Minding the Gap: Communication Design Across the Cultural Divide
A significant objective for a communication designer is to use his or her skills to make information understandable — even transparent. In a global society, where language and access to technology vary, the designer is forced to think beyond traditional methodologies in order to provide appropriate and valuable solutions. In order to work effectively in a cross-cultural scenario, one has to understand the needs and wants of a given community. How can this insight be achieved when working with those who speak a different language and who likely have unique and undetected needs?
In my research, I investigate how a designer must adapt his or her practice when working cross-culturally. Part of my process has been the design of a field bag* that acts as a desk so that individuals can engage in creative activities during the rituals of daily life. The outcomes of these activities can help a designer discover the felt needs, assets, beliefs and desires of a community before offering an assumed design solution. My ideas for this project have been framed by the concepts of democracy and good governance, whereby citizens are included in the development of policies and infrastructure.
I aspire to return to Rwanda to see the weavers further develop their skills, build and strengthen their business and become designers in their own right. I hope to work on design projects that contribute to the lives of those who have been classified as “the other 90%” (or the majority) of the world. I am also confident that they can teach me a thing or two about sustainable design.
*Note: These kits were sent to Rwanda for testing and returned to Vancouver in February 2009.