AOD Alumni Rochelle Bibile creates a vivid shift in Visual Communication Design

Meet Rochelle Bibile, a CEO with a one-of-a-kind imagination leading her own Design Studio ‘Bakamuna’, specializing in mixed media art and design.

Rochelle comes from a family of creatives who always encouraged her vivid imagination and creative endeavours. While schooling at Ladies’ College she was involved in theatre, choir, dance and band performances which meant she spent most of her time either onstage or designing sets and costumes. This was the beginning of her love for design and creating unique concepts. Rochelle always knew she was going to be a designer.

Q: Design is still an unorthodox career option in Sri Lanka. What built your interest in Visual Communication /Graphic Design?

Although I always wanted a creative career I had no idea where to start or what Graphic Design was. At first I thought that it was just about creating visuals on computer programs which I found extremely boring but once I got a better understanding of it I really wanted to learn more! When I went for my first briefing at AOD I was told that Graphic Design had very little to do with computers and that there was so much more to it. What really made me want to go with the program was the fact that it was something so new to me and I felt like the possibilities were endless!

Q: Do you think a Graphic Designer should be professionally educated?

Absolutely! The Graphic Design Degree at AOD really gave me a lot of confidence and direction in what I wanted to do. I realized how quickly I was developing as a designer because of my education and I always valued it. The lessons were fun, interactive and not just limited to a classroom. I had some amazing opportunities to do live projects for big brands and I learnt how to present my ideas and concepts in a professional manner. I got the opportunity to take part in both local and international design competitions which helped me connect with industry professionals at a young age. AOD also provided me with the opportunity to represent Sri Lanka at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival which gave me amazing insight in to the world of branding and advertising. By being a part of International Design Conferences like Design Yatra also was a great platform to listen and learn from creative minds from all over the world.

Q: What was your experience in the industry as a recent Graduate?

One of my first experiences was with AOD which enabled me to work with all its connected brands like Island Craft, Design for Sustainable Development and Sri Lankan Design Festival (SLDF). This experience was my first introduction to product development and branding. My first job after graduating was at Harpo’s Cafes and Restaurants. I handled all the promotional material for six different brands which was challenging at times but really exciting and because of my education I was able to balance different projects and I would always push myself to do more. As time went on I got in to food photography as well so I had complete creative control of the visuals I produced. Additionally I was able to be a part of the rebranding process of The Commons and Harpo’s Pizza which gave me the opportunity to use my knowledge of concept building, branding and packaging design.

My education at AOD prepared me to always be up for any design challenge and to push myself to explore areas that were out of my comfort zone. My next role was as a lead designer at a US based design and print house and store which gave me the opportunity to learn more about international design standards, printing, packaging and a bit of retail as well. There are lots of great opportunities and a high demand for Graphic Designers in different fields. My dream was always to start something on my own so I made sure I worked closely with successful entrepreneurs so that I could learn from them as well.

Q: Tell us a bit about your brand, ‘Bakamuna’.

Through an enabling platform for prospective Sri Lankan entrepreneurs called idea2fund which is powered by MTI Consulting, I was able to start my own design based business called ‘Bakamuna’. Bakamuna which means ‘owl’ in Sinhalese is a reflection of myself as a designer mostly because I come up with my creative concepts at night! We are a Mixed media lifestyle design brand and our role involves creating, connecting and collaborating. We create original design concepts and mixed media illustrations, we connect with individuals and we facilitate idea expression and we collaborate with businesses to add value through design. We have taken on a range of design projects both locally and internationally and we recently launched our pop-up store concept as well. The pop-up carries a range of mixed media lifestyle products such as homeware, stationary and accessories. Through our pop-ups we connect with a large local and international audience that we stay connected to on social media, constantly keeping them updated on our exciting design journey!

Q: How do you stay inspired to keep on innovating and creating?

I love to travel and I’m inspired by different places and cultures. I love connecting with people and learning about the arts and crafts in that area and watching the way they create things. I also really love nature and I’m inspired by wildlife and marine life as well. Mixed media is the process of using two or more mediums like paint and collage, pastel and digital media. This is at the core of all my work and I’m constantly looking at new materials and processes. I have also been exploring ways of creating products with wood, rubber and fabric as well. The more I explore new materials, textures and processes the more I feel inspired to create!

Q: What have you got planned for the future?

Design has opened up a world of endless possibilities for me and my dream is to continue creating and collaborating. Life as a designer has enabled me to break away from the 9-5 desk job and I can work from anywhere in the world which has given me so much freedom! In the next few years I hope to continue to travel and explore the world while getting inspired and expand on what I’m currently doing. Through Bakamuna we also work with the community and encourage people to celebrate life through art. We have conducted some mixed media art workshops for kids and I would like to continue to do that on a larger scale. While I build my own business I feel it’s also important to encourage the younger generation to explore their creativity and inspire them to have the courage to build a creative career as well.