Thai graphic designer leads #wespeakamerican campaign
San Francisco, CA, USA: For the dinosaurs among us still thinking that graphic design is about arranging pretty colors, learning about Chalermpol Jittagasem is an eye-opener.
An Angthong native and honors graduate of Burapha University has made an illustrious career in graphic design leading innovative projects ranging from combining language and font design to using kinetic typography to combat racism.
Jittagasem, who at 38 is considered one of the most creative and daring Thai graphic designers working internationally, was singled out for his talent a long time ago when back in 2004 he led a team to win one of the most prestigious national awards in advertising, design and marketing – The Top Advertising Contest of Thailand. The victory made national headlines, and the then 19-year-old Burapha University student entered the field as one of the most promising graphic designers of his generation. In the years that follow, Jittagasem, however, proved that he was interested not in victories and fanfares, but in serving the greater good.
Relocating to the United States to study on talent scholarship at world-famous schools - University of California Berkeley and San Francisco State University– Jittagasem began researching a new theoretical concept by inventing the Thai letters/glyphs corresponding to the Latin letters’ sounds which do not exist in Thai, years later becoming a recognized pioneer and creator of a new unique crossover medium of language and typographic design.
“Chalermpol developed the absolutely unique “Thai Respelling Technique for English words,” explains Srinakharinwirot University marketing professor Sasikarn Chatvijit-Cook, “which effectively employs typographic design to spell English words phonetically in order to indicate their pronunciation for non-native speakers. This has never been done before and is an incredibly innovative project. Years of relentless experimentation and research enabled Chalermpol to create an exceptionally thorough, complex cross-disciplinary visual design toolkit that combines data visualization, linguistics, a typographic system, font design, and motion graphics. Pol is a major talent, and his work is at the forefront of the contemporary design world.”
A leading graphic designer for a venerable non-profit organization Breast Cancer Action, Jittagasem led the #wespeakamerican campaign, acclaimed in the industry as a powerful graphic response to anti-immigrant racism.
By using kinetic typography which is a special technique involving moving text, Jittagasem created a series of unique #wespeakamerican posters in three languages – Thai, Spanish, and English – that reminded the people of California, which is the most diverse state in the United States and the state with the highest Asian American population that speaking languages other than English is a benefit, one of the joys of living in a multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual society.
“I know that Chalermpol himself experienced people shaming him for not "speaking American," added Sasikarn Chatvijit-Cook, “But he responded the way geniuses do – by creating art which aims to change the world, one letter at a time.”