Thomas Katkanan | Designer

Photo of Thomas Katkanan
With everything the Thai city of Bangkok has to offer, why would Thomas Katkanan Boonyarungsrit get a kick out of grocery shopping? Perhaps because when he shops, he might just spot his own illustration on the shelf or type treatment in the freezer aisle. The senior graphic designer crafts the look and feel of all kinds of products, from websites to logos to book covers, but consumer goods, he says, can be especially fun. “Seeing my designs hit the shelf all over the country—I feel very proud.”

Days after his 2005 graduation from Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD), the Thai native joined Columbus firm Ologie, where he helped rebrand Nationwide. He also took the lead on the initial design for CCAD’s magazine, Image.

But these days the 29-year-old Boonyarungsrit reads Image in his hometown. In 2006, he returned to Bangkok, where—first at Young & Rubicam and now at Creative Juice/Bangkok—he’s built a career in advertising and a list of accounts that includes multinationals Bacardi, DQ, and Dell, among others.

Boonyarungsrit has lived in three countries and on three continents (New Zealand being, officially, a “micro-continent.”) All of this occurred before he reached age 19. So when asked if he had any words of wisdom for current college students, he answered from experience. “Don’t be afraid of change!” he says. “Life is all about learning, and there is so much out here for you to learn.”

Not one to ignore his own advice, he recently made a big change: He joined a new agency, Creative Juice/Bangkok, which is ranked as the top creative firm in Thailand. For someone whose personal tagline, “Great Minds Don’t Think Alike,” is an inventive twist on a familiar saying, it seems like a good match.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your work in the advertising industry?
A: When I came back to Bangkok I took on a freelance project creating brand guidelines. That’s when I realized advertising was really where I wanted to be. I get to set the style, look, and feel, and I like to learn and be inspired among creative people. Designing for an agency means being involved in the whole production process, and I really enjoy working with the photographer, stylist, retoucher, supplier, event organizer. I learn so much from creative people in different fields.

Q: What brought you from Thailand—by way of New Zealand—to CCAD?
A: I’ve enjoyed art since the age of eight. I guess it is in my blood. My dad used to make custom frames for artists and also owned an art and antiques shop. In high school, after I came in first in art for three years and won a couple of national competitions, I knew I wanted to make it my career. Art is big in the United States and the United Kingdom, so my parents found out about good art colleges. When CCAD offered me a scholarship, I did not hesitate. I had heard that it had a great foundation program.

Q: Any difficulties adjusting to life in the American Midwest?
A: Yes, but it was because of New Zealand! I had to change my accent and slang and spelling. For instance, in the States rubber does not mean eraser, tea is called dinner, and colour is spelled color. Returning to Thailand after 10 years also took adjustment. It is my home, but I didn’t know the streets. I had a very difficult time with directions.

Q: What has been your experience having a degree from the States?
A: I think it gives me an advantage. My experience abroad shows flexibility, curiosity, adaptability, and pro-activity. Plus, of course, there are my additional language skills. I still use the knowledge I gained from those foundation studies every day—color theory, composition, etc. You never realize how much you have learned at CCAD till you’re actually using it in real life.

Q: Is there anything we here in the States might not know about the advertising industry in Thailand?
A: The Thai consumer still consumes traditional media such as TV commercials and radio and print ads. Digital media is something Thai creatives are moving toward, but clients still think that the old-fashioned way is most effective. Therefore, entering awards is an important channel for young creatives and agencies like mine to create cool work and gain a reputation.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I love to play guitar and sing. I also love traveling, especially to Japan. What I most enjoy about Bangkok is that everything comes in variety and is inexpensive. We have many foods from different cultures, many shopping malls, markets, beaches, and more.

Q: You also seem to enjoy photography—or at least taking pictures of your dog! Can you tell us about her?
A: Ok! She is a French bulldog, and she is now about two years old. I named her “Rod-Tung,” which means “a tank.” She sleeps with me every night and wakes me up every morning, including weekends! She is very friendly with people, but won’t play with other dogs.

By Kendra Hovey