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Design guidelines for cultural contextuality

Page history last edited by David Maltz 11 years, 7 months ago

Original post:


Hi all,

Does anyone have a recommendation for a any general guidelines for industrial design to accomodate different cultural contexts?  I am in particular interested in things related to medical devices, but a more general consumer device source would be helpful as well. 


We're interesting in considering things like cleanliness, portability, discretion required for use of certain products, etc.

The ideal sourcebook would be something akin to "The Measure of Man & Woman" by Drefyss but less anthropometric, and more sociometric, if that's a word.




Cool question. Any business professor worth his/her salt will mention the work of Geert Hofstede--he is somewhat ubiquitous in business schools. A lot of people use his dimensions of culture for many purposes. I personally prefer the more obscure and somewhat (admittedly) derivative work of Fons Trompenaars. These measures map pretty directly to Hofstede's, but they seem to explain things better to me--the definitions are clearer and the intended meanings more contemporary.


This looks like fascinating stuff.  Hofstede's work seems pretty familiar, so it's permeated what I've been taught without me having his name associated with it (I am sure there was a reference, but I didn't check the footnote..)


It does seem that this work is pretty focused on human-human interaction in the context of culture, and what I am trying to get to is human-object interaction.  These reference will still help build some context for that as well.  Maybe it's a subject for a CDR Ph.D.?


There's also a Human-market element as well as human-supply chain aspect.  More concretely, I agree it WOULD be an interesting idea to look at the international business elements of culture and tie them to human-object and human-experience aspects of design!

I've seen lots of things about doing business with other cultures, and some of that might map to designs, in rare instances.  And we've seen some things that had pretty coarse generalizations, like "Asian people are smaller that Europeans", "Chinese like the color red and gold metal, etc", but it's pretty hard to apply generic rules to an actual design without direct user feedback.

The most useful approach I'd suggest would be to ask consulting sociologists or business consultants ("how to do business with Country X" people) from the countries he's targeting for their answers to these questions.  That could get you 90% of the way there.


These are all interesting but not quite on the mark:



947 and here's a review of it:



UI design mostly:



(someone sent me a very relevant presentation from Aaron Marcus, his contact info below, but I couldn't add it to the wiki -- dm)


Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc.

Experience Design Intelligence

User-Interface Development

Information Visualization


1196 Euclid Avenue, Suite 1F

Berkeley, CA 94708-1640, USA


Email: Aaron.Marcus@AMandA.com

Tel: +1-510-601-0994, Fax: +1-510-527-1994

Web: www.AMandA.com

Dave - my best advice is to ask someone in the field. Hire a consultant.  The problem is most physicians are poor designers, and most designers would make poor physicians.


Medicine and med device is really tricky to do it right, which is why I went to med school after the PD program.  And I have found that it is a very specific culture, and one that is not easy to translate to most designers. 

I'm working with a nonprofit that does healthcare education and social justice advocacy for underserved areas around the world.  They have field manuals trying to do what you describe, only for medical knowledge.  It's not exactly the solution you are looking for but might be helpful: http://www.hesperian.org/mm5/merchant.mvc?Store_Code=HB&Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=ENG


Also, a link to an article about interviewing in rural, under-served areas: http://goodfourlife.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/interviewing-in-rural-areas-august-9th-karachi/


If you are on Twitter, I would follow @JocelynW (Jocelyn Wyatt at IDEO).  She posts lots of links about these kinds of questions.


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