The digital design profession has always been international, yet there are still difficulties in communicating with different cultures through design. The global market presents new challenges for designers to address language barriers and ethnic nuances.
How might users from different countries or regions infer different meanings from presented data or metaphors? What accepted standards might be perceived differently in other markets, such as banner placement or selecting menu items?
Most designers assume that designing products for foreign markets only requires a language translation, switching currencies, and potentially updating a few fields. However, cross-cultural design can be much more complex.
Because I’m from Brazil and most of my clients are in the U.S., I thought I’d already be good at this. However, when a Russian client approached me recently, I quickly realized I had taken cross-cultural design for granted. Not only was I designing a product for a specific cultural condition that I didn’t quite understand, but I also found the cultural divide between me and the client to be a significant barrier to my workflow.
The 3 dimensions of cultural design sensitivity
Trompenaars is widely known for “The Seven Dimensions of Culture,” a model he published in Riding the Waves of Culture. The model is the result of interviews with more than 46,000 managers in 40 countries.
Rather than distinguishing cultures simply by language, Trompenaars established these seven differentiating qualities:
- Universalism versus particularism: Do people place value on rules, laws and dogma?
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