Exploring new dimensions in the Design industry where local talent meets global opportunities

AOD Alumni Fashion Designer and Fashion Marketer Bhagya Withana builds on her early exposure to design to pursue new elements in the design industry


The Design industry spans the globe with a multitude of career opportunities for those with the right education, skills and the knack for surging ahead with new developments in the industry. With Sri Lanka and the world searching for the next big talent to revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase and behave, design has become a major part of any business where companies depend on designers to create value, ideate and innovate. When molding the young design professionals that will lead the next generation of design-led innovation, it is imperative that they have the right education, skills and the necessary exposure to the industry at the early stages of their education.

Bhagya Withana was interested in Design from a very young age and knew that it was the path that she needed to take in order to create a successful future for herself, to follow her true passion and also to utilize future opportunities. She got her first taste of the wide spectrum Design during her Design Foundation programme at AOD which she joined soon after her O/L’s. Sharing her experience of the Design Foundation programme she states, “It allowed me to first explore the fundamentals of design as a collective. I could start on my dream of following a career in design at such a young age since choosing a path which lead to my passion and growing my skills to suit the best journey ahead was also possible. Design Foundation provides students with a holistic view of design and the industry and by the end of the programme you can choose the Degree that you would like to follow based on the set of allied skills you have developed and your inherent passion”.

The Foundation programme is a special course with an all-encompassing curriculum that walks students through several design disciplines leading to in-demand careers—such as fashion design, fashion marketing, interior design, visual communication design and animation design—with the help of an expert international faculty. After completing the programme, the students have a guaranteed place in a 100% internal Northumbria UK design degree of their choice, which can be completed at AOD. Most students leaving middle school or even high school do not get enough exposure to contemporary creative arts and their modern applications such as film, cutting-edge fashion, illustration, branding design or digital app design etc. This means that often, students looking to enter design degrees do not have the fundamental studies required to harness and apply their creativity in commercially applicable ways. AOD’s Design Foundation Programme bridges this initial knowledge gap and prepares students for higher education in design through preliminary studies in all creative essentials from ideation, brainstorming and the processes of communicating your ideas through different media from drawing, basic photography, painting, illustration, sculpture, collage etc.

This early exposure to design is beneficial when moving on to a degree programme, as the student has developed a greater appreciation of design and also is more receptive of the knowledge and skills developed at an advanced level

Bhagya chose to follow Fashion Design as her Bachelor’s Degree programme as she had a vision to reach greater heights in terms of getting ahead in the fashion design industry. Bhagya shared her thoughts on how the Foundation programme supported her degree level studies; “In my experience we found it easier to grasp the more advanced concepts and projects since we had already gained the fundamental knowledge about design and practical experience. It was also an advantage in performing exceptionally well when working on complex projects and industry based projects. The Fashion Design Degree was an all-encompassing programme which gave the students in-depth knowledge and insight into the industry and more importantly we were encouraged to display and build on our own individuality. It was a different experience from following a more conventional path of study since it was more hand-on and we had to always use our imagination. This was easier to do since I managed to gain those skills during the Foundation programme and I could build on it to improve myself”.

Upon Graduation from AOD with a BA (Hons) Fashion & Textiles Design, Bhagya decided to pursue a Masters in Fashion Entrepreneurship from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Soon after, Bhagya was called upon for a position at ELLY M, a women’s fashion brand in Australia. She currently works in fashion digital marketing and e-commerce management for the brand which involves art direction and content development. “Working in the fashion e-commerce sector has made me realize the amazing and diverse opportunities out there in the fashion industry and for design in general. With the knowledge and skills developed while in this position, I am now progressing into co-ordinating digital creative content development for an active wear brand called M-Active. My background in sportswear design while at AOD and in Sri Lanka is helping me immensely in this aspect as well”.

Bhagya bears testimony to the incredible opportunities available for students who start following their dreams early in life and the various career paths available in design for those who dare to venture beyond the norm. AOD enables students of this like-mindedness to start on their design education straight after their O/L’s with the Design Foundation programme. It is a course that sets the foundation for students to find great success wherever they go in design. With introductions to major design disciplines and hands-on experiments that allow the students to get a taste of working in each creative sector, it serves as a practical and easy-to-understand pre-university course. It is delivered at AOD’s high-tech design studios and industry standard computer laboratories along with unlimited access to Sri Lanka’s largest dedicated design library situated at the campus. It leads to fantastic career opportunities in fashion design, fashion marketing, visual communication design, interior design and animation design following the design degree programmes offered at AOD in partnership with Northumbria University, UK.