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Thu, Jan 24, 2008
Higher Learning Special, The New Paper
From classroom dreamer to... classy designer

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

AS a child, he used to spend his time in class doodling and sketching.

Teachers would sometimes shout at him for not paying attention.

But Bjorn Wong, 20, is today one of the top students in the Visual Communication diploma programme at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa). He recently won a mascot design contest organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

His design, chosen out of more than 200 entries, will be used in the NEA's clean and green Singapore campaign. Said the third-year student: "Since I was a kid, I've always loved the arts. Even while teachers were talking in class, I couldn't help drawing."

In secondary school, one of his favourite subjects was Arts and Design, for which he scored a B3. After his O levels, he decided to pursue an education in the arts.

Said Bjorn: "I initially wanted to study fine arts, but thought it may not be easy making a living as an artist in Singapore."

So he decided on a course in visual communication, where he could "strike a balance between passion and practical reality".

Nafa's Visual Communication course, which takes in about 200 students every year, includes modules in photography, web design and publication.

Now Bjorn hopes to use his artistic skills to do more for the underprivileged.

For his final-year project, he will be conceptualising a marketing campaign to showcase the skills of the visually-handicapped.

He will also be working on possible partnerships with employers to hire the blind.

"Visual communication is not just about coming up with pretty designs and posters," he said. "It's about communicating effectively to achieve some good." Bjorn, who will graduate next May, hopes to pursue a degree in Graphics Communication at Loughborough University in the UK - one of five overseas universities that Nafa is in collaboration with to offer degree and post-graduate programmes.

He hopes to eventually set up his own design company.

Nafa helped him speak better

Joakim Gomez wants to become the next Gurmit Singh.

Said the 19-year-old: "It is my dream to one day have a television career as successful as Gurmit's."

He signed up for last year's Singapore Idol and got to know Ebi Shankara, another contestant, then a second-year student at Nafa's Theatre diploma course.

Ebi, who won this year's Vasantham Star contest, introduced Joakim to the theatre diploma programme, and he decided it was the right path to take.

The course takes about 35 students.

Said the first-year student: "Beyond singing, I wanted to hone my skills as an actor, both for television and theatre."

The fourth runner-up in last year's Singapore Idol 2 has since landed a one-year contract with MediaCorp and starred in the second season of Lifeline, alongside Gurmit.

This year, he performed at the President's Star Charity and at private functions.

He said: "I went to Nafa not knowing much about acting, but the lecturers there have helped me tremendously.

"It's a great learning environment."

Nafa also offers courses in fashion studies, which take in 120 students a year, and multimedia and interior design, each of which accepts 90 students yearly.

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