Design is a brand’s most reliable way of communicating with the audience. And this language continually keeps changing and updating to suit the sensibilities of the target group. If you were to look back, everything from the iPhone to the sneakers you wear have changed the way they look over the past ten years. This has been the case with every object and aspect of our life.
Culture, something that changes every 100 miles you travel and yet, has a strong influence on how we do things, our sense of belonging with some group, or even the factor that influences so many of our day-to-day decisions and thinking process.
Experts in the design space believe that just like every other facet of life, design tends to be influenced by culture too. If you think about it, you will find how certain ads, images, or even films are meant for the audience belonging to only certain countries. The reason for this is simple; what one culture perceives, as usual, might be hurtful or offensive in another.
So, before you get started on your journey in branding and design for a global audience, here are a few questions you need answers to!
- The country your client and the target audience live in
- The factors that influence design in your client’s country
- The meaning and symbolism of colors in your client’s place
- How strongly does the local culture influence design in this region?
Color Psychology: How different countries perceive different hues!
The perception of color changes across the globe and is strongly influenced by culture. Below are a few popular colors used by brands in their marketing campaigns and how it gets perceived around the world.
Countries like the USA, Europe, and India associate this hue with something positive, vibrant, and full of energy. However, African countries tend to see red as a shade of death and grief.
A color that is used to symbolize elegance, grief, or evil across the world is perceived by Africans alone as a color used to denote masculinity and maturity.
The middle eastern and Islamic countries see this as a divine color, and their holy books speak of a “green” paradise. The United States associates this color with either the celebrations of St. Patrick’s day or anything that is used to symbolize luck and prosperity. Mexican people see this color as a sign of freedom. However, the Chinese have a different interpretation of the hue. Wearing a green hat in China could mean that your spouse has cheated on you!
This is one color that has a relatively positive connotation across the globe, which is why you see the most popular brands embracing it. It is seen as a hue that represents vigor, royalty, wealth, and creativity.
Yet another popular color amidst designers. But one that has Brazil alone standing out from the rest of the nations in their perception. Most countries in the world, including the United States, perceive this color as being one that symbolizes royalty, wealth, and spirituality. However, the Brazilians alone associate this shade with death and doom. So, be cautious when you run a campaign in this region. Pick your colors with a sensitivity to the local community if you wish your brand to communicate the right message.
There have been instances where brands have used different colors for their products to be marketed in different countries. This includes some of the biggest names in the business, including Apple Inc. and Coco-Cola, where they’d used different shades of their logo for branding in countries like Brazil.
The Order: Is it left to right or right to left?
One famous adage on design thinking going wrong is the story of a salesperson from a famous beverage brand who traveled to the middle-eastern desert. Not knowing the language, he prepared a simple poster that conveyed the concept of the drink in three simple images. The first one was a person lost in a desert and on the verge of dying from thirst. The second - he is finding the said drink and consuming it. The third was a picture of a happy and energized person. This design worked great for the brand across the world.
However, in Middle Eastern countries, messages are read from right to left instead of left to write. This means the audience there saw a happy man (image 1), finding and consuming the drink (picture 2), becoming weak, and falling to the ground (image 3). Thus, leading to the brand’s campaign failure.
Icons and Illustrations. How they get perceived across the globe
One of the most common elements of design that gets overlooked while branding for a global audience, but shouldn’t, is the use of icons and images. For instance, the figure of a dog might come across as loyal, trustworthy, and friendship. However, certain parts of the world, like the UAE, have a negative connotation attached to the imagery of dogs.
Names, words, and captions
Global brands have adopted different titles and captions to suit the sensibilities of their local audience in the past. Some famous examples of these include brands like KFC that is known as PFC in Quebec, the French-speaking region of Canada. The reason for this name change is to abide by the French law that states that the brand should use the french initials, Poulet Frit Kentucky (French: Kentucky Fried Chicken).
Similarly, Vasaline, the brand as we know it, goes by the name Vasenol in Spanish and Portugal nations. In these countries, Vasaline is the name of a specific product range form the brand Vasenol. Another classic example of name change is Burger King that goes by the name Hungry Jacks in Australia. However, the reason for this change of name in the case of Burger King was the fact that there was an existing brand in Australia with the name Burger King.
Graphc Design as a disciple has evolved into a sophisticated model of communicating brand ideas. To emerge victorious in this space, one needs a strong understanding not just of the design principles, but also of the visual language, the popular trends, standard colors, belief systems of the people, and so on. In short, it is essential to ensure that the design you create not just leaves an impact on your audience, but also communicates with them, the intended message.