Creative Careers in Graphic & Visual Communication Design: A conversation with AOD alumnus Chanuka Wijayasinghe

Chanuka Wijayasinghe loves what he does for a living, and appears to embody the famous adage: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” A graduate from the Academy Of Design’s first batch of its BA (Hons) Visual Communication Design programme back in 2010, Chanuka has no regrets in having taken the plunge that would eventually launch him towards a successful career in creative communications.

Having found employment at Triad –one of Sri Lanka’s leading advertising firms- right after graduation, Chanuka has since worked at several other illustrious creative agencies in Sri Lanka (namely Phoenix Ogilvy, BBDO Lanka, and Splendor Media), rising up the ranks from a humble designer to the position of Executive Creative Director that he holds today. Along the way, Chanuka also picked up several prestigious accolades for creative excellence, twice winning the Young Lions Awards in Sri Lanka and representing the country on two occasions (2011 and 2015) at the International Cannes Lions Awards in France. He was also part of the team that won bronze at the Spikes Asia Awards in Singapore in the year 2018.

Chanuka speaks to Education Times about how his education was crucial in helping shape the trajectory of his career success.

  • Tell us about your current role

I’m currently the Executive Creative Director at Boutique Agency Network, where we take a data-driven creative approach to helping clients communicate with their target consumers. I’m responsible for the overall creative output of the agency, so my role is to manage all the creative departments while generating and refining ideas as well as overseeing all campaigns.

  • Graphic & Visual Communication Design doesn’t exactly fall into the conventional list of career choices for an O/L or A/L graduate. At what point in your life did you realise that this was the route you wanted to take?

Yes, you’re right, especially since I come from a long line of military service in the family. My parents didn’t want me to follow the same route however, and I was naturally artistic as a child. Not artistic in the traditional sense, but instead drawn to geometry for instance, seeing the design potential in it. I was also into passion projects and keen on seeking out ways to give back to the community, and I learned quite early on that visual communications was a way of tapping into that. 

  • How has your experience at AOD helped shape the trajectory of your career?

While at school I only vaguely comprehended design and its potential, and it was not until I enrolled at AOD did I come to understand that there were actual  tools I could use to upgrade my existing amateur skillset, and also the various career pathways I had opened up for me as a visual communicator.

In addition to equipping us with proficiency in a range of graphic design fields, what I am most grateful to AOD for is that as part of our curriculum we were made to work on actual client projects; giving us exposure to the many applications of our skillsets towards various industries, while also building our confidence and a sense of purpose into the work that we did.

The university experience should afford more than just study. During my years at AOD I was also able to make connections and build a strong network of like-minded people who were also exploring a non-conventional career path at the time; those who have now gone on to become successful individuals themselves.

  • How do you think Graphic & Visual Communication design has fared during the pandemic, and what do you predict the future is going to be like going forward?

I think it has only proven its resilience at a time when the rest of the world seemed to have struggled to cope. At its core, our job is to get a message across – to make communications more absorbent to a consumer, so to speak. Even at the onset of COVID-19, there was plenty of reason to instruct or relay messages to the public; for example even something as simple as how to wear a mask. Of course, there was also the additional versatility of being able to work remotely with ease.

So, for as long as there is a need to exchange or pass on information, news, or ideas, there will always be an opportunity to use our skillsets as a visual communicator.

  • What have you found most attractive about this line of work?

What I appreciate most about what I do is that I’m not restrained to just one industry. You can’t pigeon hole creative communications like you would other career pathways. If you’re venturing into the creative industry, you’re claiming a stake in almost everything.

Solely from my own batch at AOD, my friends have gone on to great success in a wide variety of career fields; from graphic designers to photographers, and corporate advertisers. Even personally within the corporate sphere, I get to work with clients and business entities from a wide spectrum of industries; also, importantly to me, allowing me to contribute towards furthering important societal projects and causes.

  • What would you advise young   design aspirants who are considering getting into the field of Graphic & Visual Communications?

Don’t hate challenges, make challenges hate you. Graphic & Visual Communications is all about tackling problems head on, and coming up with the most attractive solution for the particular issue at hand. This is a field that will always challenge you and at the same time drive you to find answers; in the process bringing out a whole range of human emotions. I am passionate about what I do because I get to constantly experience new things and learn along the way. If you’re looking for an extremely engaging and versatile career, with also plenty of opportunity to make a positive impact on society, it’s Visual Communications that you need to sign up for.

The 3-year BA (Hons) Graphic & Visual Communication Design programme at AOD is one of the university’s most popular for the breadth of career opportunities it provides post-graduation. As with all BA courses offered at the pioneering design institution, this programme too is affiliated with the globally-ranked Northumbria University, UK; giving students the opportunity to pursue an immersive, world-class design education taught by an experienced and passionate international faculty closer to home. Additionally, students benefit from an address at South Asia’s nucleus of design, the Colombo Innovation Tower (CIT), and the inspiring community of innovation-led creatives and businesses it also serves.

AOD’s BA (Hons) Graphic &Visual Communication Design programme introduces students to the role of a professional designer as a visual thinker, versatile problem solver, innovator, and change maker. Students will then be guided on the development of concepts, research, experimentation, analysis, and critical awareness, while also being encouraged to hone their own signature design personalities. The programme provides a fully rounded experience in graphic design while allowing specialization in the areas of branding, publishing or image-making. 

AOD invites Sri Lanka’s next generation of visual communicators who have just completed their O/Ls and A/Ls, to learn more about its BA (Hons) Graphic & Visual Communication Design degree, and of how the programme sets its students up -like it has for Chanuka- for a versatile and resilient future in design. For more information on how to get a head start on your design career, please reach AOD Colombo on 0775727772, email or walk in between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday – Colombo Innovation Tower, No 477, R A De Mel mawatha, Colombo 4