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The Culture of Design

An intriguing experiment in design enabling intercultural dialogue in Dubai

Posted 02.27.09

While design and its various realizations in artifacts, images and experiences is readily acknowledged as ‘culture' and as ‘cultural', there is a general assumption that since design addresses functional needs that are "common" to all cultures, these designs themselves are universal and therefore not culturally specific. The problems of such an ‘universally-applicable' design imperative has been amply addressed by many design and cultural theorists. The notion of cultural specificity implies that the designed object reflects and perhaps issues from a specific need or contextual aspects that are peculiar to a culture in which and/or for which it is designed. While there is a difference between design which reflects the culture in which is it is produced and design which draws on the culture it is made for, the centrality of culture in the development of the designs in both contexts is indisputable. In a world where the forces of globalization often and increasingly homogenize and neutralize the differences between cultures than enable a recognition and learning from each other's particular realities, it is critical to harness design processes and methodologies to enable intercultural dialogue and understanding that leads to more culturally-aware design.

MICA faculty, Peter Chomowicz and Bernard Canniffe, last summer embarked on an intriguing experiment in design enabling intercultural dialogue in Dubai - see a short video here. The project also generated multiple student blogs that can be found here: