This is a comment piece I wrote for Fifth Ring’s quarterly marketing magazine, 'Five'.
I also contributed several illustrations to two issues.
The magazine is distributed to over 1500 subscribers in the UK, UAE and US.
We are different
Talking about graphic design
for a global audience.
Dubai is one of the most multicultural cities in the world,
where people from the East, West, US and Asia have made
their homes away from their homeland. Adapting to life in
a new country brings challenges but it also opens up a hugely rewarding wealth of knowledge that only living amongst multicultural neighbours can provide.
Professionals in Dubai sometimes have to set aside their natural heritage and its way of thinking. They adapt work depending on the audience, taking into account their customs, the way they live, and the way that business is done. This inevitably affects the designs we use and the way
messages are delivered and received. Sometimes everyday familiar graphics and messages
that are normal practice in your own homeland could be insulting to others. This makes a deep cultural understanding and awareness critical to the effectiveness and impact of our work.
Over the years there has been a switch in design approaches around the city, adjusting to its changing target audiences. Dubai is an important business hub and travel destination, receiving a lot more international visitors than it used to. Advertising and design used to be predominately Arabic rather than English. But now we are seeing harmonies of Arabic and English design, messages and styles that are aimed at a wider catchment audience of nationalities. The arrival of many more known brands from Europe has caused a turn in advertising going heavily towards the European market styles too. Now agencies with western heritage and local knowledge are perfectly placed to head up campaigns aimed at this wider audience.
Some differences in international design are small but still culturally significant. For instance, designers here can spend quite a few hours graphically tailoring people’s clothing, adding sleeves or adjusting necklines. But wider issues like typography and colour tastes also differ, and in the Middle East you have to be aware of imagery containing alcoholic beverages or religious shapes.
So if we have to consider all these things in Dubai, what happens when we want to send a campaign all the way around the world? How many times can we change a design before it loses its original impact? If you’ve ever played Chinese whispers, you know that messages can be distorted beyond recognition as they get passed along a chain. This is when marketers need strong allies in all their target locations worldwide. Original designs should be sent straight to marketing professionals in each country, not passed along a global chain of translators and designers. This is the best way to ensure cultural sensitivity while maintaining the original style and identity.