The idea of culture effortlessly brings to mind rituals, traditions, and habits. While this is not necessarily an inaccurate understanding of culture, it certainly is a delimiting one. People tend to forget that the word goes far beyond what is seen through the naked eye. As such, students can always learn a new thing or two about culture, being a general and universal concept. Below are my five takeaways from our Design and Culture class last semester.
- Exclusive and Inclusive
We have discovered that culture is a dynamic system that is shared among the members of the society and is passed on from generation to generation. It encompasses the nitty-gritty practices in the form of values, beliefs, and philosophies, down to the most minute and seemingly insignificant details in shared thinking or behaviour.
- Out and In-sight
Cultural discovery can actually come about from inadvertent observation of realities, such as how loud people talk, or how fast people walk. Who knows that along a long road, there are limitless cultural phenomena? Because of this, one does not need to consult any expert or any book to recognise a culture. One just has to open his or her keen eyes and curious mind.
- Discover and Reveal
Culture is manifested in its symbols, heroes, rituals and values, communicating what the culture is about. Members in the society produce these representations collectively. In addition, studying culture is not entirely based on the general activities and beliefs possessed by the society. Rather, it can also be based on its artefacts, namely body, image, object, space and time. One can build new perspectives about a culture as he or she attempts to understand these artefacts that establish the culture as a whole shared system.
- Others’ and Ours
What makes culture a more complex subject, and consequently, a more interesting one, is its tendency to give people a glimpse of their own culture. One finding out about how others behave or think is inevitably led to realise how he or she behaves or thinks, as well. Before something can strike as a culture, a person evaluates first how the thing is similar or different to his or her own, before he or she makes the conclusion that it is indeed unique to this particular group. When I walk around during the day and notice the ways and behaviours particular to Hong Kong locals, it always makes me realise how different I am with my own beliefs, practices and values.
- Culture and Design and Culture…
Lastly, culture enables us to conceive, create, deliver and anticipate. We pattern our ideas from our beliefs, values, practices and among others. Our designs actually translate what we understand about cultures and how we evaluate them. Culture allows our works, and also us as designers, to have an identity, regardless of similarities with other people. Nonetheless, the relationship between culture and design also works the other way around. Design, in whatever form, causes culture to evolve. The communication of our masterpieces to the public always has the potential to leave an impact on others’ (or even one’s own) perception of and behaviour in the society. Great designs affect people greatly. While culture shapes our designs, design influences our culture.
Photo Credit: Margaux Tan
Posted by Margaux Tan – Margaux Tan started her design career as an art director in one of the leading advertising agencies in the Philippines, creating campaigns and solutions that would benefit the brands and the consumers. She is currently in her first year, taking up Master of Design (Design Strategies), in the hopes of improving her creative and critical expertise.
MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.