By Kendra Hovey
Even as the corners of the world are drawing closer together, there’s still room for an occasional small-world surprise. For example, how exactly did a teenager in Bangkok find out about an art school in the American Midwest? Was it research? Recruiters? The Internet? No. It was word of mouth. In high school, Kittikhun Ter Charoenkitnapa made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t going to go to any, as he put it, “normal school.”
“I was deciding between art school and music school,” he said, “and a friend told me about CCAD.”
Now 28, Charoenkitnapa is a CCAD alumnus, having graduated in 2006 with a degree in Industrial Design. In 2009, he returned to Thailand and joined Dusit International, where he is now a senior manager in design and marketing.
Dusit International is one of Thailand’s leading hospitality companies, with five different lines of luxury hotels and resorts. One meaning of the word “dusit” refers to a utopian city conceived in 1918 by King Rama VI. The king’s idea combined the best of the contemporary West and traditional Thailand. For Dusit International, this blend is key to the brand, and it is Charoenkitnapa’s job to be the discerning eye that ensures all collateral materials reflects this brand. Designing templates and reviewing marketing pieces is, in his words, “always a work in progress,” and even more so as the company expands. With a presence already stretching from the Philippines to Dubai and across the Nile to Egypt, Dusit is soon coming to the U.S. Their new Pasadena, CA, hotel will open this year.
As his company prepares to cross continents, we asked Charoenkitnapa about his own continental crossing.
“I fit in pretty comfortably within the CCAD crowd,” he said, remembering four years of “sleepless nights, strong friendships, and deciding which class to skip to finish another class’s project.” He offered his thanks to the college for a “well-rounded design education” and “amazing, close-to-real-world experience.” He added that the ability to communicate design concepts in English is invaluable, but just as essential were those benefits that are a little harder to pin down.
“Interacting with other students and teachers, I absorbed their way of thinking,” he explained. “I believe that different nationalities have different methods of life, and experiencing more than one type gives me a better understanding of what ‘life’ really means.”
This thinking informed his advice both to those coming to CCAD internationally—“go in open-minded, study the foundations seriously, then decide your major. Oh, and practice English”—and also to those working internationally: “Different countries have different personalities…don’t try to force your design or your concepts. Be humble yet confident. Present yourself professionally. Be brave.”
Charoenkitnapa shared that in Thailand art is central to the culture. It is appreciated. “You can see it in the dances, jewelry, and architecture.” But, in almost an inversion of American culture, there is less fluency when it comes to design.
Though his work at Dusit keeps him busy, Charoenkitnapa somehow found the time to start a small, but growing side photography business with a friend.
About life in his hometown, he said, “I’ve always compared Bangkok to New York City…except I’m only a couple hours from the tropical ocean!”
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