Intercultural Design Competence: A Guide for Graphic Designers Working Across Cultural Boundaries

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Research specifically addressing intercultural understanding within graphic design is quite limited. However, an examination of the field of verbal communication proved that many of the cultural issues faced by contemporary graphic designers are also faced by other communication professionals. There is a wealth of information in verbal communication discussing cultural understanding and intercultural concerns that can provide key insights for visual communication. Additionally, many practicing graphic designers have real-life experiences addressing the varied cultural backgrounds of their audiences and incorporating that understanding into their work. By combining a review of existing communication literature along with insights from multiple interviews, this article proposes a new approach for graphic designers working across cultural boundaries. This approach is labeled Intercultural Design Competence (IDC). The goal of IDC is to move beyond theoretical approaches and provide a tactical guide for designers to reference in order to more successfully incorporate cultural understanding into their work. By considering the changing nature of the graphic design profession, the increasing necessity of addressing cultural influences, and the complex relationship between culture and communication, IDC integrates motivation to be culturally-sensitive, design and research skills, and appropriate cultural knowledge in order to create more appropriate, effective, and satisfying designs.

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