RAFFLESDESIGN Institute interior design students Kenny Chee, 30, and Justin Low, 18, were each given an assignment to turn a sheet of A4 size paper into a piece of design, as their imagination led them. But creative juices were running low at the time so the two friends took a drive up to Genting in search of inspiration.
“We got back around four the next morning. The change of scenery did us good,” said Kenny, who has had several years of experience in the industry.
By then, his sheet of paper had become a spiralling building which, when turned over, could claim to be an artistic wall-mounted light. Justin’s creativity led him to mould his sheet into a coliseum complete with rows of seats.
According to Advertising and Promotions Manager David Yee, the handiwork of designers are all around us. He cites everyday examples like the bed we sleep in, the prints on our blankets, the magazines we read, the cars we see and the shape of our hand phones. Unfortunately, all this handiwork, thought up by different types of designers, go unnoticed.
“Many parents of potential students ask me: ‘Will my son/daughter be able to earn a living?’ and ‘What is the future of this business?’
“They do not immediately recognise that design permeates everything and is very important. The skills of a good designer are very marketable,” says Yee.
Similarly, fashion student Kane Tan, 23, remembers his parents trying to convince him to study interior design or graphic design when he told them he had set his heart on couture.
“They thought those were more professional design courses compared to fashion,” he says.
Kane has made good for himself too, as he was first runner up at the MODA (Malaysian Official Designers’ Association) Young Designer Awards.
He was also second runner up, both at the Asian Young Fashion Designer’s Contest and the Star Designer Awards.
Fortunately for Karen Chong Chui Woon, 19, her mother was there to guide her as a child when she began hand-stitching clothes for her dolls. Realising where Karen’s talents lay, her parents supported her when she decided to go into fashion designing for real.
“I’m very lucky because my parents encouraged me to study what I love,” says the young designer who prefers sexy, casual wear.
At RafflesDesign, the students’ curriculum is geared towards helping them develop creative and entrepreneurial talents, shares general manager Mok Kam Wah.
“Apart from teaching purely design courses, we also want to teach our students how to market their products and ideas. We want to encourage them to start their own businesses,” he explains.
There are also concessions for those who like fashion but feel they are not artistic enough. They can enrol in the advanced diploma in fashion marketing and management that requires them to combine their taste for fashion with a flair for business.
Students are exposed to business activities like retail, merchandising and international marketing, and are taught how to get a designer’s creations from the workshop into the showrooms. Other skills include the analysis, development and implementation of brand strategies as well as planning and executing effective advertising and promotional strategies.
For multimedia student Amie Jenkins, 26, satisfaction comes in the form of producing her own videos. Recently, for her class assignment, she took footage of the graduation celebrations entitled Daytripper.
“I chose chill-out music for the soundtrack, something you can relax or do yoga to. It was simple and groovy and my lecturer liked my camera angles and ideas,” she says, adding that the theme was inspired by the spirit of travel and globalisation.
“We want the students to come up with their own ideas. The last thing we want is to put boxes around their creative inspirations. Their originality is their most valuable asset,” says Mok.
Daytripper also saw 23 top designs make an appearance at the KL Fashion Week.
According to Yee, representatives from world-renowned design school Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design were particularly impressed with the fashion produced at RafflesDesign, whose alumni include the who’s who of local fashion design like Melinda Looi, Richard Tsen and Jonathan Cheng.
Since its humble beginnings in Singapore, the Raffles education group has extended its reach to Sydney, Mumbai, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai in China.
Exchange programmes expose students and lecturers to a diversity of viewpoints. Kenny acknowledges that the lecturers at the institute have rich experiences which they readily share with students.
“In the real world there are many constraints to creative design like cost or a client’s wishes. The lecturers here have a lot of experience with that and constantly remind us that communication is the key,” he says.
Karen agrees, saying that they have to be well-rounded and strong in both conceptual and technical work.
“You may have amazing ideas in your head but making them a reality might prove a different thing altogether. The lecturers here always stress good workmanship and attention to detail,” she adds.
Granted that the market for designers is closely tied to how well the economy is doing, Mok says that the current growth spurt has created many opportunities, and that enrolment at the school has gone up, so much so that a new wing is being built. The new wing will house the latest G5 technology, fully-equipped computer labs, wireless broadband, a larger resource centre, design workshops, sample rooms and a new cafeteria. The future for design looks bright indeed!
RafflesDesign Institute is a contributor to the Star Education Fund. For more information, call 03-2164 1059, or fax: 03-2161 1063, or log on to www.raffles-design-institute.com/my