Week 2 Response: Jan Chipchase – Calibrating your Cultural Compass

Jan Chipchase has a very interesting way of studying local culture, at least to me. I strongly believe that through activities of a particular timing, it can show how a community behaves, and also functions. Us as designers, we sometimes tend to overlook certain details. Designers sometimes would just do a simple research off the web, at most a simple survey and there they go on with their sketching etc.

However, I feel that we as designers should really get to the ground, to interact and blend in with the local culture so as to gain a deeper understanding of the specific target user, or market. Through understanding and observing the local culture, we can actually see the vast difference between two different countries.

Scene of Singapore MRT when a breakdown occurs.

The above image shows the crazy amount of morning commutes trying to get themselves a space at the platform in Singapore (during a train breakdown), in hope to hop on a train which brings them to their destinations. Train breakdowns in Singapore are getting more and more common, and they can happen in the morning rush hour, usually 6am to 8am.

In my trip to Taiwan a year back, I actually made the MRT my main form of transportation from places to places (buses there were just to confusing). At 6am, I went to the metro station,  there was not much of a crowd, but what I saw was that commuters were lined up orderly, with a clear path for other passengers to alight before boarding on. As compared to Singapore’s queue system, well, there is a path for alighting passengers, but it just gives an impression that the exit path is reasonably narrower.


With this little observation I made as a local in Singapore, and a tourist in Taiwan, I could surely feel that different culture that they have, like how Chipchase has done as to calibrating to many different cultures. Having said so, I believe that we as designers, while designing products/ services, should take into consideration the behaviors of the target market. This would prevent any misunderstandings, which could possibly lead to the failure of our design.


  1. Would it be actually possible for one person to do the research on his own or it would work better in a team?
  2. What difference would it make from experiencing cultural behavior personally to getting a local to fill you in on the minute details of their culture?


Response on: The Design Of Everyday Things – Don Norman

Chapter 1

From the first chapter of the book, I could understand a few of the key points the author is trying to bring across. Firstly, would be the experience of handling a door, having the typical “push/pull” problem. We all have encountered this problem in our lives, pushing a pull door, vice versa. Even though design itself have advanced a great deal, I feel that this problem has not really been solved, in a way, where there are people still pushing a pull door, up till today.

This brings me to the next point. Us as being human, are used to getting things to work through the method of trial and error. However, this trial and error method would mean that a design was not well-thought of and hence needing the user to encounter difficulty in using the product and learning from it.

The differentiation of Design Specializations was something new to me as it clearly allows me to understand the differences between the three design specializations when it could be easily mistaken for one another. When compared to HCD, it also gave me a clearer picture on what all these mean and how they relate to each other in terms of user experience. Beside understanding these differences, I benefitted from the examples given throughout the chapter and the dialogue between the student and mentor. Simple examples allowed me to understand confusing terms in regards to signifiers and allowance.

While it was insightful and enriching to me as I read the first chapter of the book, however, I would like to ask:

  • How is experience design different from ergonomics? Or are they the same?
  • Leading from first question: If I carefully design my products with human ergonomics and fulfil the needs of the target user, does it also mean that I have given a positive user experience?