Learn to use different methods and tools –applicable in different design contexts and practices– to identify, deal with and avoid culture-related pitfalls in design that can jeopardize the success of your products and services.
This course will help product, industrial or UX designers to:
- find and avoid mismatches between designs and intended users, which cannot be identified by traditional user-product research;
- develop your culture-sensitivity to know which aspects matter most and need to be integrated in your design;
- stimulate your potential for innovation using a new source of inspiration and opportunities for new product and service design.
How familiar are you with the cultural context of your intended users? Simply being aware of the cultural context is not enough. Professionals need more than cultural awareness to systematically address culture in their design practice. You need to develop culture-sensitivity: to know what aspects matter, how they matter and how to incorporate these culture- and behaviour-related aspects in the design process and embed them in your design outcomes.
Methods and tools
While there are many methods, tools and techniques to help designers understand individual users, such approaches aim to develop a designer's empathic sensitivity. However, design methods that aim to develop sensitivity for a cultural context are limited.
This course is geared towards design professionals who want to gain practical insights into why culture is relevant for their work and how they can develop their culture-sensitivity. This course will equip you with tools and approaches that will provide you with a lens to examine cultures of intended users –not only cultures associated to nations or peoples, but also to other social groups (subcultures) and group behaviour–, and how you can apply the results to your work.
You will learn to:
- Incorporate culture-sensitivity into your design process to avoid mismatches and improve your design outcomes;
- Examine cultures of intended users and apply the results to your work;
- Determine opportunities for applying culture as a tool while designing;
- Integrate cultural tools and theory into a design project *;
- Use culture as a source of inspiration and opportunities for new product design.
* We will introduce you to a card set; a practical tool specifically designed for design practitioners.
"I learned how culture expresses itself in so many different ways and on many different levels. Many things we don't perceive as culture in day to day life are in fact part of it. And so, without noticing quite often we design something which really mostly works only in our own culture."
"I thought it was a fantastic course, I learnt a lot which I will apply to my work."
''It is a great course and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."
Course video subtitles will be in both English and Spanish!
Could a valuable (and healthy) innovative idea, such as the use of hot air technology to fry food be adopted worldwide? Can indigenous patterns and other forms of native art be used to decorate products regardless of their context and meaning? Can the way we look at and compare cultural differences and practices be a source of inspiration in product and service design?
In a comparatively new field of study it would be easy for a course to be highly theoretical but this course includes concrete examples of the theories applied to practical design contexts.
The course consists of lectures, interviews with experts and practitioners, quizzes, hands-on assignments and so called 'mapping sessions' accompanied with easy to fill in templates, relevant literature, videos, the Crossing Cultural Chasms card set, reviews by your peers, and last but not least exchange of examples and experiences between you, other practitioners and masters design students via the discussion forums. You retain access to all these materials, including templates, to re-use after you have completed the course.
Mutual Benefit Approach
The course will give you, as a working professional, the opportunity to learn and benefit from masters students' work; their reflections on design, their application of the theory provided and their use of a range of methods. Furthermore, you can even save time in your practice as we offer you the opportunity of pitching a design challenge that our masters students may choose to work with during the course. In addition, their fresh view on 'what design can do' in their own assignments will help you to discover new possibilities for new product and service design. Our course team will also provide you with feedback and answer all your questions.
'Real world' examples
A company developed a hot air fryer that was intended for frying French fries. At a later stage of the development the company realized that the technological principle of frying with hot air - which limits the use of oil and is therefore very healthy - was a valuable idea, worth exporting worldwide. However, the initial product was based on Western food culture and did not fit the requirements of Asian food culture yet.
A designer was fascinated by an indigenous pattern and decided to use it as a styling element for shoe design. Through a lack of understanding of the culture the context, way of use, function, and moreover, the meaning of the pattern, was completely changed. The original users of the pattern as it was first intended felt offended and complained via social media.
Find new product ideas:
In a design research project on sustainable bathing, cultural variety was consciously used to broaden the perspective about the ways people bathe around the world and the cultural significance of bathing. A comparison between bathing in Japan, India and the Netherlands helped to gain a deeper understanding and to generate new, and more sustainable, ways of bathing, such as bucket bathing which maintains hygiene and conserves water.
The mobile phone was initially designed for individual use. However, in some parts of the world it was found that people shared a phone where its design did not support this collective way of use. The finding led to suggestions for modifications, such as multiple address books on a single phone, so that each user could maintain a separate contact list.
The course consists of lectures, interviews with experts and practitioners, quizzes, hands-on assignments and so called 'mapping sessions' accompanied with easy to fill in templates, relevant literature and links to existing videos shared on the Internet, the Crossing Cultural Chasms card set, reviews by your peers, and last but not least; exchange of examples and experiences between you, other practitioners and masters design students via the discussion forums. You retain access to all these materials, including templates, to re-use after you have completed the course.
Week 1: Getting to Know Culture
- Culture in design and framing culture
- Guest interview on acculturation
- Assignment: Key terms we use to describe and understand culture
Week 2 and 3: Culture and Identity
- Culture and identity
- Third Culture Kids
- Guest lecture on game design research
- Guest interview on cultural sensitivity and third culture kids
- Two assignments: timeline and key terms
Week 4 and 5: Cultural values and practices
- Guest lecture on value and value conflicts
- Cultural values and practices
- Culture sensitive design in practice
- Designers' identity
- Guest interview on cultural values in the design practice
- Assignment: Design company culture
Week 6 and the holiday period:
- Pitching your design project
- Guest interview on the global design practice
- Interaction and feedback with students online
- Final presentations on students' design projects
- Wrap-up together with students
- Course length: 6 weeks prior the Christmas break and 1 week afterwards.
- Subtitling available in English and Spanish!
This course has been prepared by international experts in the role of culture in design processes within the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The course instructor, Annemiek van Boeijen has extensive practical experience as well as relevant research in this field. She is also one of the creators of the award-winning MOOC Product Design: The Delft Design Approach, which has enrolled nearly 50,000 students to date.
Certificates and CEUs
If you successfully complete this course you will earn a professional education certificate and you are eligible to receive 2.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
View sample certificate
This course is geared towards working design professionals who want to gain insight into why culture is relevant for their work, through what lens they can study culture and how they can examine culture and apply the results to their work.
For an optimal course experience participants should be hands-on designers or design researchers (working for a studio or company) with relevant professional experience in either UX, industrial, product or service design.
In order to complete your enrollment you will be asked to upload the following document:
- a copy of your passport or ID card (no driver's license)
If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.