Interview with AOD Graphic Design Alumnus Dihan de Silva- Food Photography Expert & Creative Director of Exotic Melon
Q: Where did you go to school and how did you get interested in graphic design?
A: I studied at Elizabeth Moir School in Colombo. My initial interest in design,photography and creativity started years ago when I went for photoshoot for Audi Automobiles done by the advertising agency JWT; it got me really interested and after this, I had really wanted to know what advertising was all about. Following this curiosity, in 2009 I interned at Leo Burnett Sri Lanka. Working at Leo really gave me an insight into advertising and I realised that this is exactly what I wanted to pursue as my career. I was really interested in learning how to interpret certain content in a way that was more creative and original.
"I was really interested in learning how to interpret certain content in a way that was more creative and original."
Q: You’re currently the creative director for Exotic Melon of the Cantaloupe Group.
A: This is a very responsible job that spans over managing many big brands. Tell us a bit more about Cantaloupe and what you do there. Cantaloupe is a rapidly expanding group with many arms; its leisure arm, Cantaloupe Villas, represents its core business in hospitality sector, while jewellery – Cantaloupe Jewels, events – Cantaloupe Playground, design – Exotic Melon, retail and investment – Cantaloupe Boutique, as well as various other properties are also part of the group. I’m the creative director at Exotic Melon. Exotic Melon or EM is the graphic and creative design division of Cantaloupe & Co. EM’s roots began when design work was done for new and exciting brands of the group such as Cantaloupe & Co, Amuseum Boutique Bar, Tourism Promotion Bureau of Sri Lanka, Artwalk and special events. Starting on these projects, EM gathered a great creative team to fulfill the many diverse role of a fully-fledged design studio and we saw this as key strength that enables us to extend our services to the rest of the country. My work there is exciting and is definitely a Job role that captures all 360’ of design. From client servicing, analyzing our markets and conceptualizing promotions, design, photography…it’s a completely ‘all-rounder’ experience and I’m loving every minute of it. It’s a great place to work and a really enjoyable, stable career to have. The many different modules and exercises during my degree at AOD definitely led to me having rounded knowledge about all design aspects –and it’s helping a lot.
"Exotic Melon’s roots began when design work was done for new and exciting brands of the group such as Cantaloupe & Co, Amuseum Boutique Bar, Tourism Promotion Bureau of Sri Lanka, Artwalk and special events."
Q: What kind of role did your education play in securing a career of such profile? What sort of influence did the programme and tutors at AOD have on you?
A: My education at AOD helped me understand from the very traditional basics to the open-ended future possibilities of the profession; it’s a really great balance of both worlds. The fact that the curriculum is an internationally recognised one directly and completely from Northumbria university UK, takes you a long way- especially if you want to work abroad, with international clients of with new, innovative companies in the calibre of Cantaloupe. I think this education plus the international exposure I got at AOD by going to Cannes Lions in France and DesignYatra in Goa all helped me to bring up work to be more contemporary and in-sync with the rest of the world. The introduction of guest lecturers helped in understanding the fundamentals of local and international design and an insight to their cultural aspects in design. The graphic programme at AOD definitely laid down a great foundation for me.
Q: Currently you have a main career path as a brand/corporate identity designer. You also have several skills that have turned to become supporting careers like photography. Where do you see yourself going with this combination in the future?
I personally believe that each designer should be able to specialise in one particular area. This way when there’s a combination of designers on a project it will give you some amazing results. Over the past few years I’ve presented myself as a designer who specializes in ‘Corporate Branding’ because I like that area and want to keep improving and moving forward in it. Focusing on a secondary skill during your studies, always opens up new areas for expansion. E.g; Photography can lead to many areas related to design. So, now finding myself also working as Photographer who specialises in a very essential niche like ‘Food photography’ has given me many opportunities to work with local restaurants. So, in the future I see myself moving in to hospitality branding and promotions.
"...finding myself also working as Photographer who specialises in a very essential niche like ‘Food photography’ has given me many opportunities to work."
5) Most youngsters overlook ‘graphic design’ as a career path because they don’t see it answering the usual requirements like respect, stability and financially rewarding. Standing where you are now, how do you see graphic design as a career?
Graphic Design now has tremendous Scope. Every Industry out there wants a designer. Whether it is for a logo design or for a promotional advertisement, packaging, magazine layout or even re-branding, graphic design is in such demand. Design is evolving and I think its one of the biggest careers out there and it’s growing even more every day. ‘Designers’ can be dime a dozen but a real, qualified designer or someone with their own signature style I think can go really far anywhere in the world; to get here, hard work, the correct education and experience really matter. I currently sometimes work together on branding projects where I get students also to work on with us so that they get the exposure also. Design probably is one of those jobs that is never Mundane. It makes you open up to the world in a creative way. Having a career like that means you never have to work but you’re making money doing what you love.
6) What advice you have for aspiring graphic designers?
Always stay up-to-date with what happens around the world. Different countries and different parts of the world always have different styles and creative thoughts. This way it will help you to know what is out there, what is already done and what’s never been done in the world. And, never, ever let go of opportunities to learn and sharpen your skills further.