AOD Graduate and Lecturer, Chani Perera; influencing the new generation of Visual Communication Designers

Perhaps more than any other designer, Chani Perera is a testament to the Visual Communication Design curriculum of AOD. Illustrator, Graphic Designer, company owner, and lecturer, Chani is a hub of exceptional talent and expertise.

Chani Perera didn’t always want to be a designer. Her first instincts were to be a surgeon which was driven by the need to save people, making a significant contribution to society. Her father, who first recognised her skill in recognising details and replicating it, encouraged her to study biology as it involved drawing. However, after seeing an ad in the paper about AOD and its Visual Communication (Graphic Design) Degree, she knew she found her calling.

Chani, who graduated with BA (Hons) Graphic Design Degree from Northumbria University, UK, is a First Class graduate from the very first batch of AOD’s degree programme. She was also one of the first students of the Portfolio programme, which offers an excellent introduction to the relevant degree, at AOD making her a pioneer student in AOD’s academic history.

After graduation, she joined Leo Burnett as a Junior Art Director, and she credits her placement to the illustration work which was purely done during her studies.  It was an exciting time where, for the first time, the advertising industry was getting graduates of Graphic Design from Sri Lanka. Working at Leo Burnett, she was among veterans and experts who were equipped with experience, knowledge, and proven methods of creative idea generation. However, Chani emphasises that while the existing methods were effective, she still used the process that she learnt at AOD, as the skills and capabilities which were instilled in her during the three years of her degree demonstrated that the graduating students come equipped with the necessary intensity to join the professional world head on.

Chani further emphasised that her method allowed her to look at the work differently. She understood that her process and the existing process were miles apart. Design thinking, design process, how she found inspiration, and the way she discovered insights played a major part in how she established herself as a professional designer in the work place. She says that this aided at Leo Burnett to understand what she did know, and what she didn’t know as well.  It helped her to understand which areas she needed to learn about the industry.  Still in her professional life, she uses the same design process, and is grateful to AOD for introducing her to key step in her professional life.

During the 4 years at Leo Burnett, she won Young Leos 2012 Sri Lanka, representing Leo Burnett at Goafest India. In 2013, She and her partner, Indu, won the first ever Gold for Sri Lanka at Young Spikes Competition for Spikes Asia Singapore. She was also a part of the Leo Burnett team that won two bronze awards at Adfest, Thailand.

After Leo Burnett, she embarked on setting up Riot House, a zine dedicated to Graphic Designers to showcase their own designs. This was a venture by Chani when she noticed that other designers as herself lacked a platform to display their personal designs, and she wanted to create a place where they could show their own work away from the client work.  She personally funded the creation of a website and a magazine that was sent out to subscribers completely free. Currently, Riot House is a design incubator connecting various designers of different expertise with clients with specific needs providing a harmonised client/designer work experience.

In the last few years, she has worked at Dentsu Grant (Former Grant McCann Erickson) as a part time designer, and specialising in design in advertising working on packaging, editorials, company profiles, annual reports, and branding. Again, she emphasised that the same process she learnt at AOD was utilised, and that it was stronger as she had added thing to the base skills.

Chani is also an Associate Lecturer at AOD teaching for 5 years in the Foundation Programme, Portfolio Programme, and currently, in the Visual Communication Design Department.  She firmly believes that every designer is always learning something new, and that by being at AOD brings in new ideas and methods as well as keeping her brushed up on her process. By being around many students with various talents, she sees that completing a Visual Communication Design degree at AOD builds their confidence. It’s not just an attribute of having a degree, but by going through the curriculum, leaning the design terminology, covering a range of graphic design disciplines such as packaging, branding, editorial and publication and more gives the students the ability to confidently take their next step into industry armed with a respectable knowledge and skill in the subject.

Speaking from her experience as a student, Chani also mentions that the students at AOD are also equipped with a certain discipline which prepares them to ask the right questions and extract the right information.  ‘Doing a degree is not easy. It requires a certain discipline. Doing a degree makes you makes you ready to take on that new world. There is a transformation that happens from Foundation to a third year student that is wonderful to watch. They become aware of life skills such as time management, figuring things out for themselves, being responsible, and being independent’.

Sri Lanka, which Chani states is at a peak in Visual Communication Design with new businesses, old companies rebranding identities, and many job opportunities in various industries, is an ideal hub of prospects for AOD graduates; ‘We also have the perk as Graphic Designers to work in any industry from fashion to interior to motion graphics... everybody needs a Graphic Designer’.