Goil Amornvivat is as intelligent as he is friendly. It is my great pleasure to present TUG Studio this week and share insight into the world of design. Goil is a talented designer with a Masters Degree in Architecture from Yale, as does his partner in crime, Thomas Morbitzer, who makes up the other half of Tug Studio. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, TUG has been recognized with numerous awards, published in international design press, and have completed projects throughout the United States. Oh, and you might recognize Goil from Bravo’s hit reality series Top Design and TLC’s Trading Spaces. Read below for the full interview…
We have interviewed a few professionals who have studied at architecture school, but was curious to ask you if you believe that students decide to become specialists because of the competitive market and because they try to get a better job?
Goil: A great mentor told me once that the journey we embark on should be thought of as a “career path” rather than a series of “jobs”. I teach and I also see this in my students; the most successful ones naturally gravitate towards their passions. This gives them the extra strength to forge ahead when times are hard and also the extra edge to shine when times are great. Regardless of the market, if you do what you love and well, the right people will always find you.
What is the best part of being involved with shows like “Top Design” and “Trading Spaces”?
Goil: The best part is the FUN! In a show like TS and TD, I met a lot of amazing people, both on and off the screen. I also learned a LOT, these type shows are pressure cookers. It is one thing to be able to design, but to design under the pressure of impossible scope, time frame, resources, and cameras really throws a person into action. I learned so much about what goes on behind the scenes, and how it can be put together in an episode and series.
With so many design shows on television and students and professional choosing designing as a profession, do you think this reflects a new or different type of public interest in the discipline or a particular concern regarding the quality of life in the New York area?
Goil: I believe there has always been an interest in design. But many people may have hesitated to take the step to do it professionally. Design, can be like a gated neighborhood- it’s visibly evident by looking at most of top designers in America they seem to be from a similar demographic. These TV shows have the ability to broadcast directly into people’s living room. It’s a different kind of public space. This has made design (good and bad) more accessible to people. Since I have been on these shows, it has amazing to see many unusual “suspects” become interested in the field. Things are changing, and I am hopeful as I see the new crops of diverse students in the classes I teach. Everyone deserves good design and for those interested, a chance to know that they are invited into the dialogue.
As a teacher at New York School of Interior Design, how are you guiding students in today’s world. Do you try to instill most of your lessons with an emphasis on a functioning aspect or an aesthetic aspect?
Goil: Well, I feel like design is such a BIG field and I really encourage my student to find their own voice. Of course both function and aesthetics are important, but knowing who they are and finding their voice in design is also important. It would be bad to train students to be decorating robots: “deco-bots”!
An academic education provides you with architectural thinking whereas an education you get from an office familiarizes you with the problems and issues in the profession. Which route would give a young professional the biggest advantage?
Goil: You need both. I also would add that I also learned a great deal from being on TV and through teaching. I guess just being involved; being curious and taking risks has it’s advantages.
You describe your style as “problem-solving”. How have you developed your particular style over the years?
Goil: Well this has to do with my educational background. Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture was an amazing place for me because our teachers taught us to believe that design has a higher purpose and is meaningful. Through our work, we can serve people and enrich lives. Being a “problem-solver” for us implies that we must learn to “listen” in many different ways to the needs of the project, clients, and the potential of the site.
As my work shifted more toward “design”, I feel like this ideology naturally transitioned.
Do you have any favorite Asian films?
Tug Studio is a venture that you co-founded many years ago. What does Tug Studio represent as a brand and how has it evolved over the years?
Goil: We are a can-do-firm. We believe in good thinking and good design. It is serious work, but we have fun doing it and try to make it fun for our clients, too. In terms of our evolution, we are growing and going through a metamorphosis. We are launching the next version of TUG next year. Stay tuned!
Doing a start up with a friend can be a risky endeavor. Many things such as conflict of interest, egos, or even money can sour a relationship. What makes your partnership with Thomas Morbitzer so successful?
Goil: Well, Tom is a great guy and you can never go wrong with that. Frodo would never have gotten to the top of Mount Doom without Samwise Gamgee, they went together. So a good hearted personality and a loyal friend can really go a long way. We also both have some roots in the midwest US and with it, our Midwesterner “can-do” attitude. We met in graduate school, 13 years ago and graduated in the same class. We went to work in the same office. (Robert AM Stern) We are two people who had and extensive time with the similar experiences and had a lot of time to test the relationship. Also between us it has always been about design, the best ideas win, it’s not about ego.
A beginning interior designer shouldn’t expect to have the most glamorous job. True or false? What advice would you give to a creative just starting out?
Goil: I think this depends on where the person is coming from, too- to one person an ID office may seem really exciting and glamorous, to another, not so much. Just graduating from a school, or just starting out, there are a lot of adjustments one has to go through and a LOT to learn on the job. I believe the trick is look at what you do regardless of how “unglamorous”, as a part of a larger piece of a personal career puzzle.
I remember a wise friend told me during my first job, that your first office job is about making professional contacts. It’s a small field and you if you have a long career your paths will cross again. So be open and cultivate strong relationships.
To stay on top of Goil & Tom’s designs and ventures, please visit their official site below: