INTO's Cultural Guides in Dessau

Cultural Guide Spotlight – Changing attitudes to local markets and regional identity

Last week we brought together some of our Cultural Guides in Dessau, Germany. To make the most of the international spread present, we were keen to compare global thoughts on what’s defining today’s brand and design culture. As recently published by the Harvard Business Review on the difference of looking at cultures within countries as compared to between them, INTO Cultural Guides takes prides in breaking down stereotypes and generalisations.

Our Cultural Guides from around the world have been noticing a surge in interest  for design made with a local nuance. Many believe that the desire to imitate popular design trends is decreasing and will continue to do so as more young designers instead invest their talent in adapting global trends to suit regional markets and local identities.


Trend 1: The value of tapping into local talents

Looking for opportunities in more established design markets has led to many local talents searching for a second home outside their native county. Having trained as a product designer in Brazil, Paulo Victor Santos reflected that it was only after leaving his country that he appreciated the design culture Brazil offered: “There is an underdog feeling held by design students and practitioners in Brazil which makes us believe what we have in the country is not good enough. It is just not about design education but society itself. It feels like what we do is not good enough so we have to look for somewhere else that we perceive as doing better. However, when I started as a freelancer, working from Germany, I experienced how much clients valued my work as a Brazilian designer. I would not have realise this appreciation for Brazilian culture if I’ve not travelled out.”

Marcela Gonzalez, noticed the difference between working as a designer abroad in comparison to staying in her home country, Mexico. She comments: “In Mexico, when a designer from the States or Europe comes work in the office, they are perceived as “imported design”, therefore more valuable than what we have here.”

Macarena Alamos shared her thoughts on why Chileans also aspired to work aboard. She says: “Chile is far away from the rest of the world therefore, we are always looking outwards and aspire to be like them. The education curriculums we have are preparing designers to find jobs overseas. I only realise this after completing my design studies in Germany. There are many possibilities for jobs here but not back in Chile. I want to look at what is actually Chilean industry, what can locals actually do to increase its productivity and visibility so that we can find work in our country. We should start prioritising local economy rather than the reality of the rest of the world.”

In response to Macarena’s ambition of increasing visibility of Chile’s design culture, Daniel BArón, from Bogotá, Colombia highlights: “I believe the strategy for a designer is to think globally but applying those concepts locally. This will increase the visibility of the Colombian art and design industry. As a designer, we should promote local production and be proud of our heritage and start to create Colombian design trends, not just checking Pinterest all day for inspiration.” With the opening of Medellín Museum of Modern Art and in light of international attention on Colombia’s fashion industry, Medellín is currently transforming itself into Colombia’s capital city for creative progress.

Trend 2: The emergence of local design movements

A design movement in Karachi, Chowk has caught the attention of Omer, our Guide from Pakistan. Chowk has recently emerged as a hub for Pakistan’s creativity and design enthusiasts. Omer says: “In my city Karachi, there is this area called Pakistan Chowk. Over there, there are very cheap designers, they will design the whole website for 50 euros, so everyone just goes. Now it is kind of becoming a cult. You know people are doing research about “Pakistan Chowk Design” and maybe they can use this to form a distinct visual culture. It has become an identity: in my opinion it’s bad design but people in Pakistan can relate. They don’t rely on influence from the outside world at all- they are instead creating everything from scratch.” Lahore, Pakistan has also recently announced their first Biennale happening November 2017.

No matter if local talents stay in their home country or chose to work abroad, the emerging aspiration of designers are to look to their local heritage and define a visual identity they are proud of. Our Cultural Guides highlight the importance of research that looks not just at a country but also at cultures within a country’s socio-classes, cities, communities and cults.

Photo Credit: Sam Sanchez

Alcinda Lee

25th July 2016