Andrea Alfonso Trabucco-Campos utilises typography as “a vehicle to articulating identity”
Tension, concept, collaboration and research underpin all of Andrea’s projects which are executed with a typography-first mindset.
- Ruby Boddington
- 14 December 2021
Brooklyn-based graphic designer Andrea Alfonso Trabucco-Campos understands the concept of identity on a deeply personal level. An Italian-Colombian, he grew up bouncing between Tuscany and Bogotá. Then aged 16, his family moved to Miami and, a few years later, he wound up in New York. “As a kid who grew up in-between different cultures (compare Tuscany to Bogotá, Miami to NYC), I’ve had to rediscover my identity with each relocation,” he explains. At the heart, there’s always been a questioning, a struggle and a search for who I am: Italian, Colombian, American, all, neither? This tension fuels his desire to get to the core of others’ identities too; whether that be an organisation, brand, studio or individual. The means through which he has discovered to do so is graphic design, specifically, branding. “Is an identity a series of contextual conventions or someone’s essence?” Andrea questions through his philosophical practice.
For two years now, Andrea has been creative director at Gretel, leading a team of designers, strategists and copywriters. Before that, he was an associate partner at Pentagram and, in 2019, he helped James Hurst open and run a New York office for DesignStudio. He’s also attended Type@Cooper and taught graphic design at SVA for some years. It’s an illustrious CV so it’s incredible to discover that, throughout his career and still today, he manages to find time to work on personal projects. While recently, since having a son, he’s had to become particularly selective with what he takes on, Andrea explains that these projects are fundamental to who he is as a designer. “They allow a different form of expression, a place where I continue to develop my own voice and thinking as a designer,” he remarks.
One such project is titled Odd Apples. Andrea has been working on it, on and off, since 2018, when he met photographer William Mullan. At the time, Andrea was working on Raaka, a chocolate brand’s identity and William was on the client’s end. “I saw his photos on Instagram (at the time he had about a thousand followers), and was completely blown away,” Andrea recalls. “He had been collecting and documenting apples at night, after work, and hadn’t done much beyond posting them on social media.” Several conversations later, the pair decided to collaborate on a large-format zine, a collaboration that would go on to inform a further three books, an exhibition, a custom typeface and several posters.
Just this year, Hatje Cantz published two Odd Apples books: a trade and a special edition. “They feature 90 photos and a typographic interpretation that embodies the wild biodiversity present in apples: using Rauschen Max as a starting point, characters were evolved to balance difference with harmony, spelling the title of the book ‘Odd Apples’ with custom lettering on the cover in a way that captures the fruit's expression,” Andrea outlines. Projects such as this demonstrate Andrea’s love of typography above all else. He describes it as a medium that “connects past and future”: “it is both timely and timeless, it honours the history of letterforms and civilisation and adapts to the culture and attitudes of its time.” In turn, although actively pushing back from having a style, Andrea remarks that his obsession with and understanding of typography ends up playing a big part in his projects. It’s also satisfying to work with, he adds: “It’s special when you can make sense of a challenge through typography.”
Alongside type, Andrea embraces “notions of utility and simplicity of ideas”, although he maintains he never shies away from “expression and maximalism”. A recent project for A2A is a testament to the fact and perhaps the best example of his function over form but with a few exceptions to the rule approach. A2A Studio is “a creative production partner with decades of experience, helping some of the best-known studios and iconic designers bring their concepts to life in exceptional and unexpected ways,” Andrea outlines. “A2A’s new identity brings a utilitarian visual tone of voice that allows the creative output to step forward,” he continues. “Only one weight of Untitled Sans by Klim Type Foundry is used throughout the identity and website, giving rise to an ultra-technical, yet expressive language through typographic composition and a photographic showcase of their techniques.”
In the coming year, Andrea says he’s excited for several projects at Gretel to see the light of day. When it comes to his personal work, he’s keen to hone this, still taking on some small yet meaningful projects, but aiming to shift it towards more of a research and development practice. “Whether it is investigating ideas such as translation or memory in a visual way, cataloguing typographic expressions in vernacular settings, or simply conducting visual research into materials and emerging techniques, the purpose is to expand my understanding of the field, challenge assumptions, make things I can share with others, and continue growing as a designer and thinker,” he explains. “Overall, I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Reflecting on his practice as a whole, Andrea identifies four ideas that underpin everything: tension, concept, collaboration and research. Depending on what he works on, be it a book, a website or an identity, these pillars interweave in different ways. The one constant is typography, which he uses “as a vehicle to articulating identity”.
A.A. Trabucco-Campos: Custom Typography (Copyright © A.A. Trabucco-Campos, 2015–2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.