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Posts Tagged ‘identification phase of message

What are the “cultural meanings” in your design?

In an interview with Debbie Millman, Grant McCraken said: “Basically, a design is expressing one or several meanings of a culture.  It is the job of the designer to explicitly express these meanings, in a particular package, for a particular group, at this particular moment…”

Design matters because it’s a great opportunity for giving clients (corporations, institutions…) access to anthropology, sociology, and knowledge of the particular cultures…

The “just trust me” doesn’t cut it when presenting the message.

If the designer is not consciously aware of what “meanings of the culture” he is approaching, maybe he is consciously illiterate about the particular culture, and the designer needs to start doing his due diligence: The Western civilization failed to take seriously the cultures of the emerging economies of China, India, Latin America, the Middle East…

The first condition to crafting a “provocation” in a design is to have a thorough knowledge of the culture and the social world in which you mean for your design to effect any structural change. Designers should not fail to get access to the proper culture, the language, the customs, the dances, the music…

It is up to the designer never to assume that the corporation knows what changes in any culture the designer is targeting. The most critical phase in branding a product or service is identifying the cultural meaning the brand wants to alter, change, or enhance.  The identification phase requires that the team of designers be at the highest of their background knowledge of the particular culture.

For example, Santa used to be dressed exclusively in green, until Coca Cola dressed Santa in Red and White, and particular cloths that never changed in details in all the ads…A corporation may have control over a design until the message gets hold of a culture meaning and belongs to the masses and consumers.

Seth Godin said in the interview:

“Thorough background knowledge of the culture and tradition in designing a brand is a must in order to have any impact:  It is not Photoshop or Illustrator technical skills that define a designer.  There is a need for a mix of history and future expectation in order to feel like growing…For a brand design to appeal to real people, it must be able to connect to feelings we have that go back to age of four.  For example, to reconnect the experienced feeling to a chocolate bar…from the visual, the smell, the shape…”

Many City-States and small States (Dubai, Qatar, Singapour…) are trying to project their brand culture in many major capitals around the world, like building high rises in London, the tallest high rises, gigantic hospitals, ports,…

No new media medium ever killed an older one: Television improved radio, and internet enhanced television…We have a multiplicity of improved medium to select from and adapt to…

The world has reached a climax in fluidity, in abundance of choices, in fast turn-over of technological products, and mankind feels that the best he can do to cope with the quick superficial changes is to learn how to be fluid and respond accordingly. You cannot leave decision and control in the hands of the “elite class” who seek total control for any change in society…

Since we pay dearly both ways for not responding to culture and for opposing change, we might as well learn how the fluid current is heading to.

So far, it feels more of a promissory note that designers will take the trouble to comprehending the targeted culture they are designing for.

McCraken said:

“Time line is a cultural creation:  It is circular, linear…and consequently, we create a future corresponding to our notion of time.  The return of artisanal movements, do it yourself, back to nature… mean that we want to get back to a circular time notion, a future that has a sense of continuity, not moving faster than we can cope with, in touch with the present and past slow human development…

We want a world with manageable propositions, actuated and controlled by mankind limitations and potentials…”

Note 1:  This post was inspired by Debbie Millman ”Brand thinking and other Noble Pursuits”. This book is a collection of 22 interviews with known brand designers and entrepreneurs such as: Wally Olins, Grant McCraken, Phil Duncan, Dori Tunstall, Brian Collins, Virginia Postrel, Bruce Duckworth, David Butler, Stanley Hainsworth, Cheryl Swanson, Joe Duggy, Margaret Youngblood, Seth Godin, Dan Formosa, Bill Moggridge, Sean Adams, Daniel Pink, DeeDee Gordon, Karim Rashid, Alex Bogusky, Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell

Note 2: Debbie is president of design division at Sterling Brands and president of the AIGA design association




June 2023

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