A Thai design studio focused on simplicity, clarity, and meaningful design

Amidst a sea of ordinary products, KAOI Studio offers a captivating visual escape that seamlessly blends aesthetics with functionality.

May Narkphanit, the founder of KAOI Studio, blends a rich background in communication and graphic design with a deep passion for creativity and product design. His journey began with a knack for creating fun, 2D visual concepts, which gradually evolved into a fascination with product design.

This transition was marked by his innovative sketches of quirky furniture pieces, such as “The Ebba Chair,” which ultimately led him to collaborate with Thinkk Studio in Thailand. The successful launch of this modular lounge chair, with its customizable elements, marked a significant milestone, prompting May to fully embrace his passion and establish KAOI Studio, named after the Thai word for “chair.”. May’s approach emphasizes simplicity, clarity, and meaningful design, ensuring each creation stands out through its unique features while remaining easy to understand and remember.

May Narkphanit _ Founder of KAOI Studio
May Narkphanit, Founder of KAOI Studio

How was KAOI Studio born? What is your background?

May Narkphanit:

KAOI Studio was born from a profound passion for creativity and a love for transforming fun, 2D visual ideas into reality. My journey started with a background in communication and graphic design. Reflecting on my path, I’ve always been drawn to product design. Almost every project I undertook eventually circled back to this field, even if it began as a purely conceptual endeavor. I frequently blended tangible, easy-to-understand designs with graphic elements.

I used to sketch quirky furniture in my notebook, never imagining they could become actual products. One day, I revisited my sketch of “The Ebba Chair,” a modular lounge chair with interchangeable armrest shapes, colors, fabrics, and pillows. Recognizing its potential, I decided to pursue it, despite my limited knowledge of furniture design. I reached out to Thinkk Studio, a leading product studio in Thailand, for assistance in bringing my drawing to life.

Following the successful launch and positive feedback for the chair, I realized it was time to follow my true passion. That’s when I founded KAOI Studio, inspired by the Thai word for “chair.””

Ebba chair by May Narkphanit _ KAOI Studio
Ebba chair by KAOI Studio

What defines your aesthetic, and what do you believe sets your design approach apart as unique?

May Narkphanit:

“What sets us apart is our unique way of thinking. Rather than merely solving problems, we strive to infuse every detail with meaning, turning our designs into conversation pieces. Imagine the pride of sharing the story behind our items when you bring them home and watching people’s eyes light up as they hear the inspiration behind them. Our motto, “Designed to be Designed,” reflects our mission to create products that invite users to add their own personal touch, because we believe everyone has a bit of a designer in them.

One of our key principles is “start with more, end with less.” If people can’t easily draw or describe our products in one sentence, yet they remain unique enough to be recognized by their distinctive features, then the design isn’t strong enough. We believe in simplicity and clarity, ensuring our designs are not only visually appealing but also easy to understand and remember.”

The HED Marble Lamp by KAOI Studio

You transitioned from the world of graphic design to product design. What were the biggest challenges? And what opportunities did your background provide?

May Narkphanit:

“Transitioning from graphic design to product design comes with its own set of challenges. While digital design offers limitless possibilities, product design requires creativity within the bounds of available resources. This journey has been both fascinating and rewarding, as it necessitates collaboration with local artisans and a deep appreciation of their skills. By sharing knowledge and working together to find the best solutions, we ensure our designs stay true to our core values while serving both makers and users. This collaborative and educational process is what makes our work truly enjoyable.”

The Bjorn Button Stool Series
The Bjorn Button Stool Series by KAOI Studio

Your website mentions a goal to encourage active engagement with design. What does this entail, and how do your products achieve this?

May Narkphanit:

“At KAOI Studio, our motto, “Designed to be Designed,” reflects our commitment to inviting customers to actively participate in the evolution of our products. From our very first creation, “The Ebba Chair,” to our latest, “The BJORN Button Stool,” we strive to extend the user experience far beyond the initial purchase. Our goal is to bring continuous joy through interaction, allowing our designs to evolve with changing trends, moods, and personal growth.

We firmly believe that “We are the designers of our own lives,” and each product we create embodies and supports this philosophy. This approach not only enriches our customers’ experiences but also serves as a constant source of inspiration for us as designers. “Designed to be Designed” drives our ongoing exploration and creativity, ensuring our products adapt to new user needs and respond to evolving trends. It’s a journey filled with endless possibilities and perpetual enjoyment in the design process.”

Nancy, The Bjorn Button Stool Series by KAOI Studio

As a Thai studio, which aspects of your cultural and environmental context most influence your work, and in what ways?

May Narkphanit:

“As a Thai studio, we are fortunate to be surrounded by a wealth of skilled and resourceful local talent, offering us numerous opportunities to realize our vision. Our diverse and open-minded culture adds an extra layer of excitement to our work. Collaborating with these talented individuals enables us to create designs that are unique and meaningful, infused with the spirit and craftsmanship of our local community. It is immensely rewarding to present our creations within this vibrant culture and witness how they resonate and come to life in new and unexpected ways.”

The HED Marble Lamp by KAOI Studio

Your products are available for purchase directly from your website. What motivated you to choose this direct-to-consumer approach, and how have you handled this part of the business?

May Narkphanit:

“As designers, blending our creative skills with the business aspects of direct-to-customer sales is a continuous challenge. It requires constant learning and daily refinement in sales and marketing. One of the toughest parts is navigating our dual roles as creators and users, understanding deeply what our customers truly desire and need. We strive to craft messages that genuinely convey our intentions in a crowded marketplace filled with countless other brands.

On the bright side, managing our own product sales provides a unique advantage. Being intimately familiar with both the design process and the end-user experience gives us profound insight into our target audience. Our background in graphic design also allows us to maintain a strong influence over our brand’s visual identity. This holistic approach ensures that every aspect of our creations resonates authentically with our vision and connects meaningfully with our customers.”


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