Design: My Story, Voice, and Prediction

Design: My Story, Voice, and Prediction

I am Daniel Opoku, originally from Ghana. I migrated to the United States to pursue the dreams of my father, who desired me to be a different Visual Artist. Before high school, I had not considered higher education in Art because of the stereotypes attached to students who pursue careers in Visual Art. There is a general misconception about artists; they are not scholars. And I did not wish that for myself. I dreamt of wearing a similar white lab coat like my father, who was then the director of a blood bank at Okomfo Anokye teaching hospital, Ghana, who also served as a pathologist assistant at the same hospital.

When it was about time to choose an academic area of focus, his counseling which was a bitter pill to swallow turned to be the right advise. He advised that science is mathematics, and I had never scored an A or a B throughout my Junior high school education. "...but you love to draw" he says. “All your teachers acknowledge that” He explained to me how I was unhappy anytime he takes me to visit the hospital. Yes, I often fall sick the next day. Although I was a tipped-up student by society to study science, I diverted to pursue my happiness – Art.

Growing up, we did not have a computer at home, primarily because an individual could not afford one at that time, and the internet was a mystery. My dad had a new old typewriter. Instead of Zoom or Skype meetings, he had his distance education through the mailbox, towards his diploma from a University in England. He receives his course books and assignments through the mail and submits his reading responses the same way. It took him years to complete the course, which should have taken less than a year in our present time. I think.

In the evening, when he is back from work, and there is an industrial loom’s noise in the house, that is my dad weaving his reading response or typing personal letters to his professors from his screaming analog typewriter. His typewriter was complex, and I had no interest in it. When you commit a typographic error, you have to start again with a new clean sheet!…and found it annoying. He says before you type, you should complete at least a sentence in your mind, and hold on to a thought until you have fully and carefully typed it. Nonsense?

When computers became popular, he bought me the Acer brand and enrolled me in computer classes. The goal was that, I will return to teach him how to use it. I was 15 years old, and I do not remember if I was the one who killed his interest in computers. I installed Encyclopedia Britannica to do pretentious research when he is at home, so he would not kill my obsession, in his quest to navigate the digital space. Funny enough, Mavis Beacon teaches typing was kicking the old man’s ass! However, the computer keyboard had the same QWERT arrangement as his typewriter. He could type very fast on his typewriter but struggles on the computer keyboard. I still do not know why. Maybe he could not relate well to the cathode rays beaming out from the digital screen. He never became better on the computer, and I did not like his noisy analog typewriter too. When he is away, it was all about the games and Microsoft paint.

Today, I am dinosaur years old, and there have been some changes in my obsession with the computer as the computer itself. The Encyclopedia Britannica has become the web servers I am constantly digging in for new information. Microsoft paint has become my Adobe Suite, and computer games inspired my interest in software development.

Currently, I am working towards a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at Ohio University. To fully understand the reasons for my poor performance in what is broadly accepted as mathematics, my MFA thesis is exploring the native Ghanaian cultural mathematics in the context of Ethnomathematics. However, my practice in Graphic Design resides in the tension between digital product design and user experience design, as I reflect on my teen obsession for digital spaces. I combine function and aesthetics with end-users anticipation in addressing social needs. Through mind mapping, interviews, and user feedback, I strive to develop physical solutions from abstract concepts that serve as tools for community empowerment.

By the principles of field ethnography, I excavate historical data and pair it with current statistics, extract development from systematic challenges to clearly define a social problem. I, therefore, iterate on accessible design solutions through collaborative analysis with community members to visualize equitable design solutions that empowers marginalized communities. This user-centered approach in design and design policy-making is what I termed as Accessible Design Solutions.

I hold a BA. Communication Design, Software Development Certificate, and Visual Arts Management Certificate from KNUST-Ghana and Ohio University respectively.

I am seeing that the speedy decentralization of data and the democratization of Artificial Intelligence will continue to birth new paths, and titles in the design practice. Therefore, all designers must rise to stay relevant.  As a UX/UI design researcher, I am constantly looking for ways to challenge my skillsets.