Name: TNOP (pronounced tee-nop)
Birthplace: Bangkok, Thailand
Profession: Graphic Designer/ Teacher
Lives now: partially in Bangkok, partially in Chicago
School: BFA in Graphic Design from Rangsit University in Bangkok, MA from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, USA
Ben: Where does the name TNOP come from?
TNOP: It is just a shortened version of my name, Teeranop.
Ben: So it has nothing to do with the American acronym Totally Not Our Problem?
TNOP: No, but I have heard that. I think there was an episode of the Simpsons where Bart says it or something. I think it’s funny.
Ben: Did you work for any design companies before you started your own?
TNOP: Yes, I worked for Segura Inc. in Chicago for eight years. It was the longest I ever worked or stayed anywhere. After that I started my own company in 2005, and came back to Thailand about 6 months ago to try to see what I can start here.
Ben: Are you still doing work for anyone in the US?
TNOP: I still have clients there that I can work with thanks to technology.
Ben: Who were some of your early influences?
TNOP: I think probably my earliest one was my father. People ask me when I started designing things, and I can think back and remember my father showing me how to hold a pencil and draw. I remember thinking early on that this is pretty cool, I can do this. So I never stopped.
Ben: Was your father an artist?
TNOP: He was a furniture repairman. And my grandfather used to trade old antiques. He specialized in mother of pearl inlay. So a lot of people would come to him and my father would help my grandfather fix things. Jim Thompson (famed Thai art collector) came to him once. And my father had a chance to go work at the Grand Palace where he worked on fixing the most beautiful throne with mother of pearl inlay inside the Dusit Maha Prasat throne hall. He is also proud that he got to work on the main Ubosot doors at Wat Ratchabophit in Bangkok.
Ben: Do you have any other countries that you want to go to either to work or study?
TNOP: Italy is a place I really want to go just for the scenery. But I like places like Hong Kong that are just a little bit chaotic and fast moving. I am also planning on going to India soon to see real colors.
Ben: It seems like some of your work is commenting on the state of Art and Graphic Design today, can you comment on that? Are there things bothering you?
TNOP: Well I think when you spend so much time with something you develop strong opinions and it naturally comes through in your work. The past ten years of my work I have been trying to comment on the world. Anything that I think I have a good idea about, I try to express. When you have a chance to voice your opinion in any media, I think you should do it.
Ben: That makes sense, because you seem like you are more than just a graphic designer, you have messages you are trying to get out there. So do you display your work ever in galleries or anything like that?
TNOP: Yes, I did some exhibitions in Chicago. I did this group exhibition with artist friendscalled “Pork and Politics” because Chicago is known for hot dogs. So I created theseportraits of the famous and controversial Chicago politicians, Mayor Richard Daley, Rod Blagojevich, and Rahm Emanuel with hotdog strings. Recently in Bangkok, my work is featured in Taschen’s Collector’s Edition Art Books exhibition. It’s an exhibition of the limited edition artist books and box sets. I’m honored to be featured my work there. It is always fun.
Ben: Are there other artists today that you look to for inspiration?
TNOP: Yes, I love many contemporary artists but am not always good with names. I love the work of Erwin Wurm, he has a great sense of humor. I look for inspiration from everywhere. I like painters like Elizabeth Peyton, or photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans. Anyone can inspire anyone, from art to architecture to fashion. I think you should look everywhere.
Ben: So it seems like you have accomplished a lot for being so young. What other goals do you have?
TNOP: When I first got back to Thailand, the main thing I had on my mind was teaching. So I am teaching at my old university and another school. I am amazed that so many kids that want to be a graphic designer. It is exciting, but I am also worried that too many kids want to do it just because it sounds like a cool job. So I need to change their perception so that I can change the reputation of graphic design in Thailand. I think some students concentrate more on designing their work after other people instead of coming up with new concepts.Teaching is not always fun, it is a lot of work. I am not sure how long I will keep teaching. I try to plan about 2 years in the future but not think too much beyond that.
Ben: Where did the urge to teach come from?
TNOP: I always had good teachers growing up. I was very lucky. I always wanted to be like them. So now I want to pass on those ideas to the next generation.
Ben: So what advice do you have for the next generation of designers? How do you balance self-expression and paying the bills?
TNOP: I think for young designers, it’s ok to do some work just to get by, but I want them to really grab on to their goals. They need to keep their voices. Sometimes when you try to balance your living situation and your ideals it is difficult. But if you lose your voice, it is easy to be consumed and never be able to get your voice back. If more designers just held on to their ideals, we would have many voices in the design community and that will improve the whole scene. Our passion is powerful and we need to use it.
Ben: That’s awesome. And now that you got me all psyched up on teaching art, I need to go tutor some High School kids in Math.
TNOP: You should come teach in Thailand.
Ben: Someday perhaps, who knows? Thanks for your time Mr TNOP.
TNOP: Thank you.