Stake a claim to a versatile and secure global career with a BA (Hons) Graphics & Visual Communications Design degree from AOD

Visual Communications – the conveyance of messages and ideas via graphics- is fast becoming a critical element in all aspects of our lives; whether we recognize it for what it is or not. For irrespective of industry, as long as content is allowed to go beyond the parameters of text when it comes to informing, inspiring and motivating audiences, the versatility and value of visuals can never be understated.

Academy of Design (AOD) alumna and Sr. Art Director at MullenLowe, Leyanvi Methmali Mirando speaks to Education Times about how a degree in Graphics & Visual Communication Design has helped shape her own career in advertising and the impact of design thinking across a multitude of industries. 

- How have you got to be where you are today?

I graduated in 2014 with a BA (Hons) Graphics & Visual Communications Design degree from AOD, and was recruited soon after. My first employer Lowe LDB, today known as MullenLowe, reached out to me with a job opportunity after having seen my work at the university’s annual final year showcase. I joined as a Jr. Art Director in training, and after a year switched to the publishing industry as an Art Director at Echelon magazine. Two and a half years later I joined MullenLowe as an art director and in 2021 was made Senior Art Director and have been here ever since.

- In your opinion, how versatile is a degree in Graphics & Visual Communications? Have you seen this versatility manifest in your career?

Oh, definitely. A degree in Graphics & Visual Communications trains you to think multi-dimensionally and cultivates your mind towards taking a more systems thinking approach. This allows you to be able to attach yourself to any career and be confident with your skills across a vast spectrum of businesses; and even within that find ease in applying yourself to very different projects. I chose Graphics & Visual Communications because of this versatility, and even in my work I rarely find myself having to work on the same thing over again. Design keeps you current, and I’m always mentally stimulated.

When I look at my own batch mates alone, I find that we’ve all dispersed across various industries, both here and abroad; be it in advertising like myself, in publishing, or even contributing to the digital ecosystem.

AOD has also always encouraged a multi-disciplinary education. I distinctly remember one term where for a project we had to collaborate with students from all of the other departments and figure out how to collectively apply our skills to produce something tangible.

- What key learning or skill did you pick up from AOD that you still hold on to today?

While at AOD the curricula for the programme in itself was all-encompassing, what I still value from my learning is how our lecturers taught us first how to truly comprehend a project before attempting to come up with a workable solution. It is because of having been given this as a starting point with which to build on, am I able to approach any challenge with keeping a greater context and longer-term impacts in mind.

- Would you say that AOD has adequately prepared you for both a local and international career?

Yes, I would say so. During my time at AOD we were taken on a lot of study tours across the island, showcasing how rich our country’s own design history is, and also the potential Sri Lankan design thinking holds to impact the world.

Where I work now is an international advertising firm with its HQ in London. We are very global as a company, and I personally have been involved in the local launches of some well-known international brands. Many a time I remember what I was taught at university of how to maintain the ethos of a global brand while implementing it into a local context.

Our subject material at AOD was always current, and additionally, we were in the hands of an excellent and invested faculty comprising of both international and local tutors who also provided us with relevant takes on the subject matter.

- Considering the fast-evolving nature of how we work, and especially in light of the pandemic, how resilient do you think Graphics & Visual Communications is as a study pathway – and eventual career?

Well, the skillset you pick up, and also learn how to employ, will never leave you. While at the heart of the pandemic there may have been cutbacks from agencies, there was always the opportunity to go global (remotely) with your individual skillset, and even start up your own business. The flexibility with which visual designers operate brings to a profession great adaptability, and also ease in up-skilling.

- For aspiring Graphics & Visual Communications designers, what would you advise they focus on and hold onto? For those with eyes on a career in advertising too, what skills in particular should they work on most?

It might sound cliché but I truly believe that being curious gets you places. Even if it’s something as small as a new project, you have to want to explore all aspects of it. From the start to the finish of your 9-5 workday stay keen and alert, read the pulse, and apply yourself accordingly. Never put yourself in a position where you lose interest in what you’re doing. Also, creativity can be sourced from everywhere, and you need to be able to find inspiration wherever you look.

Research is key. You need to be willing and able to put in the work to truly understand the consumer; in who they are and also how they digest information.

When it comes to advertising in particular, you have to master the art of figuring out your flow such that you’re able to produce good work in a timely fashion. The briefs we’re given are often not always ideal where we have an infinite amount of time to deliver solutions, so we need to be able to think on our feet.

- You’re currently back at AOD, pursuing an MA in Design Innovation. What made you come back, and have you found connections between work and study?

I missed out on the exposure to learning, and also felt that I was growing a bit stagnant when it came to being able to bring something new to the table.

As part of the MA programme we’re being taught how to address contemporary challenges using design thinking. Currently we’re attempting to approach the country’s food security and economic issues through a sustainable lens by providing innovative design solutions; which makes us feel connected and grounded as citizens as well and yes, there have been instances where I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I can apply my learnings to how I function at work.

The Academy of Design’s BA (Hons) Graphics & Visual Communication Design programme introduces students to the role of a professional designer while also providing an enabling educational and developmental environment for future visual design thinkers and versatile problem solvers. Through curriculum content, tutorial guidance, project ‘crits’, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and even industry placements, the course has been curated so as to encourage the growth of individual concepts, research, experimentation, analysis, and critical awareness in aspiring designers. The 3-year Northumbria University-accredited programme provides a fully rounded experience in graphic design while also setting the stage for specialization in the areas of branding, publishing or image-making – giving students the opportunity to graduate with a globally recognized UK degree from closer to home.

From the university’s address at the Colombo Innovation Tower (CIT), AOD’s entire student body gets the unique opportunity to thrive under the influence of the country’s most stimulating creative environment, while also benefitting from a central location, world-class infrastructure and facilities, and an inspiring faculty of experienced global educators.

AOD invites all O/L and A/L graduates and aspiring designers to learn more about AOD and its BA (Hons) Graphics & Visual Communication Design degree, and how prospective students, like Leyanvi, can also stake a claim to a versatile and secure career path. For more information please contact AOD on 0775727772, email or walk in between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday – Colombo Innovation Tower, No 477, R. A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo