 years. Even bands I love (like Pearl Jam or The Foo Fighters) are interesting to me mostly because of how they’ve managed longevity. There was a lot of head-butting early on at Paravel, but we’ve continually invested in each other and resolved to stick together. Now, my favorite thing we’ve built together is our working relationships.
How does being from Texas influence your work? Do you think it would be different if you were instead located on the east or west coast?
Oh gosh, I’m sure it’d be different, but I couldn’t imagine it. Texas has always been home to me, and I’ve learned there’s no substitute for living where you want to live.
With a significant and relevant body of work to back it up, and having reflected and written on the topic, including coining the wonderful phrase ‘Content Choreography’, you have become somewhat of a poster-child for responsive design. Is this a determined effort, or a happy accident?
I’m not too interested in how people perceive me relating to responsive design, aside from the fact that I want Paravel to be hired to do it. If I’m putting a determined effort into anything, it’s helping RWD be better understood and practiced. This approach has restored my sense of wonder for web design, and I’m thankful that I don’t have to learn to build apps for every device to serve clients.
Your interest in web typography has not gone unnoticed. What advances are you looking forward to, what specific features in CSS specifications, future or present are you wishing for?
Experimental browser properties like
-webkit-mask-image: text interest me greatly. I’m also interested, but less studied and opinionated, in using OpenType features. Overall, anything that helps designers have greater control over web typography is a good thing in my book.
The care and craft you are putting into each article on your blog is the stuff of legend. Do you ever find that the level of effort becomes a hinderance for your writing?
Ha! I have a lot of fun working on articles for the ol’ blog. Dropping in custom design and code doesn’t make anything easier, but I like that it helps convey an idea while also giving me an outlet for front-end experimentation. I’ve got complete reverence for people’s time, and if they’re going to read what I write, I hope to make it as interesting, clear and concise as I possibly can.
What’s your favourite typeface?
Alternate Gothic by Morris Fuller Benton.
What’s your favourite plain text editor?
I just keep using TextEdit because it’s what Alfred App pulls up most often.
What’s your favourite tea?
Iced. Preferably next to a bucket of chicken.