Designer Tuan Quoc Pham embraces slowness and reflection in his process
A recent graduate from Yale School of Art, Tuan’s approach to design is open and multifaceted, including print, digital, 3D modelling and performance.
- Ruby Boddington
- 16 July 2020
“A lot of my work draws from the mundane things that we’re all familiar with but that are often overlooked,” says graphic designer Tuan Quoc Pham. “Things like sunsets, playing cards, passwords, etc. that we’ve imbued with meanings and memories. I’m interested in how these universal concepts form a kind of language that you can make connections with.” A recent graduate of Yale School of Art’s MFA graphic design course, Tuan has spent the last few years “soft-resetting” his perception of design, working on everything from print to digital via 3D modelling and performance. And it’s through these media that he looks for “poetic frames of the everyday and the personal.”
Before heading to Yale, Tuan worked as a designer in Chicago and New York City, collaborating primarily with museums, universities and non-profits. “For me, it’s taken a while to reach a kind of making that I’m most comfortable developing,” he explains, adding, “I’m interested in new technologies and publishing.” One such recent project in the publishing field is titled Murmurs, and it’s one Tuan completed during his time at Yale in collaboration with Luiza Dale.
The pair produced the creative journal for the School of Medicine and, after one of the editors mentioned how he likes to carry a small notebook in his doctor’s coat, decided to “base the whole idea around that idea.” The publication, therefore, functions as a magazine and notebook simultaneously, “with each righthand page featuring space encouraging the reader to write or draw.” When read from one side, Murmurs appears as a notebook and, from the other orientation, “it reveals itself as a magazine.” It’s a clever nod to the process from which the publication emerged, in turn, imbuing it with meaning rather than gimmick.
GalleryTuan Quoc Pham: Open House, in collaboration with Sam Wood
An example of Tuan’s propensity to draw from what is around him – the mundane or the every day – can be seen in his work for Yale School of Art’s Open House event. Produced in tandem with Sam Wood, the identity revolved around the “openness” of a nearby beach. “We knew how nerve-wracking the experience of considering graduate school could be so it was important to us to create a calm and open atmosphere for visitors,” Tuan explains. “The programme took the form of a postcard and we live-streamed a nearby beach throughout the day.”
Fresh out of his multifaceted education on what design is and can be at Yale, Tuan is currently developing a performance titled A Password Is An Ellipsis. The piece involves speaking into a screen and having Tuan’s words encrypted as password dots. “While there is an evolving consensus on what makes a computer password good or bad, many people often scramble together small, intimate tidbits about their lives to invent passwords,” Tuan remarks. “I’ve had an ongoing fascination with how users and developers hide pieces of themselves in the technical forms of things like passwords, security questions, thumbprint ID, etc.” While the social and political issues surrounding technology are rife, and at times feel impenetrable and unfathomable, A Password Is An Ellipsis approaches the topic laterally, “through the proxy of mundane secrets.”
All of these projects demonstrate Tuan’s ability to analyse our world, to dilute and understand a wealth of information and communicate it in a new way. It’s a process born from his interest in ubiquitous ideas and disseminating these widely, and the results are always understated and calm, creating a pensive moment in an increasingly noisy world.
Finally, reflecting on his practice thus far, Tuan remarks that he’s “been really fortunate to be able to start a body of work that embraces slowness and reflection, especially in the midst of everything happening right now.” And as for what’s ahead of him, he hopes to continue developing his work in a way that will “lead me to collaborations with others who are also interested in that type of ambience.”
GalleryTuan Quoc Pham
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.