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Whether a designer has a cadre of multicultural specialists behind him or is part of small firm without such luxuries, the need for understanding the nuances of designing across cultures is critical. Effective design begins here: “You can’t assume what’s culturally relevant to an ethnic group [or a subset of that group] that you don’t belong to. [It’s not even safe to assume it for a group you do belong to]” (Lipton 8). The answer to a successful campaign begins as it would for any project: It starts with knowing your audience and then adding visual cues that relate to that audience (Lipton 9). McDonald’s has been doing that successfully since the 1960s and has also started to tailor its products to minorities. In 2010 the fast-food chain started offering mango and pineapple smoothies, both of which were big hits in the Hispanic community. Interestingly enough, the new flavors soon overtook the traditional leader, strawberry banana (The Economist). Designers, however, have to tread with caution when imbuing a campaign with visual cues because the line between stereotype and cultural awareness can be very thin. In fact, designers would be wise to question their first instincts when starting a new project because it is possible that the ideas that come to mind first are the result of either generalizations or overuse. For instance, when targeting an Hispanic audience, it’s best to leave the pínatas, sombreros and cacti out of the picture, said author Ronnie Lipton in Designing Across Cultures (Lipton 15). She added that using those icons is likely to have the opposite effect, conveying to the audience that the designer didn’t take time to study the culture more thoroughly.

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm. 2012 Thesis