“THE NEW LOCAL” campaign by AOD: building future game changers of tomorrow

Culture can be defined as a system of ideas, values, and behaviours -including habits and customs- shared by groups that determine the actions of an individual in that society. One’s culture often provides a ‘frame of reference or perspective’ with which to identify with members of the same societal pool, or even to choose to represent themselves when out of their communities.

The global design arena is witnessing a drastic shift in consumer material behaviour – influencing both design practitioners and the processes involved. Where in years – and even decades – previously, Eastern (in this case Asian, African, and Middle Eastern) creatives were largely influenced by Western culture, there has now been observed a fast-moving delineation -marking a clear distinction from the heritage that was not theirs to begin with.

While always appreciated for its resolute retail industry, Sri Lanka, with its rich heritage and valuable resources, has long been undervalued when it comes to what its traditional processes stand to contribute to the international retail space. Now however, new-gen Sri Lankan designers are openly embracing longstanding tradition in favour of collectivism and a deep-rooted respect for the offerings of home soil–finding ways to highlight their roots onto their creations, and reinventing traditional designs with a contemporary spin. Culture-thinking in design is a profound commitment to upholding a society’s values while creating to make a positive impact as part of a global contribution.

It is in testament to this renaissance of home-grown talent, creativity, materials, and processes, that the Academy of Design (AOD) has named its theme for the university’s 2022 campaign. ‘The New Local’ underscores the importance of cultural dimensions in the design process – be it through traditional techniques, local resources, or sustainable practices. Honouring the island’s history, but with room for positive disruption within the design innovation space.

The leading design institution was able to kick off this new movement and uphold its ‘The New Local’ theme at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held in December last year, projecting Sri Lanka’s young design talent – alongside the brand of local aesthetics and philosophy they represent – onto the global spotlight. This, with the larger goal of bringing greater creative value to the country’s export industry, by taking intrinsically Sri Lankan fashion to international waters.

Although ‘The New Local’ is a fresh campaign, its driving ethos has been rooted in AOD ever since the academy opened its doors back in 2001. Both a facilitator and cheerleader of local creativity and entrepreneurship, AOD is consistently proving its commitment to positioning Sri Lankan innovation as on par with the rest of the world. With an ever-growing portfolio of illustrious alumni paving the way, newer design students know that they too can aspire to carving out a name for themselves among the stars.

Each culture places different value on different design elements, just as they do in their societies. At AOD, a diverse global faculty encourages its students to explore how different cultural influences can be integrated into a modern-day designer’s design practice, also investigating how this personal relationship can in turn result in a conscious design purpose -creating new designs for a future society, designing identities for cultural clarity, and innovating for responsible change.

Contrary to popular opinion, heritage and tradition as cultural currency doesn’t just manifest in the realm of fashion design; but stakes its claim also on interiors, architecture, visual communications, and even motion graphics. At AOD, students can chart their career course of choice by choosing from a range of BA (Hons) and MA (Hons) programmes – with even the option of getting a head start with a Design Foundation programme. All graduate programmes are conducted in partnership with the Northumbria University in UK by an internationally qualified and experienced faculty, also affording a unique hybrid study model where students can opt to pursue the final year of their degree in the UK.

For a more immersive and nuanced understanding of what it takes to join and be a part of the design industry as conscious, culture-led, and future-driven innovators, both prospective students and their parents can look forward to AOD’s annual open day on March 12. Themed ‘The New Local,’ the highly-anticipated event will be a celebration of how traditional artisanal design and practices can inspire a contemporary global movement.

Hosted at the Colombo Innovation Tower – the very hub of all things of reinvention – AOD students, faculty, and alumni, will be on hand to guide attendees through the inspiring workspaces and different programmes the university has to offer, also engaging with visitors through an agenda of interactive and informative presentations, exhibitions, and pop-ups. Career guidance sessions will also be made available for prospective students looking to find their place in the design space.

As design continues to grow and evolve, culture seems to only cement itself further into the realm of creativity and innovation. AOD’s ‘The New Local’ campaign carries a powerful message of optimism and empowerment – a call out for creative talent to engage in strengthening Sri Lanka, and all that it has to offer, through creativity and entrepreneurship. For it is only when design and culture merge, can the full potential of innovation indiscriminately represent the best of what our society has to offer the world.

AOD invites all O/L and A/L graduates for an inspiring day of activity, festivity, and discussions on the future of the design industry, and how its students hold the potential to leave their mark in the world. The university’s ‘The New Local’ open day takes place on Saturday March 12 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm at the Colombo Innovation Tower. Reach AOD Colombo on 0775727772, email info@aod.lk  to register your presence.