• Transform magazine
  • July 18, 2024

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Design and cross-cultural dimensions

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ADinB’s creative director and partner, Hala Sabbagh, argues for the importance of cross-cultural thinking in the MENA region.

Design has always solved problems, but there is more to it than that. It is often influenced by several factors, including geography, history and culture. Culture is an umbrella term used to refer to the social behaviour, norms, beliefs and habits found in each human society. Culture shapes the way we view and navigate the world around us.

As cultural codes mesh within the MENA region, being a melting pot for over 190 different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, the need for heightened cross-cultural thinking arises among designers – to regard culture as the window to every user’s mind and heart.

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we design for a cultural melting pot in an increasingly connected world. The content we create, the products we design and the experiences we visualise have the power to fly across borders and reach global audiences faster every day. As brands, we need to realise that how we are perceived by users depends entirely on our understanding of the cultural parameters in which we exist. Only by meeting the crucial needs of diverse cultures and taking into account their language and socio-cultural practices are we able to develop a relationship of trust with our target audiences and design products that they view as both authentic and attractive.

Adopting a cross-cultural approach in our design thinking processes then becomes mandatory – by minding users’ cultural backgrounds and addressing cultural differences in how we mould our messaging, integrate language and accommodate cultural connotations when creating well-thought-off stories and products. 

Designers should reflect this approach of cross-cultural thinking in their use of colours, symbols, patterns, typographic treatment, and visual themes as they bring their creative concepts to life. According to where we are in the world, design elements are influenced by context. For instance, for certain cultures, the use of the colour red may be regarded as vulgar or an expression of anger, whereas for others it is the colour of love and courage.

Navigating the globalised world of today calls for businesses to make a heartfelt presence beyond their markets. A relationship of trust with their audiences is key. Design, indeed, is a powerful tool to build such trust, yet it must be driven by an understanding of these target audiences and their cultural identities.