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WORKING ACROSS CULTURES
You have only to walk down a busy city street, leaf through ads in a magazine,
or travel through an airport to understand what a multicultural society
America has become. Experts tell us by 2010, 50 percent of the U.S. population
will be comprised of minorities. Over half the future workforce in America is
predicted to arrive as immigrants. Even smaller cities and towns throughout
the country are experiencing a population shift that reflects newcomers from
other cultures.design
Today’s business climate is heavily influenced by current trends towards
global markets, cultural diversity, and rapidly changing technology. What’s this
have to do with you as a graphic designer? A great deal. Chances are that your
customers, your co-workers, your colleagues, your vendors, and/or your
prospective clients may belong to a different culture that you do. Simply put,
intercultural communication means sending, receiving, and interpreting messages
between people from different cultures.design
You need to cultivate a cultural sensitivity so that you are able to vary both
your design as well as your approach to clients. “You really must do your homework
first,” advises Avantpage’s Denise Denson. As Marketing Manager for the
Davis, California, company specializing in translation and multilingual formatting
and output, Denson elaborates about the importance of research:
Why are some products and not others marketed successfully to a particular
cultural audience? It has to do with the ability to connect with the
audience in their own language and on their own cultural terms. You
have to use images, colors, concepts, values, ideas, and language that the
target audience can relate to. For instance, Hispanics value their family
most. So, a car manufacturer trying to sell a car to the Hispanic audience
needs to highlight the car’s family-friendly design (i.e., spacious back seat
for the kids), and feature images of families and vibrant colors (Hispanics
love color). Every culture is different, even among those that speak the
same language; Mexican tastes are different from Colombian tastes.design Basically, it takes a lot of time, research, and care to launch products and services abroad.design Only after you complete your research will you be prepared to create designs for specific cultural audiences. Occasionally you may find that you will need to outsource some services. As Denson points out: Translation is simply converting one language to another, and does not necessarily always take into account cultural differences between the original intended audience and the target ethnic audience.design Localization is basically adapting documents and multimedia for foreign countries so that they read and look as if they were created by natives of that country. The process includes translation, but it also encompasses looking at many cultural and country-specific norms, such as: date/time format, references to holidays, differences in units of measurement, telephone and address format, currency, cultural symbols and signs, abbreviations, acronyms, use of color, verbal expressions, humor, etc.design