MULTI: Why we need a more active cultural inclusion in global design

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Why we need a more active cultural inclusion in global design by Clara Candelot, from a brazilian perspective.

Design isn’t neutral, or normative, or impartial, or universal. There is no space for more exclusion in our community. We need to educate ourselves and expand our worldview. We need to transform the way we’re working. Since the beginning of globalization, our culture has been modeled by self proclaimed “most developed” nations, both through physical force and through ideological influences. These cultural dominations are the reason why a big part of Brazilian society sees European and North American standards as something to be achieved, and western culture as ideal. The moment we currently live in is of constant change. Globalization brought us advances in technology and communications, which led us to a greater

democratization of access to information and allowed us to have contact with different cultures, no matter how far apart they physically are. On the other hand, these advances also created new social conflicts and consequently, new Design matters to be analyzed and solved. Design, as a solidified profession based on creating projects, is a concept that was consolidated in western Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. This design practice includes the formal principles studied by designers, such as communication, color, typography, image, symbols, codes, among many others. When we develop a project, we use these principles according to our cultural background, which means we transfer our worldview, beliefs and ideas to everything we create, even if unintentionally.


In a given culture, the systems of representation, interpretation, graphic production, codes, symbologies and all others within the visual communication field are linked to the typical costumes, ideas and practices of that group. In that sense, there’s no universal impartiality, especially when it comes to the worldview we communicate through our work as designers. The cultural interaction created by globalization makes it easier to connect with the most diverse cultures. Even though that connection is still not strong enough to overcome the power relations that perpetuated the Eurocentric hegemony, it has a direct impact on the designer’s work. Now more than ever, these professionals have the possibility to work with global markets, which are not necessarily linked to their native culture. So this modern work dynamics raises the need to expand the cultural perspectives of the Design professional. That way, we can look with more empathy and respect to the history, costumes and reality of the public we design for. Also, expanding the cultural range of the knowledge we access contributes to a higher quality of our creative work, as

we build a richer, more inclusive worldview. The more we distance ourselves from dominant, mainstream cultures, the more we open up to new and different visions, interpretations and stories. That doesn’t mean excluding the knowledge we have and what we’re used to, or stop accessing content produced by mainstream culture. The goal is to add up, not to replace. The approximation to new cultures and worldviews is very enriching: the more diverse our references are, the more fertile is our creative process and the more meaningful is our work. Also, there’s clearly a need to update academic curriculums in Design education to more diverse ones. This would make it easier to attend the modern global operation, graduating more efficient and conscient professionals for the future. But we can’t count only on academic transformation as a solution to expand diversity: that would work to educate future generations, but now current ones. It would also not consider those who don’t experience academic education. There needs to exist a bigger impulse to seek for cultural diversity in our field, and we are the ones to do that. As designers, we have the job to solve problems in our society. We have the possibility to 3

create systems, services, products and strategies with much bigger impact than we think. For this to happen responsibly, we should have a knowledge base free of stereotypes. This way, we should be able to reach out to a greater audience of people — with different backgrounds, stories and cultures — through our creative projects.

Together, little by little, we can move towards a fairer, more conscious and inclusive Design practice. June 25, 2021.

If we consider Design as an individual field, separating it from ethics, partiality or diversity, then the Eurocentric perspective will continue to be perpetuated in our profession and in academia. Design isn’t trapped inside a bubble apart from our society, so integrating our knowledge and practices with social, political and cultural matters is key. All of us are individuals in the making, we construct and deconstruct our vision every day, in an ongoing process. If you, as a designer, never really thought about the importance of cultural inclusion in what and how you create, or the social responsibility you have in this profession, it’s never late to start.



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