AOD Designers stay ahead of the game with undergraduate industry placement

AOD’s unique education produces the most coveted design graduates in Sri Lanka with industry collaborations making up the core of the curriculum 

When any graduate enters the job market post university education, an often unexpected question from their potential employers is ‘do you have any work experience?’ Reason being that, employers are looking for a professional who can bring in new ideas, perspectives and fresh creativity to the business- the time to train is limited in a fast-moving industry. If special training is essential the graduate may have to spend a few more years as a trainee, an intern or an assistant before they could really start their career. AOD—Sri Lanka’s celebrated design educator anticipates this. With a carefully structured curriculum that bridges university education and practical industry practice, and a core faculty consisting of a multicultural team of academics, designers and business relationship managers, AOD is an example of a unique academy in design—in fact, a unique academy in any sense—that sees internships and in-situ industry work as part of its work in education. This is one major reason why AOD graduates have earned a solid reputation as a group of designers who are business-ready.

In fact, AOD was founded with the vision of establishing an international design campus that works in partnership with Sri Lanka’s major industries, like apparel, to progress through design and innovation in markets all over the world. This meant that the kind of education delivered by AOD also had to be relevant for the industry here and those abroad which makes it an absolute necessity for design graduates to be able to think and work with a global perspective. This is why AOD partnered with UK’s prestigious Northumbria University to offer a series of design degrees that complement Sri Lanka’s major industries by educating young design professionals in the areas of fashion design, interior design, fashion marketing, animation design and visual communication design. Through this powerful partnership with UK’s Northumbria University, AOD now contributes a generation of design professionals trained on par with international standards, to Sri Lanka’s biggest industries and a multitude of business sectors, such as apparel, tourism, hospitality, advertising, television, interior architecture and related retail products, branding, marketing, packaging and so on.

The education of these design graduates takes place with a special focus on working with industry. Students are exposed to directly working with businesses, creative studios, brands, retailers and established designers from their second year onwards, allowing these young designers to graduate with work experience in addition to classroom knowledge. This has allowed AOD design graduates to interact and learn from various industries, collaborate with them and use design to power up industries from the onset of their education. It has allowed AOD designers to evolve into true professionals who understand the role of design and designers like themselves, in business.

Ruth Weerasinghe, a final year fashion design & marketing student shared her experience in getting a taste of the fashion industry while still studying; “My internship at MAS Active Nirmana, allowed me to gather knowledge in areas of technical skills and team work. This experience gave me a clear understanding in how design, production and the market needs are well managed in order to achieve strategic goals. It has been a very valuable learning experience.” Another student—Dilushi Prasanna studying in the final year of her degree in visual communication design—shared how working in a creatively challenging space with like-minded collaborators and peers helped her learn so much more; "My experience at J. Walter Thompson was more than I expected. I had the opportunity of doing what I love in a creative atmosphere, I got to attend insightful meetings as well as learn from colleagues that ended up being incredible friends.

AOD sees these internships as a way to connect its young designers to bigger opportunities as well. This direct exposure to industry and early network building has allowed most AOD designers to know who’s-who in businesses related to them, and have a deeper understanding of their potential employers. This not only makes them approach careers more confidently, but also increases the longevity of their roles in companies contributing to the fantastic reputation that AOD design graduates enjoy across businesses and industries in Sri Lanka, leading to build a continuing trust on the design talent that AOD creates. Through this long-standing industry trust and reputation for creating professionals for business, AOD has also been able to maintain an astounding 100% post-graduation employment rate for its designers.