Interview with Daniel B.K. Dzandu (Ophisa) 🇬🇭


What’s your background?

It started when I was about 6 I make images out every shape and my family and teachers were encouraging me. After Junior High I was convinced that what I can do best

I used to work at a sign sign centre where we design and construct billboards. Before I arrived, they have a collection of fonts they use in their design, the layouts are almost fixed (the have about 4-6 layouts they keep repeating). The colours were almost the same all the time and there was no space to try new things.

Some preferred styles:

– Bold and Rigid 

 -Raw colours 

 -Circles & Squares

– non elegant forms

Most unfortunately I was carrying things around most of the time 😃

What inspires you the most? 


What and where did you study? Was the course heavily conceptual or was it focussed on teaching technical skill? 

I studied Visual Visual Arts in Senior High School 

(Textile Design, Graphic Design, General Knowledge in Art…) – 3 years (70% conceptual)

Computer Technology Fundamentals – 1 year in Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design) at the University – 4 years (it was 65% practical)

Why did you start your company?

I decided to start my our business because there are very few companies to employ artists. 

I was employed after uni but they pay very little and most disturbing was that they kept me to do things they believe are good. Doing the same thing everyday the same way is boring. I felt I was wasting my talent.


Who are your main clients?

The business is good, as the population is buying into the idea of advertising their product. However, most of the work more about functionality than aesthetics purposes.

My clients are the general public, the Market Men/Women, Offices, families etc. (Most people do not own private printers as in in parts of the world so we take care of their secretarial services.

Work includes:

Web Design

Design and Print                           

Poster and signs




events Coverage



Textile Design

Batik Dyeing

Screen Printing

 Functionality is my thing due to what my clients require; but also love aesthetics. So a combination. My clients so far are local; I grew up in the Volta Region and so I thought it wise to work with the people who I understand the most.

Which brands do you admire?

I like the Ghanaian Elcarna Studio (mainly their cartoons and animation).

My favourite Ghanaian Artists: are S.K. Amenuke and Dr. Dog be.

What did you study at university?

We studied Art History where we understood the life and works of artists and Art forms. 

-Albert Duree, Micheal, Picasso some Ghanaian Artists etc. 

-Artforms such as Pre Historic, Art Nouveau, Sub Sahara Art, Japanese , Bahaus etc.

What did you like about their work?

We didn’t have the option to like or dislike their works. We read about an artists’ Life – birth, birth place; what kind of artist – Painter, Sculptor etc. Description of some the works – Inventory of items, Mediums used, Technical Qualities Influence (personal, physical and cultural factors that can influence the artist) Appreciation (talking intelligently about the work without passing judgement).

How important is concept in your work?

Concept is evident in everything I design, sometimes unintentionally.

What do you love about your work?

The processes involved in doing the work makes me feel the work as part of me. The fact that it starts with the thought of making it, doing the work with my hands and the satisfaction.

What kind of work do you want to make? What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to make works that are beneficial to the society – anything at all.

I hope to get the right equipment for my company so I can offer the best graphic design services targeting the local content.

What does Ophisa mean?

My mother thought I will make a good cop so she called me ‘officer’ as in police officer, but our dialect accent made it ‘Ophisa’.


Daniel is open for collaboration and can be found here:

Kpando, in the Volta Region, 3-4hrs drive from Accra

or you can email him at



Japanese Design

Do you know to which companies these logos belong?


Actually, they are 14th century Kamakura Japanese crests and emblems for the Maruni Chigai Takanoha and Kikuchi Clan.

Japan is a progressive part of the world, especially in design. Their appreciation for spiritualism and harmony makes Japanese culture unique, deep and profound. Because of these circumstances, the visual culture is elegant and intricate. However harmonious and spiritual, the island culture is a multi-layered and complex system that has been developing within itself, forming new layers for thousands of years.

What do you first think of when I say Japan?  Geisha? Technology? Teatrading? Cars? Tamagotchi? and perhaps opium houses? We are ignorant of the multifaceted culture which, like any other country, has developed over millennia. We do not pay attention to how this complexity affects their elegant and minimal art and design. It seems that we value its beauty at face value and perhaps that says more about western attitudes to aesthetics than how we perceive other cultures.

This article will briefly take a look at some early artefacts and objects created by natives, then we will move on to look at how other crests from the middle ages resemble contemporary western logo design.

We’ll then briefly visit some of the other periods, including the 20th century and we will finally take a look at how the rest of the world has influenced the island’s current 21st century visual culture.

The country’s prehistoric Jōmon period ran from 14,000 – 300 BC. At this time the people were hunters and gatherers, but soon reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. This was followed by the Yayoi period 300 BC – 250 AD, where new technologies introduced from Asia made it possible for this strange object to appear:

Dancing Girl, Copper, Location: Mohenjo Daro.

Many more periods followed, including the Kofun period 250 to 538 AD, which is characterized by a Shinto culture which existed prior to the introduction of Buddhism. Here are some interesting artefacts produced during this era:


Haniwa (Hollow Clay Sculpture) of a Boar with Bound Feet – Earthenwear

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Asuka period 538 – 710 introduced Buddhism from China which marked a change in Japanese society. This period is also distinguished by the change in the name of the country from Wa 倭 –  meaning harmony, peace, balance to Nihon日本 – meaning “State of Japan”).


During the Kamakura period, 1185–1333, before the emperors, Japan had a system of clans, each made up of people that were related to each other by either blood or marriage, and a common ancestor.  Shinto was practiced by the people of Japan, and is based on love for the beauty of nature and ancestors. During this time the Mōri and Hōjō clans were identified by these emblems:

1200px-Ichimonjimitsuboshi.svg              o0479038313930499563

It wouldn’t be surprising to see similar visuals in modern Western contemporary art  and some forms of commercial design .

Before the Azuchi–Momoyama period (1568–1600), Japan had very little contact with the outside world. In 1543 three Portuguese travelers aboard a Chinese ship drifted ashore on Tanegashima, a small island near Kyushu. They were the first Europeans to visit Japan. In 1548 Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, arrived from Goa to introduce Christianity to the Japanese.

Thereafter streams of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries came to Japan. The Japanese called them nanban (southern barbarians) because they sailed to Japan from the south. Portuguese merchants brought tin, lead, gold, silk, and wool and cotton textiles, among other goods to Japan, which exported swords, lacquer ware, silk, and silver. Evolving in a closed, beautiful island, untouched by the rest of the world could have influenced the strikingly beautiful visual culture. 


Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620-1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper, The Avery Brundage Collection.

In 1600 – 1868, during the Edo period, the shogunate was officially established and brought with it even more economic growth, strict social order, foreign policies, and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. These new circumstances brought new materials such as ink from the West, allowing for The Great Wave Off Kanagawa to be produced by the ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.


There’s a current exhibition on at the British Museum about Hokusai.

By 1870, during the Meiji period, labelled as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ the Japanese flag was created.



A year later in 1871, R.A. Patterson created the lucky strike logo.


The Shōwa period 1926–1989, for Japan was chaotic, disastrous but also influential on Japanese design.

Pre-1945, Japan moved into political totalitarianism, ultranationalism and fascism, culminating in Japan’s invasion of China in 1937. This was part of an overall global period of social upheavals and conflicts such as the Great Depression and the second World War.

Defeat in the Second World War brought about radical change to Japan. For the first and only time in its history Japan was occupied by foreign powers, which lasted seven years. Allied occupation brought forth sweeping democratic reforms. It led to the end of the emperor’s status as a living god and the transformation of Japan into a democracy with a constitutional monarch. In 1952, with the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan became a sovereign nation once more. The post-war Shōwa period also led to the Japanese economic miracle.


Illustrations from the late Showa period:

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Modern, contemporary Japanese culture is an industrialized, built-up mess and is the result of the redevelopment after WW2 and influence from the West. This provides a fascinating contrast to its minimal and delicate design aesthetics which give the impression of simplicity and tranquility.  


Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present day, but also provides a link to the past. The escapism found in modern japanese cultural activities such as virtual partners, films and games all provide an escape from the industrial world.

More reading:

A Comparison of Traditional Japanese and Western Aesthetics can be found here.

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak is an essay on Japanese aesthetics.

Another good one: Japanese Aesthetic by Donald Keene

ありがとう、またね !

John Berger–Ways of Seeing.


Over the next few months we will be posting articles on non Western graphic design. Seeing the world from different perspectives is what helps us lead a richer and more fulfilling life. In his films, Berger offers different ways of seeing.

Process led design

We all think more often in images than verbally. Think of Barclays Bank, Coca Cola, McDonalds. Without their logos or identities do you think that big brands would be where they are now?

We understand that small businesses have a need to get an idea off the ground quickly. However, we argue that it is always worthwhile to employ a good graphic designer or an agency who will understand your business and tell your brand’s story well. A logo that captures the essence of your business is so much more than choosing typography, colour palettes, symbols or icons according to what you like. Elegance and aesthetics of the design is what comes naturally from a thoughtful design process.

When we create a logo for a brand, the client and the studio follow a creative process flowchart. In the first free consultation we ask questions such as: Why did you start your company? Why do people choose your company over your competitors? If your brand were a person, how would you describe him or her?  And many more. This allows my client to get back to the drawing board and have a good think about what they want to project.

Understanding what their product is we consider their market. Is it local, national or international? What do they need? Increased market share, to become known outside the local area? And who their audience? Luxury, young and / or international?

Now we have established who we are communicating to, we move onto stage two of the creative process. Here we create several different designs for our client to choose from. These designs, typography choices and colour palletes are all based on the information gained from the initial consultation as well as the secondary research that we carry out on their behalf.

Here are a few examples that show the evolution of a logo that we recently created for Skin Aesthetics, who are a non-surgical cosmetic clinic who put their client’s needs first. We took care to listen to Qian, the founder of Skin Aesthetics, to find a way to communicate themes such as honesty, care and reliability that are central to her business ethos. Colour scheme, typography choices and visual style were all considered in great detail to communicate everything that her brand is about. Qian came to us just for a logo. However, creating a logo that has substance is so much more important than just whipping something up; how can you talk about your visual identity confidently without telling a story?

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We decided on using blue for her identity and a Roman inspired typeface Trajan Pro. In his book Writing & Illuminating & Lettering (1906)  Edward Johnston wrote that “the Roman capitals have held the supreme place among letters for readableness and beauty. They are the best forms for the grandest and most important inscriptions.”–This fits with Qian’s wish to project herself as an authentic brand and toward a luxury market. The next images show how all of the previous elements were put into place:

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Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 16.55.22Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 16.55.14The turn around time for this project was just one week. We hope that the examples and thought process description above provides clarity on how it is to work with our Studio.



Identity and personality for brands

If  your brand were a person, how would you describe him / her?  Would they be reliable, trustworthy and to the point, or would they be shambolic, disorganised and unkempt? With a good designer, all of the qualities that you wish your brand to communicate can be brought to life.

The visuals of a brand reflect the personality and identity of that established the brand, however, a brand can not really be properly established without a clear identity.

Personality is the mysterious force that attracts us to certain people and repels us from others – Aarron Walter

Without a product or service there would be no need for a designer to visually communicate your brand and without a good design, how will anybody know who your brand is, or that it exists at all?

Why have personality?

Imagine a bold and vibrant person, who you know to be creative, elegant and unique. Imagine them wearing old clothes that make them blend into the background. Imagine them behaving shy and quiet. Do you think that something is wrong with them? Equally, imagine someone who you trust for being quietly confident, who doesn’t need to stand out from the crowd but is calm and collected and wears smart, quality and casual clothes. Imagine that one day they burst into a room singing and dancing. This would be confusing, wouldn’t it.

Would you trust a lawyer who wore trainers and whose grammar was all mixed up, or would you be more likely to use their services if they were well spoken and presented? Matching our personalities with how we appear visually is part of our identity.

It takes a viewer 0.5 seconds to decide whether they would trust a brand or not from visiting their website. From the way you answer your business telephone to what you publicise on social media, to the colours and layout of  your logo, your brand voice is determined by your identity and this should be well thought out through strategy and vision. Establishing your core values at the very beginning (with acknowledgment of being unable to control outside influences and allowing space for the unexpected) of your business will allow you to stay focussed and your audience to trust you.

It is up to you to ensure that your brand acts and behaves in line with your strategy. You now have more influence over the way people perceive you.



Illustration for advertising and branding

There are several reasons why an editor would use illustration over photography to convey concepts delivered in an article.

If a magazine is running an article about a general social phenomenon that is not specific to just one person or social group they may wish to get their message across through an overall image of the situation rather than use specific portraits. For a friendly and familiar feel about an individual an editor may wish to work with an illustrator to draw a portrait of the subject matter. Together with the text the illustration can change the whole tone feel and context of the article.

Anything is possible with illustration. Should an article be of an abstract matter an idea can be summed up better with a drawing rather than photography and illustrations can also be informative. From street maps to tables and diagrams all of these can be perfectly depicted with illustration. Illustration over photography can be funnier and whittier than photography.

Check out the work of Oona Brown who spent a year researching the Victorian egg snatchers and makes a comment on egg thieves through drawings which are easy to read.

With advertising illustration can be a part of the ‘branding’ image of the advertising campaign. Just think of Innocent Smoothie’s visual identity which includes the quirky knitted hats that appear on their bottle tops. What kind of message does this send out to customers? Do you associate the twee friendly and humble branding with the Coca Cola who own the company? With illustration you can completely change the meaning of the product. A new visual identity and can be associated with any brand to deliver a new and different meaning; after all, we live in a world of signs and symbols!

An animation for a lighting company: Cree by Ben Hill and Daniel Oeffinger

What I love about animation is that it’s almost like magic; you can make anything happen. Exaggerating ideas with vivid pictures and bringing to life an object and giving it a character that is fitting to tell your brand’s story is what sets animation apart from video for me.

Here is one by Ben Hill for Cree, a lighting company. I also admire it because of it’s style.