AOD Alumni Thilini Perera; changing the face of Graphic Design

Thilini Perera is a known name among the creative industry in Sri Lanka with her celebrated Visual Communication Design work in the areas of advertising, publishing, and education. Currently working as a consultant for major think tanks, and social and corporate organisations in Sri Lanka, she specialises in visual communication, branding, and creative strategy.  She works mostly with local and international non-governmental organisations rooted in human rights/women’s rights, gender and identity as well as a few design studios and corporate clients such as FRIDA- The young Feminist Fund USA, UNHCR Geneva, World Bank SL, Centre for Policy Alternatives SL, and Colombo Design Studio.

Thilini joined AOD as part of the first batch for Graphic Design and completed her Graphic Design Degree from Northumbria University, UK. In the past, Thilini has worked in editorial design and Graphic Design for RMIT University Saigon South Campus in Vietnam, Echelon Magazine Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Design Festival, and was also a part of the core team of the annual multidisciplinary arts festival Cinnamon Colomboscope as their Communications Manager. She has also been an integral part in productions such as being the Production Manager at Mind Adventures Theatre Company, and the Art Director of The Joyous Farmer, which won Best Short Film at the Jaffna International Cinema Festival in 2016.

Thilni's work for Echelon Magazine

How was the experience working in Vietnam?

The 2 year contract in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was a great learning curve. I spearheaded the branding and marketing department for RMIT University Saigon South campus (Australian Design and Tech University). We had to design numerous campaigns and publications in English and Vietnamese, and sometimes in Korean for the International East-Asian markets. The thinking process and catering to different audiences was fun and challenging. It was balancing the branding identity of RMIT being a fun, progressive high-tech university as well as it being a good choice for a parent to make to send their children there.

How did you get into Visual Communication Design?
I was interested in Design from pretty much the get go, since the local school system really didn't offer subjects or a curriculum that catered to someone who’s not wired to do great in the basics of math and science. I remember collecting any printed paraphernalia that looked cool and beautifully designed (labels, tags, advertisements, flyers, posters- you name it I had a drawer full of it), but honestly didn’t really know that I could study it as well or what the scope of graphic design could be. I was only good at anything I can build, craft, or draw. When I was 14 my uncle gave me a Dave Saunders ‘20th Century Advertising’ book, which was possibly the turning point. At the time, advertising was the only industry in Sri Lanka that was running on a graphic backbone, so studying any form of visual communication was the goal.

How did you hear about AOD?
I had heard of AOD through their advertising in the local newspapers. I was looking at a few options of going overseas for my bachelors but then AOD introduced the Graphic Design programme and it looked like a good option so I enrolled.

What was your experience at AOD?
AOD was great. The experience of studying at AOD was really good. Since I didn't have an ‘art’ background, the Foundation in Art and Design helped me form certain skills in an intensive manner and prepared me for to study visual communication design. The final year of the degree gave new perspectives and insight to further develop and specialise in areas within visual communication so you have a clear idea of what you want to do after graduation; with the flexibility for change.

Thilni's work for Cinnamon Colomboscope

What skills did you gain from AOD that are useful today?

The knowledge about design from art history to idea generation all helps you at different stages in your career; in various forms. Understanding design from its roots; and the extensive designing thinking structures that are taught can be applied to not only the creative aspects but to other areas as well.

Why should an inspiring designer enrol at AOD?
AOD has an inbuilt local and international network which comes with your education and which will always be available to you. And with special projects like SLDF, Design for Sustainable Development and etc. open up the students exposure, especially industry projects and other activities like field visits that's done outside the classrooms all add up to your education and career building. The opportunities are always there. Once all the tools are taught, it’s up to you to make it into anything you want. Visual Communication Design doesn’t just stop at that; you can apply your thinking/skills to different industries and projects and branch out as you please.

Why is Visual Communication Design important in the current business and social environment?
It’s difficult to think of a world without visual communication at its core. It’s a language in itself, you need to learn to use it and apply design and design thinking to local industries, education institutes, cultural initiatives and create a design state of mind capable of developing new models for economic development, sustainable growth and social impact.


Visual Communication Design is an education path that demands an in-depth study of a large but extremely interesting subject area. Visual communication designers are trained to become experts in creating and assembling images (or videos), typography (letters in specific font styles), symbols, colours and visual cues to send out a specific message, exactly as intended. Who needs this type of skill? All businesses in every part of the world need this. Visual communication design is what drives the advertising, marketing and promotions component of business as well as corporate identity consisting of logo design and branding