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6 men and women in black jackets outdoors in front of a mountain
photography website 100 googlers series of black and white photos
google maps web page interface
kid robot toy - yellow alien with black bunny costume
very handsome man outdoors peeking through the zero of a large white number 10

Alumni Spotlight: Thai Truong

Jan 27 2020

Thai Truong (MFAD ’12) has been a visual designer at Google for over five and a half years. He worked on Google Cloud websites (all things cloud.google.com) as a web designer and is currently working on UI/features for the Google Pixel phone and Android (Q and R releases)

What are some of your recent, favorite, most challenging, or most interesting projects?
Most recent: I am working on a photographic gallery experience and book that started off as a side-project at Google, photographing 100 awesome Googlers that made my time at Google amazing and well worth it. It’s called “People of Google.” 

Most challenging: visually directing the site design, illustrations, and art direction for Google Maps Platform website(s) in half the original scope time (cloud.google.com/maps-platform/) Most interesting: Designed team jackets for my design team at Google, APEX-1 (Artists, Programmers, Entrepreneurs, and Explorers). 

Which designers do you admire most nowadays?
Brian Collins. I always admired his work and tenacity to embody strong values and principles of design via Twitter. Manuel Clement whose been doing amazing UX and interactive work at Google (Chrome, Cardboard, Daydream, and Stadia). I also follow my MFA design peers Shawn Sprocket, Janine Toro, and Justin Colt (The Collected Works) to see what my colleagues/friends are working on.  

How do you stay inspired? What do you do for your personal creativity?
Monthly Google Design meetings, the latest Taschen design books, the usual design sites (Behance, Working not Working, Awwwards). Traveling back to Atlanta (my hometown) to explore the city’s growing cultural and diversity offerings and challenges through design.

Also I photograph people over the weekends for personal creativity, as a way to get to know people and make friends without much conversation but through physically gestural expression.

What design trends do you love? 
Gradients and duotone photography (Spotify) and the use of vibrant colors and contrast. Typography-heavy design to me will forever trend. 

Which trends make you cringe?
The “Angelfire 2.0” trend makes me cringe the most (The return of retro 1990s web design elements)

Any call to action?
Follow me on Instagram, @og.kaiyoon and look out for my new podcast in 2020, The Grimy Designers Club. 

What advice would you give incoming students?
Design fundamentals are important. Don’t hurry yourself to learn specialized roles such as UX design. Design fundamentals (or, graphic design) helps transition into other design specializations a lot easier and opens plenty of doors to other design opportunities. Also, don’t be afraid to design things you haven’t tried. You’d be surprised at how adept you could be if you did!

I interned making apparel, toys, and other accessories for a fashion brand while interning at Conde Nast learning publication design… while doing SVA MFAD. I had a great time learning new techniques in design: combining them, deconstructing them… it leads to multiple creative approaches to all the design challenges that came my way. 

What is the community like at MFA Design?
Great. I’ve built strong relationships with a lot of my peers in the Class of 2013 as well as 2014. We keep eachother motivated and often barter our design masteries to collaborate and create some pretty awesome work and projects. Sometimes we fail to collaborate, but it helps strengthen our bonds with each other so that an opportunity to build something from failure exists.

What is your favorite part of the MFA Design program?
The studio. I spent countless nights there working the graveyard shifts with my colleagues, listening to music or learning more about my peers; it was a fantastic time. The weekly design guests are amazing too!

What impact has SVA MFA Design had on your career? 
Building relationships with the professors who are also in the industry. Always providing insightful information and a tighter design community. It also helped me balance out my design skills: things that are done by hand and things done digitally; it helped me convert my ideas to something tangible, and opened the doors to helping me bring that idea to life. It also helped me become a mentor and someone of a teacher to my colleagues; we built a support system that helps us work as a team, and share ideas and skills to help balance out our strengths and weaknesses to thoroughly get through any design challenge.

How has the program’s multidisciplinary approach helped you?
It taught me how to combine business with design. Trademarks, intellectual properties, etc; . It also taught me to take risks and  Moving to New York City for the program also opened plenty of doors for me and what the design industry truly offers. I continuously create things knowing that I can monetize them, whether my idea succeeds or not.  

If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would you pick?
My Responsible Gun project is still relevant today; always has been. It’s just today, the technology exists to make it tangible than when I presented the idea (Internet-of-things, bluetooth low emissions, blockchain).