Humanising communication between brands and people through Graphic Design

AOD graduate Chani Perera behind Riot House Studio talks branding, creative education and where design and science should intersect to open up bigger and better possibilities for the world

At a time designations and career descriptions are becoming more imaginative than ever before, I still like to call myself a graphic designer,” says Chani, opening up the conversation. Although this incredibly talented designer likes to keep her professional definition as simple as possible, Chani’s portfolio demonstrates a much more complex breadth of work that uses a multitude of skills from creativity, critical problem solving, to strategic thinking. Her studio Riot House is probably among Colombo’s most interesting creative practices that mixes in services like branding, graphic design and creative consultancy with design education. For Chani, her love for visual design is at the core of all this; “There is a child-like thrill in me to know that I share the same profession as the likes of Milton Glaser, Paul Rand and Bruno Munari who have created some of the most important conversations in the world with design.”

Good foundations

After graduating from AOD, Chani’s career began at a legendary ad house—Leo Burnett.  One would say it’s one of the best places to initiate yourself into one of the toughest industries out there. We asked Chani to highlight one (or more) trait that she picked up from this experience, and how does it shapes her work today.

“I learned the value of self discipline, self learning and self motivation. I understood how important exploration and experimentation are in the creative process, and why you should never settle until you know it’s right. From a business point, I learnt that the best way to work is to make your deals with good people and to be able to keep business conversations transparent and genuine. Graphic design humanises communication, so must we when we approach clients as graphic designers. It works wonders and attracts the right clientele.”

Branding and business

With branding being one of Chani’s specialties, we asked her to share her own definition of branding and why it matters to businesses.

“Branding is the 'Once upon a time...' of your brand journey. It's not everything about the brand, rather, the right stage for the brand to start communicating and build its story. Branding creates the interest of someone to know about the brand or the company, and leads the consumer towards the brand. I've noticed a lot of clients and designers trying to say everything of the brand through just a logo, which is what branding is not about. Ultimately a brand must speak for itself through its actions and practices. Brands become part of many socio-economic movements now and need to be able to have a branding model that is fluid and highly adaptable. This means less in brand content and more in brand context.”

When education can change everything...

As a designer who is deeply interested in the process of creativity, Chani is also an ardent believer of educating future designers’ right. This interest lead her to accept the invitation of AOD—her alma mater—to join its Visual Communication Design faculty.

We asked Chani just how important creative education is to designers.

“My main mantra in life is education. I believe education can make everything wrong in this world, right. It is not that creative education can reshape products of traditional educational systems; what we really need is to be creative with any educational system. Regardless of all the negative comments on our traditional school systems, I disagree that they taught us nothing. Many practices I still use in life, even as a designer, derive from our traditional school system. I have met some of the best and dedicated educators in my life from this system. So it's not the content, it's how it is delivered that is really the issue.” 

The future of design

For Chani, the future of design is one that extends beyond products, brands and systems; it is about opening up completely new possibilities by intersecting science with creativity to democratise knowledge. “I've been particularly fascinated about how creative individuals have been welcomed by the medical community to help them create better learning tools for the common man to grasp medical literature, making it more accessible. There are some interesting case studies done by St.Martins, University of Cambridge, Imperial University, Arts and Humanities Research Council etc. which are amazing feats where designers, doctors and scientists have come together to create better conversation about science and health. I find this mind blowing! I feel if design can make complex knowledge more accessible, that's the biggest win for graphic design.”

The big business of tomorrow is no longer in larger product volumes or more lavish service; it’s about breaking boundaries to warp our reality. Every single industry out there is being reshaped to cater to this shift in consumer thinking. AOD focuses on creative education and the kind of skills that are needed by future professionals. AOD captures this thinking, and underlines the key attribute of the type of graduates that it will be creating in the next ten years. 

The new AOD graduates will be a generation of extraordinary thinkers and doers who not only borrow their knowledge and skills from design, but also from science, technology, engineering and business. 

To find out more about the Degrees in Fashion, Fashion Marketing, Interior Design, Visual Communication Design,  Motion Graphics & Animation Design, 3D product Design, Film and TV production, Computer Science and Business & Innovation reach AOD Colombo on 0775727772, 0115867772, email: or walk in between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday - Colombo Innovation Tower, No 58, Lauries Road, Colombo 04. Visit

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