Viral designer wins RMIT scholarship

Viral designer wins RMIT scholarship

After going viral with his high school textbooks redesigning project while in 12th grade, Tran Lam Nam Bao has won the 2022 RMIT Vietnam Creativity Scholarship. We talked to this talented young designer about his journey to RMIT.

First of all, congratulations on being one of only two recipients of the RMIT University Creativity Scholarship this year. Do you remember how you felt upon learning that you won the scholarship?

It was an evening like any other. I was sitting at my desk when I received an email notification from RMIT. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I read the letter. Then I felt extreme relief because I had overcome every difficulty to achieve my biggest goal. The first people I told the good news to were my parents and right after, my group of close friends – everyone was very happy and proud of me.

Bao with RMIT leaders and family at the scholarship ceremony Tran Lam Nam Bao (pictured second from right) is one of the two RMIT Vietnam Creativity Scholarship winners this year.

How did your journey toward the RMIT scholarship start?

The first time I learned of RMIT was when I participated in a filmmaking competition organised by the university where my team won the top prize. Thanks to that event, I found out that RMIT has one of the top creative schools in Vietnam and a high global ranking as well. I then researched and learned that the university offers various scholarships.

I initially aimed for the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholars (full-tuition scholarship). That goal turned me into a completely different person, someone who always proactively seeks opportunities for personal growth and takes on leadership positions in projects on and off campus. But alas, I spent too much time on projects and didn’t manage my study well enough. And so, I ended up not achieving a GPA of at least 9.0/10.0 in 12th grade to be in the race for a full-tuition scholarship. Still, I’m very proud of winning the half-tuition Creativity Scholarship.

What was the most challenging part of preparing your scholarship application?

The biggest challenge was probably the digital creative portfolio. I didn’t want it to be just a gallery of my photos and designs, but a book that represents who I am as well. I realised that it couldn’t be just a “portfolio of a designer” but that of a scholarship candidate. So, I included some of my personal stories in blog form, such as how I brought creativity into the school environment, how I created a project that made a nationwide impact, and my dream of getting into RMIT.

Another great difficulty was time, as the decision to apply to RMIT and vie for a Creativity Scholarship was an unexpected last-minute move for me and my family. I had to rush to complete four concurrent tasks within three weeks: studying for the IELTS exam, working on my portfolio, studying for the Vietnamese university entrance exam, and working on my own project (lead designer for Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School’s Tuoi Hong festival).

I have to say it was the most stressful time I've ever gone through in my life. Looking back now, I still think it's amazing that I overcame everything to achieve my biggest goal.

Bao working at a computer Bao’s passion for graphic design started when he was in 9th grade.

Having previously dabbled in filmmaking and music, you decided to pursue a degree in Design Studies. Has design been your passion for a long time?

Back in primary school, it didn’t take me long to realise that my strength was related to creative tasks. In my spare time, I enjoyed playing Lego and home design 3D games on my iPad, so much so that I once dreamed of becoming an architect. When I was in middle school, I discovered that I really liked giving presentations in front of the class and I would always take on the PowerPoint design in group assignments. I realised that I liked to create value and beautiful things.

The reason why I started learning Photoshop is quite funny. I wanted to earn more money to support my family, so I tried designing shirts to sell on an international website. But in the end I couldn't do it because I didn't have a bank account. In ninth grade, I got to design a uniform shirt for my class, and then my friends invited me to make logos and social media posts for their business projects. Since then, my passion for creating eye-catching things with Photoshop has only grown.

The ninth grade was also when I learned of the concept of graphic design and started exploring everything about this field day and night. I actively sought chances to hone my skills through clubs, events and projects at school. And then gradually more job opportunities started to come my way. As time went on, in the eyes of my friends I’ve become someone who can create beautiful things on the screen and I’m very proud of that.

I do love other creative things like making films and music, but design remains what I’m most confident about and I can talk about it for hours without getting bored. It's my biggest love right now, but I still want to keep an open mind and try my hand at new fields. Who knows? Maybe one day I might branch into another direction.

What’s your plan for the first semesters at university?

My longer-term goal is to intern or work in a professional environment like an agency. But my first priorities upon enrolling in RMIT are to focus on my study and get used to the density of assignments, as well as to manage my time for both extracurricular projects and classes. Outside of class, I want to meet and get to know great like-minded people who want to join local and international competitions. I believe competitions would both improve my personal profile and be a way for me to give back to the university.

Design is a very broad domain. I’ve spent over three years studying it, but I still don't know everything about what I am most confident in, which is 2D design. I want to do more with 3D, motion graphics, typography, photography, and so on. RMIT will be an environment where I have the freedom to do what I have always wanted to without fear of being constrained.

Covers of Bao's redesigned textbooks Bao went viral in Vietnam in early 2022 with his high school textbooks redesigning project which garnered tens of thousands of likes on social media overnight.

Many people know you for your ‘Redesigning Textbooks’ project and this was probably one of the plus points that helped you win the RMIT Creativity Scholarship. What does this project mean for your onward journey?

The project has brought me many great ensuing opportunities, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned from it is that any well-known creative product cannot avoid negative feedback. Still, its positive value will always be there and accessible to those who truly understand it. The nature and mission of creativity is to bring value to society in different ways. The textbooks project will always be the brainchild marking the time when I was a high school student taking his first steps into the creative practice. It will continue to be a motivation for myself to create more and more products with greater value in the future.

Learn more about Tran Lam Nam Bao’s projects at or

Story: Ngoc Hoang

  • Scholarships

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