Kaori Serakaki, 43, is a graphic designer at Media Section, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). Serakaki designs posters and pamphlets for various events the university hosts. Her sophisticated designs have earned high recognition and are essential to her team. The designer has Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in communication. She said, “I always tell people not only what I cannot do but also how I can make up for my lack of ability, otherwise people will not know what to expect.” Developing her own solution to the problem, Serakaki has built rapport with her colleagues as well as an environment where she can fulfill her potential.
Before joining OIST, Serakaki had to change her jobs often due to communication problems in the workplace. About 8 years ago, she took an assessment at her doctor’s suggestion, and she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. “The diagnosis freed me from self-blame,” she recalled.
After studying graphic design at Gushikawa Vocational Training School, Serakaki joined OIST in 2016 as a part-timer with a fixed term contract for 6 months. “I thought people would see me like an ‘alien’ because I think I was different from them. To earn their trust, I tackled a big pile of photos to sort out.”
Her colleagues were impressed with how she always got things done accurately and ahead of time. To help her teammates, Serakaki decided to use the saved time for designing posters. Her performance was soon acknowledged and she got “promoted” to a full-time position in 2017.
Over the last 2 years, Serakaki has designed more than 110 posters for OIST. She said, “Once I understand the core message my client wants to deliver, a design idea pops into my head. My supervisor and colleagues talk with my clients to understand their needs for me. They are very supportive.”
On April 16, a poster exhibition on marine research started at Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, where a large poster Serakaki designed is displayed. Nobuo Ueda, a Research Support Specialist at OIST Marine Science Station said, “Ms. Serakaki listened to our needs carefully and her finished work far exceeded our expectations.”
Throughout the years, staff members from Employment and Life Support Centers for Persons with Disabilities have been supporting and working with her. “If you have a disability, you may require assistance and support in many forms. But if you keep trying to understand yourself and working diligently, eventually people will come to help you. Being disabled should not mean there is a limit to what you can do,” Serakaki concluded the interview with an inspiring message.