AOD Interior Design Alumni Chathuri Kannangara is an advocate of free thinking with a passion for challenging the norm.

There are multiple dimensions to the interior design industry and due to the increasing number of both commercial and residential construction taking place there is a need for innovation and improvement of current design practices and techniques. The ergonomics of human behaviour is changing through the years and Interior Design itself has travelled light years leveraging on technology and the high standard of designers with specialized skills and experience. Chathuri Kannangara is one such designer who handles a variety of projects and continues to challenge industry norms.

When did you first spot your knack for creativity and design?

I schooled at Visakha Vidyalaya and I have been drawing since the age of six. My first memory is of being chosen to draw a "Perahara" on a long canvas which got fixed on to the beam running right across the class. Art was one of my favourite subjects throughout school. During the latter stage of school I was a member of the Arts Society and was called to overlook the Design section of many events. I participated in many Art competitions and exhibitions while in school and went for separate art classes conducted by late master Lional Ranaweera. My eldest sister is also a designer and was a major influence to my creativity.

Design is still an unusual career option in Sri Lanka despite its international appeal. What made you choose Interior Design?

I honestly wasn't thinking about career options when I decided on Interior Design. I was mainly following my passion for art and design through higher education. I was attracted to the freedom of thinking behind the process of design and its ability to innovate and build continuously. I was always fond of learning about products, spaces, graphics and materials. Mostly, the fact that design is different from the more conventional areas of study had a major appeal in drawing me to it.

Do you think professional education is important for an interior designer?

A well rounded professional education is an important value addition when it comes to building a career and for design practice. It is a tool for others in the field to recognize your standards. AOD offered a well balanced programme which focused on knowledge sharing as well as skill building. The numerous opportunities we were offered from study tours abroad to engaging in projects with the local industry prepared us for what the industry would entail upon graduation and above all it instilled professionalism in us which is a topmost priority when you start working in the industry.

What was your experience in the industry after Graduation and up to now?

I have had an amazing experience in the industry so far. I have met numerous key personalities and had the opportunity of working under different people. I am currently working under a renowned architect Dipika Dharmadasa, as Senior Interior Designer and also the Manager of the design sector at DDN Design (Pvt) Ltd. AOD has prepared me to face any client with confidence and clarity. After graduation there are many fields within the industry where a designer can continue their career in such as architectural and Interior design firms, retail establishments, design sectors in corporate offices, in-house design sectors in the hotel industry and furniture design companies. The Colombo skyline is an ever changing view, development of high rise apartments, hotels, malls and corporate offices is a clear indication of the demand for designers who can innovate which in return helps to grow the industry.

How has your Degree in Interior Design made a difference in your professional life?

My Degree in Interior Design has contributed in many ways when dealing with clients and everyday design problems. AOD had an "out of the box" environment with a lot of creative energy. Being positive, implementing or projecting something in clarity, punctuality and conducting an ethical practice are a few qualities which help me in day to day life as a designer. From implementing a concept to delivering a CAD drawing package or developing schedules and specifications to feasibility study of a space or a project to basic punctuality, has directly affected my current work life. Innovative lecturing methods and discussions always heightened our ability to evolve our creativity.

What are the types of projects you handle?

I handle mostly residential, hospitality and a few corporate projects currently. At DDN Design I am involved in a hotel project in India, youth oriented UN cooperate office and a few apartment projects. Handling different projects brings variety to my life and improves the versatility of my skills.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspiration comes from anything and everything around me. It could be nature, life styles or products which inspire me of my creativity. Challenges in manufacturing within limited resources and designing with limited budgets regularly drive me to address the design outcome in a creative yet functional way. 

What is your advice to aspiring designers wondering which path to choose?

Whichever design field you choose, hard work and dedication are a must to achieve your goals. Always, be curious and gather information when choosing to study design. It is a path which holds a spectrum of exciting opportunities and therefore is a wise choice if you want to be different and swim against the tide.