Cultural Nuances and Design in Far East Asia


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As design is becoming more global, understanding cultural needs is becoming more important particularly in China, where culturally it is very different to the Western world. Too often, we make design decisions based on our Western mindset or make assumptions based on stereotypes without real understanding of their needs. This has a significant impact on user experience.

I will share my experience of how to approach designing for cultural needs and how experiencing culture shock in China and 6 months travel in Asia has made me a better designer.

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Cultural Nuances and Design in Far East Asia

  1. 1. Cultural Nuances & Design in Far East Asia Rachel Liu | UX Lead | @rachelsliu #HCID2017
  2. 2. Childhood British Chinese
  3. 3. Shanghai calling… London "Design and travel must co- exist for me to learn and grow as an individual. It’s my fuel for my enthusiasm, creativity and growth”
  4. 4. Honeymoon Culture Shock Initial Adjustment Mental Isolation Acceptance & Integration Hope Doing ok, but somewhat dissatisfied Awareness of promise that new experiences may help Shock Discomfort Confusion Recoil Self- doubt Adjustment/ adaptation Awareness, experimentation, practice, connection, hope Shock Recoil Adjustment Search for meaning Time Levelofcomfort,satisfactionandeffectiveness Readjustment to the University Adaptation Synthesis The W-Curve Hypothesis Model Gullahorn and Gullahorn Source: Hoffenburger, K., Mosier, R., & Stokes, B. (1999). Transition experience. In J.H. Schuh (Ed.), Educational programming and student learning in college and university residence halls. Columbus, OH: ACUHO-I
  5. 5. My Journey over last 3 years Shanghai (1 yr) Asia Travel Return to UK (1.5 yrs) Culture shock (lowest moment) Lost passport before travels Reverse culture shock
  6. 6. Culture shock in 2 months Shanghai
  7. 7. How I felt in China British Chinese
  8. 8. How I was perceived British Chinese
  9. 9. The Sharing Economy
  10. 10. China IKEA
  11. 11. Time for Change Shanghai (1 yr) Asia Travel Return to UK (1.5 yrs) Culture shock (lowest moment) Lost passport before travels Reverse culture shock
  12. 12. Symptoms Source Tackling Problems
  13. 13. • DISCOVER: Food diary, reflection journals, mood tracking • DEFINE: Identify habits/patterns of behaviour to identify emotional needs Design-thinking
  14. 14. Shanghai • Communication • Health • Home • Food Emotional Needs
  15. 15. How might I live well so I can enjoy and make the most of the time I stay in China?
  16. 16. Design for Change (Health & Food)
  17. 17. Designing New Habits
  18. 18. Food Design
  19. 19. Drink vs Food Culture
  20. 20. Taiwan
  21. 21. Taiwan
  22. 22. Temperature
  23. 23. Design for Change (Communication)
  24. 24. 家 安 Remember these characters Family Peace
  25. 25. “Education is fed like a duck… it’s just memorisation…”
  26. 26. There’s a Chineasy way… Can you guess how ‘Peace’ 安 is formed?
  27. 27. A student’s education journey…
  28. 28. China’s Education System
  29. 29. “Learning is boring. School is boring…make it life changing and inspirational.” TedX Shanghai
  30. 30. Confucius who said “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand"
  31. 31. A smart kid is a cool kid
  32. 32. Design Considerations
  33. 33. Be creative! Sketch!
  34. 34. We need to give them the dots as a starting point to guide them Guidance
  35. 35. Visual Cuteness is Attractive
  36. 36. Emoticons/Kaomoji
  37. 37. Taiwan
  38. 38. Japanese Toilet Signage
  39. 39. Functionality, functionality, functionality
  40. 40. • WeChat is king • Functionality over simplicity • More is better value for money Value Maximisers
  41. 41. Future of Learning
  42. 42. How might we work, live and learn in the future?
  43. 43. My Learning Journey Shanghai (1 yr) Asia Travel Return to UK (1.5 yrs) Culture shock (lowest moment) Lost passport before travels Reverse culture shock
  44. 44. • Enjoy the learning process (tacit learning). It takes time. • Celebrate every failure/mistake as it’s a ‘learning moment’. It’s progress. • Count and share our struggles as well as success. It’s learning. • It’s the sum of all experiences (good and bad) that is important. That’s growth. • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all learning. Lifelong Learning
  45. 45. We need to create the right learning environment, culture and context which brings people together to learn from each other.
  46. 46. Some clues..
  47. 47. It’s about RELATIONSHIPS not transactions. Airbnb creates friendship between host and guest
  48. 48. My Airbnb Experience “It is the memory that matters, not the experience”
  49. 49. The Sharing Economy Semi-nomadic Designer
  50. 50. Art House Project- Naoshima
  51. 51. Art House Project- Naoshima
  52. 52. Korean Cafe Culture
  53. 53. Korean Jjimjilbang
  54. 54. Taiwan Night Markets
  55. 55. Being Present
  56. 56. How to be a better designer…
  57. 57. …with a Chinese mindset: • Look at the problem holistically • Find the Chi flow —> UX flow • Balancing act of Yin & Yang e.g. function vs form • Team over individual effort for success
  58. 58. …by travelling: • Empathy • Dealing with unknowns • Open-mind • Creativity/lateral thinking • Communication • Problem-solving
  59. 59. British-born Chinese
  60. 60. Questions? Rachel Liu | UX Lead | @rachelsliu #HCID2017