Trevor Tarczynski is a graphic designer in Echo Park. He runs the boutique design Studio Destro, formerly housed in a quaint little cottage that has its own recent local art history, having previously been the space for David Browne and also walls painted by Augustine Kofie. Trevor is known for the posters he has done for A Club Called Rhonda, Spaceland, The Echo, Los Globos Echo Park Records, Full Frontal Disco, and more. Trevor is one of those local artists whose work you have seen everywhere and whose work you never had any idea you have seen: he has become the visual mouthpiece for East Los Angeles.
Trevor is the rare Angeleno who was actually born and raised in town. “I grew up in the Valley, in Valencia/Santa Clarita–that valley,” he says, likening it to a piece of Orange County that was amputated and set above Northern Los Angeles to flourish. His childhood was “pretty standard,” his mother being a music teacher and his father working in lighting for the studios.
He always thought of himself as artistic–but never really an artist. His mother had nurtured his sense toward art but it wasn’t until a very clear A-Ha Moment in Junior College that he realized he was an artist. “I remember sitting at a friendʼs house, drinking beers in his driveway, somehow realizing, ʻI am going to be an artist.ʼ Then, all my problems were solved!” he says laughing.
“I ended up at the Academy of Art in San Francisco to study design and graduated in 2005,” he said, mapping where he went after realizing his need to be an artist. He noted that he had to get out of Los Angeles for school–but that San Francisco isnʼt quite him. “San Francisco is great! I went up there to get away from Los Angeles. Itʼs one of the reasons I chose that school. I was looking at Pasadena or Fullerton or UCLA–but I wanted to get out of LA. It was part of the school experience. San Francisco is a chill, sleepy town: itʼs awesome and I really love it and itʼs a part of who I am. But, I wanted to come back to LA when I was finished.”
“I found myself in LA because I missed it,” he said, “Plus, there is just this great energy here. Thereʼs something about the sprawl, I think.” He started working with friend Tyler Huen on a project that evolved into becoming their own company: Cocaine Mule, a bag manufacturer. “Right when I got back, my friend Tyler had just graduated from fashion school and we started Cocaine Mule. It went really well, too!” he said. Trevor eventually realized it was not for him, though. “Tyler ended up getting married and having a baby and I started to not want to do the business side of fashion anymore: I wanted to get back to design.”
“Throughout the Cocaine Mule time, I started to develop my side site, which is now Destro. I was making stickers and stuff–but I wasnʼt trying to make street art. I never wanted to do that. I always loved that world and respected it but it wasnʼt my thing. My design pursuits were going parallel to Cocaine Mule and, at some point, I just jumped
over from Cocaine Mule to Destro. Itʼs finally evolved into the studio it is now. Iʼve been doing it for four years now.”
Trevor is very comfortable with things now, moving from project to project as a free agent, a unique style of working he blames his family for. “I come from a family of hustlers–hustlers in a good way–since they were all freelance: my dad was always being moved to shows and my mom was always picking up and working for different clients. Itʼs either in your family or not. Itʼs funny. My family is very accepting of my being freelance.”
Los Angeles also plays into his work because itʼs a big piece of his identity. “I came back to LA because it was A.) home and B.) it just has a good energy. If youʼre hungry, itʼs a good city because it feeds you. Thereʼs a lot of people to work with, too. I donʼt know where that comes from: itʼs just a great city and attracts a lot of different people.”
Being such a Los Angeles boy, Trevor actually doesnʼt think the city influences his work that much. He isnʼt drawing desert iconography or beach touchstones: heʼs pulling from design from all over the world. “Overall, I would say my work is not influenced by Los Angeles because of the Internet. Thereʼs so much more and anyone who is into art can constantly be studying it as a result, seeing what is out there. I think a lot of influence has come from the online world, even reaching to old Dutch design and design from Spain and South America. I look to those places a lot. I prefer those design aesthetics, actually.”
He also makes the distinction that art and design are very different in what they seek to accomplish. “A lot of my work is flyer or poster based items which need to communicate,” he says, “My influence comes from the form, which is graphic design. It has to follow a certain form in order to work. There is a difference between art and design: design has to speak quicker. Art asks views to invest. Design tells you something.”
Adding onto that, Trevor has to work very hard to accomplish this since his craft is so public, posted anywhere from websites to walls to street lamps. He is mostly concerned with it looking good, though. “If it looks great, Iʼm happy. If whoever I am doing work for is stoked and Iʼm happy with it, it adds to something that is already great. I like that it represents all of us, the act, the venue, and my style. Itʼs great to have people looking here for design: itʼs awesome. Thereʼs so much great shit happening in Los Angeles right now–the city is blowing up, getting better and better. Itʼs an honor to be a part of the community here, with people working so hard–and not in a competitive way: we all work to add to the dialogue of Los Angeles. I donʼt know how my style fits into that but, at this point, Iʼm trying to make it the best it can be and keep it at a very high bar.”
The city wasnʼt always this way: this is a very, very recent thing. “I feel this tightness has really happened over the last fifteen years,” he says. “There has been a
neighborhoodization that has developed. When I came back from school, it all of a sudden existed. It was weird because somehow there became an Eastside and Westside and, within them, there distinct neighborhoods like Abbot Kinney and Mid-City. Itʼs getting very borough-y. It was really cool to come back to that.”
“Itʼs like the wild wild West, though, with everyone gunning for the new horizon,” Trevor says, speaking to how hard people are working, pushing their work out into the world. This doesnʼt mean heʼd want to be anywhere else, though. “I never wanted to deal with New York. If I had a good gig, Iʼd go–but there is such a process there.”
“I could maybe see myself somewhere in Europe, perhaps in Northern Europe. Iʼve always appreciated their design a lot, Scandinavian design specifically,” he explains. “I like European design because it really has to communicate. They have a great knowledge of typography, a much better grasp than we do. I donʼt know if that comes from their having multiple languages or what. In the states, itʼs a ʻwhatever goesʼ mentality.”
The future doesnʼt see Trevor in Europe–at least not the immediate future, which he hopes will bring the expansion of his studio. “I hope to be in a bigger space and with more people. I have interns now (well, one intern) but itʼs primarily me. I definitely want this studio to be kicking ass and growing, maybe into motion graphics. I feel like the future is going there, anyway. I want to keep going, I want to hire some designers: I want to grow things bigger and to keep grinding away.”
Trevor knows that heʼll get there but that it also wonʼt come overnight. “It takes time,” he says smiling confidently. Since speaking with Trevor, he’s moved on to a bigger space in Echo Park, leaving the little art history hub to expand what he’s been doing with Destro: this interview serves as recording of his time there.