Prof. Robert Meeder, AOD's new CEO on a Mission to Establish AOD as South Asia's Leading Design School
Professor Robert Meeder was announced as AOD’s new CEO from September 2019, and will take the lead in taking AOD’s international agenda forward to establish a South Asian knowledge hub focusing on design and innovation. Robert, who is a visionary leader with a global footprint, looks to exchange new knowledge, with AOD as a globally accessible learning centre for design and innovation from South Asia.
Colombo–September 2019: Sri Lanka’s leading design educator AOD announced that Prof. Robert Meeder will join the ranks to direct all areas of its growth in the next few years,
“Robert brings extraordinary international experience, a spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration and has everything to realise our ambitious vision for the future of design led innovation from South Asia,” said Linda Speldewinde, founder and chairperson of the Design Corp Group of Companies that AOD belongs to. “Robert’s leadership will further elevate AOD’s already stellar reputation as a global leader in design, and our students will benefit from his more than ten years’ worth of experience in making world class design education accessible in different parts of the world.” Speldewinde added that Robert’s experience in a vast range of areas like luxury management, fashion, design and sustainability in education will benefit the AOD students immensely, and focus the school’s approach towards working with industries like hospitality, apparel, tech and FMCG.
Robert studied fashion design, fashion management, luxury management and communication in a number of European academia like Designskolen Kolding (Denmark), The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (Denmark) and the Swedish University of Borås. Robert has always been actively involved in academia throughout his career; having written and developed a masters’ program in fashion management, and lecturing for the past eight years. He was Associate Chair of Fashion for Building Arts and Digital Fashion at SCAD in their Hong Kong campus, and was instrumental in facilitating the phenomenal growth seen by the department and school during his leadership. In Dubai he established a successful creative consultancy with clients in Singapore, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Having worked with leading French, Italian and British luxury brands such as Burberry, Mulberry, Baccarat, Bottega Venetta and Dolce Gabbana in Scandinavia and the Middle East, Robert also brings in a wealth of knowledge in fashion consumer behaviours as well as taking designer luxury products to market through his experiences with luxury groups like Gucci.
Robert also consulted in developing the Dubai Design week as part of Dubai Design District, and as an advisory member to several prestigious initiatives including the Hong Kong Institute of Design Incubation program and the Arab Luxury Summit. Robert’s keen interest in diverse cultures, education methods and perspectives from around the world led him to live in major design hubs across the world, from Denmark, Sweden, Dubai and Hong Kong. He recently moved to Sri Lanka when he accepted AOD’s invitation to lead its global agenda as CEO. Parallel to his work in Sri Lanka with AOD, Robert is also undertaking his Doctorate in sustainability and design education, while exploring new models and approaches to integrate sustainability within the curriculum. Robert looks to incorporate his experience and current studies to reach beyond just the topic of sustainability to make it a new standard and a practiced classroom methodology for designers and creative thinkers.
“I have been coming to Sri Lanka for business for over a decade, and I’ve known how influential AOD is in developing a new vision for the South Asian creative economies,” said Robert. “I’m thrilled to join the AOD family in this exciting capacity, to build a forward-thinking, tech adept, sustainable academic culture.” As an educator, Robert firmly believes in the importance of linking industry to university. As his first public appearance as the CEO of AOD, Robert represented Sri Lanka and AOD next to acclaimed designers Anais Jourden and Altuzarra, with the heads of H&M, Hugo Boss and PVH Group at the Fashion Summit HK, that was held on the 5th and 6th of September.
We asked Robert a few more questions about his new appointment.
You’ve just moved to Sri Lanka to accept a challenging new role as AOD’s CEO. What excites you about working with AOD and being here in Sri Lanka?
I've been coming in and out of Sri Lanka for the last 20 years, I recall my first visit when I took a sabbatical and people thought I was crazy as it was the time during the civil war. At no point have I ever felt threaten or unwelcomed being in Sri Lanka. I've always said Sri Lanka is a land of gracious people with the warmest of hearts and I see so much opportunity for innovation, export, development and research. I truly feel that Sri Lanka is at the cross roads of so many exciting opportunities - and what better place to be than AOD. I truly feel honored to have the future of Sri Lankan talent and creative leaders of design under my care.
How has your previous experiences prepared you for driving an unusual educator in South Asia?
Having worked and lived in Dubai and then Hong Kong I am very familiar with the region and I feel that Sri Lanka is strategically position to leverage from the surrounding neighbouring countries. We have to produce graduates that are regionally aware and align to these opportunities. I've also seen a major shift in the west's approach to consumerism and retail - it’s less about bulk and mass production and more about transparency, from factory to consumer and sustainability. I also believe this is where Sri Lanka start-up industry can thrive, to cater and capture this shift.
AOD has made several major moves this year. One of them was incorporating tech and business education parallel to design. What are your thoughts on this, and how do you see this philosophy linking up with where the world is heading?
In this day and age Design/Tech/Business go hand in hand - you can’t do one without the other. I truly believe that having all three available and as part of one ecosystem will give students the full scope and opportunity to develop within all three or at least start creating the network for future partnerships whilst still studying. It really is giving our students a head start on their careers!
AOD just moved into Sri Lanka’s latest innovation catalyst space—Colombo Innovation Tower. What’s your take on an educator sharing a catalyst space with businesses, research, tech companies, banks, independent professionals etc.?
This move is very much something many other institutes and universities dream of! But thanks to our founder Linda Speldewinde's vision and dedication - we're so lucky to have this space and opportunity! It very much is the future of co-creation, collaboration and creativity. It’s a unique space where a company director can catch a lift with a student who might end up being their future employee. Or where one of our partners can just pop into a class and talk about the latest industry/business trends.
From your viewpoint as the AOD CEO, what kind of professionals would you like to see AOD create through its new interdisciplinary offer and space at CIT?
How do you think these big changes of 2019 will transform the AOD students? It is my mission to get AOD the credit and recognition it deserves - I would like the world to sit up and take note of what we are doing and the talent from this region. I also want to make sure that talent remains in the country, I see there is so much opportunities for the next generation of designers to help create and lay the foundation of the future. With CIT in place this will help students understand the importance of collaborating and working together - education has to be more than just text books. It really is about engagement and opportunities with the real world.
Do you think it’s the right time for students to get into interdisciplinary education? —why?
Absolutely! It’s how we get the industry working hence it is crucial that we give our students the opportunity to work and study across various fields and sectors. As much experience as possible!
From your previous experiences around the world, what do you foresee for Sri Lanka—a strategically well-placed South Asian nation with a growing network for design and tech oriented businesses? —and what role do you see AOD playing in this future?
I really see Sri Lanka as a role model for sustainability and leader within innovation due to our nimble size as agility to adopt and evolve with the market needs. If you think about it, the world is moving away for "large" production and mass consumption, majority of designers and brands in the west are looking for partners in east who can handle smaller orders, give more attention to service and are able to grow with them. We here in Sri Lanka are exactly in that position to offer ourselves to the world.
AOD trains young talented minds to take on tomorrow, and evolve into the kind of young professionals who can truly make a difference in the social and economic dimensions of Sri Lanka. AOD’s groundbreaking education offer comes through four disciplines from the School of Design, School of Fashion, School of Business and the School of Technology.
September 2019 enrollments for all degree courses are now in progress.
Reach AOD Colombo on 0775727772, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or walk in between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday – Colombo Innovation Tower, No 58, Lauries Road, Colombo 04.
Visit www.aod.lk Follow the official hashtag #extraordinaryminds #AOD on social media.