The design process has become multicultural, bringing together designers, users and other stakeholders with different cultural backgrounds as a result of the dynamics of globalization and the rise of emerging markets outside Western culture. Developing new products for the new emerging "non-Western" markets is challenged by the diversity of cultures, the diversity in the environmental, economic, and technological contexts and therefore requires new ways of design thinking. The rationale for this study emanates from the desire to understand ways to design for diverse cultures. This study explores the design processes where designers and users originate from significantly different cultural backgrounds and offers a framework that point out the challenges of the process and the strategies targeting these challenges. Grounded theory is adopted as the methodological framework for this study. Data were collected through in-depth interviews of purposefully selected designers who have experience in designing products for users whose cultural backgrounds are significantly different than their own. Twenty designers with diverse experiences from different geographical locations in the world were interviewed either face-to-face or by using online communication technologies. Two levels of interviews were used: the first level focused on identifying the process of designing for another culture and included generative questions to determine major concepts. Based on the results from first level interviews, second level of interviews focused on each step of the process, its methods, challenges and strategies. Qualitative Data Analysis Software NVivo was used for data reduction and analysis. The results emerged from three levels of coding: open, axial, and selective coding. Open coding was used to determine concepts by opening up transcriptions and exposing thoughts and meanings contained in the text. In axial coding the aim was reorganizing the data that was opened up. Similar concepts were merged into categories and developed into a tree structure that shows the relationship between concepts and categories. In the third level of selective coding, data were transformed into a framework as a result of immersion in data over time. At this stage, the visual model and the storyline of the framework that describes the design process in the cross-cultural context named as "Culture-Centered Design Process" was developed. The process of designing for another culture can be more time consuming, expensive and frustrating without the grounding pre-design phase. Culture-centered design process starts with pre-design phase which is the key to be prepared for the challenges of cross-cultural communication. Cross-cultural communication problems challenge especially the cultural immersion stage. Design teams need to respond to cultural values, norms, linguistic differences to build rapport and gain access to the users' experiential and environmental contexts at the individual level. Finding the most capable cultural broker helps design teams not only in overcoming language barriers but also in building rapport with the users and catching the subtle nuances. Communication problems are eased and users' roles in the design process are empowered when research methods are purposefully selected and combined with visual probes. Designing for another culture is less intuitive and vulnerable to assumptive thinking; therefore cross-cultural design requires constant validation of design decisions with the users. Perceptual filter or assumptive thinking especially challenges reflective integration and co-design & implementation stages. Designers need to be aware of their biases and assumptions as much as possible to draw insights from the user's reality. Directly or indirectly involving users in the design process through co-design or prototype walkthroughs can act as validation mechanisms.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2013. Major: Design. Advisor: Marilyn DeLong, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); xvi, 269 pages, appendices I-V.
Goncu Berk, Gozde.
A framework for designing in cross-cultural contexts: culture-centered design process.
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