In the chapter Calibrating Your Cultural Compass, the author Jan Chipchase shares his tips on understanding other cultures. In the final few paragraphs, the element of design is brought into play, where local cultures can influence a product or service’s design in the local market.
One of the more striking comparisons was the McDonald’s menu in India, where the large consumer base of vegetarians has made the Indian menu different from most other McDonald’s. This is however not surprising to its consumers, given that vegetarians as well as high-carbohydrate diets are the norm in India. I may not have personally been in India, yet after having spent 3 months in Citi with majority Indian professionals as part of my internship, some of their subtle habits can be noticed. Hence it is possible to have a understanding of other cultures despite not being in their native country.
While I recognize that some of the tips may be useful, I feel that no matter how one calibrates in a foreign culture, some interpretations may not be correct. A few days spent people watching may not give insights into their daily pains or joys, nor have a shortcut through time to understand the history and habits of the locals over the ages.
As a foreigner trying to understand or design a product for a foreign market, the ultimate goal is to have a design that the locals enjoy using and have a real impact in their lives. Absorbing the local culture is a good way to understand the basic fabric of the culture, but it is a small factor as compared to local user inputs on the design that works for them.
QN1: How effective are foreign designers in addressing the needs of a foreign market? Would local designers be better at this?
QN2: Should designs have a local flavour to it?