Intercultural Design Competence (part 1/3)

New semester, new research topic. To put it short: I liked the topic logo design and was interested in it, but as we still have enough time to research in other fields, I looked for something I have a more personal connection to. Working on a master thesis is quite time-consuming and in order to keep going, being intrinsically motivated is important. 

As I really want to go abroad during my masters degree and I’m always fascinated by getting to know other cultures and becoming more and more open-minded, I thought of a cultural approach. I already wrote my bachelor thesis on the topic: „Erasmus students at the University of Salzburg. An analysis of motivation, satisfaction, communication and cultural challenges in the context of a stay abroad.“ Therefore, I conducted interviews with Erasmus students and I really enjoyed working on the topic and getting to know people with other different backgrounds. There is so much we can learn from each other. 

But now, back to my new topic: I started doing my research and came across this article:

Working across cultural boundaries

It is about a new approach for graphic designers working across cultural boundaries.

In this study, the following questions were addressed:

  1. How is the concept of culture understood by graphic designers?
  2. How does culture impact the visual language used by graphic designers?
  3. How can cultural understanding be effectively incorporated into contemporary graphic design?

Phase one of the research was an in-depth review of exiting literature. The article states that there were only a few existing design studies found that defined culture for the graphic designer. That’s another reason why I find this topic worth researching and digging deeper. 

Phase two consisted of data gathered through eight qualitative interviews with graphic designers and design educators about their real-life design experiences.

Adapting to new ways of working

The globalization of the world has a big impact on the graphic design profession. Individuals can collaborate and compete on a global scale and are no longer limited to their own city, country or even continent. A designer that wants to design for clients with different cultural backgrounds than his own has to have particular competences.

A designer can choose from a wide range of visual languages:

– their own visual language

– the local visual language of their client

– a more global visual language

Different cultures understand visual language in totally different ways. The question arises:

Do designers have a responsibility to learn and use local visual languages or should designers work to establish a universal visual language that can be more broadly used?

I think one could write a whole book just about this topic. We always need to remember that the goal of visual communication design is conveying a message.

Culture in Graphic Design

The term „culture“ is probably one of the hardest ones to explain. I will not go into greater detail now, because it would take forever. In my opinion, this would be a really difficult part of the master thesis. It already gave me a hard time while writing my bachelor thesis and I still haven’t figured out what culture really means. And not to forget, there are different terms related to culture like „cross-cultural“, „intercultural“, „transcultural“ and „multicultural“.

An interesting quote from Edward Hall is that „culture is communication and communication is culture“. So in order to communicate successfully, one has to understand the culture. Our cultural backgrounds shape us and very often, we are not aware of how much we’re influenced by it.

Graphic design can be very complicated depending on the context of the design and how much the culture of the audience differs from that of the designer.

You can find out more about the intercultural design competence in my next blogpost.