A perfectionist's tale
By Kaviya Sanjeevi | Published: 09th September 2013 12:00 AM |
Appearances can be deceptive. The writer was reminded of this saying while interacting with Chaity Tan, a visual communication design professor at Raffles Millenium International, Chennai. Don’t let her bright blue hair and friendly smile mislead you into thinking of her as a rookie — Chaity has been a teacher for over 16 years. “I always wanted to come to India. It’s a very exotic place,” says Chaity, who worked in the Changzhou and Hong Kong centre of Raffles from 2008 to 2010. This was followed by a stint in Hyderabad, once again with Raffles. In February, 2012, she joined the Chennai centre.
After completing her bachelor’s in visual communication from KvB Institute of Technology (formerly KvB College of Visual Communication), Sydney, Australia, she went on to graduate from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) with a diploma in graphic design. Chaity worked as a graphic designer/ lecturer at NAFA and Temasek Polytechnic before jumping onto the Raffles bandwagon. “My degree focused on visual communication and I majored in graphic design. So courses in art history, cultural studies, cognitive psychology, history of ideas, semiotics and visual theory have given me a broad knowledge of design processes that I can call on while teaching,” says Chaity.
The big picture
Chaity feels the visual communication scene in India has scope and is begging for improvement. “Not everyone is aware of the exact elements of the subject. Many think visual communication stops with broadcast and radio, but that’s not it. There is this design element that students fail to see. Here in India they give general knowledge about visual communication. But here we specialise in design. That is an integral part of visual communication too.”
A tough taskmaster, Chaity expects perfection. She believes students need to be exposed to perfection, which will ultimately give them good results. “Students in the South are respectful. They have a lot of creativity. But they are taught to memorise, not solve problems creatively. The latter is very important for designers. Because when a client comes to you, you cannot expect the client to solve your problem. We are actually solving their problem,” explains Chaity, who has adapted herself to the post-millennial generation quite well.
The long-time teacher prefers to have friendly chats with students than exert authority. “I have learned that communicating with students is very important. We need to understand them and help them understand what the problem is. So once I understand a student, I know how to approach them. Every student is different, so my approach changes accordingly. It’s about understanding their character and to me it is about bringing out their potential,” she says.
Life in India
The Indian sub-continent isn’t a walk in the park for Chaity. While the country excites her, the spicy food and long commutes irk her. “I believe that God will send me to a place where he wants me to be. So no matter how difficult it is to live here, especially fighting with auto drivers, I take it as an opportunity. I have had good experiences. India has taught me to not take life for granted.”
On a lighter note, Chaity loves dum biryani, ladoos and Telugu cinema. “I have watched English Vinglish, Barfi, Rebel, and Poda Podi. I didn’t quite understand the language, but they were fun. Ladoo is too sweet for me, but I loved it. I love dal too,” says Chaity, who has visited Mahabalipuram. “I work round the clock and am always around to help students. So there’s hardly any opportunity to go out. Moreover, I am afraid to venture out alone. I need someone who knows the language and can travel with me.”
The Indian student
So how have our Indian students impressed her so far? “I am very strict and expect them to be perfect in their work. The more demanding I get, students are more motivated to turn in good work,” says Chaity.