As far as personal experience is concerned, designing for local clients becomes mundane like any other daily routine. There are days where I feel the job is already lacking challenge. I am sure that most designers feel the same. To push the boundaries, designers should explore and dabble in designing for international clients. I can guarantee that the experience is nothing short of interesting and eye-opening. Here are three (3) things you should bear in mind if choose to go down this path.
1. People in each region have differing tastes in design
Although there are standard best practices when it comes to designing that apply across different regions and cultures, we must never forget that each region in the world may have their own taste in design and aesthetics even if it’s just a question of degree. For example, designing for Japan, Korea and even Taiwan as opposed to designing for most Southeast Asian region clearly demonstrate the different appreciation consumers have for clean background, straight lines and complementary colors. For the Philippines, most prefer festive designs especially with regards to colors. Another example is, when designing for Europe, the type of human photography preferred may not be the same as what appeals to the Americans.
Always remember that your design preference should not be your point of reference as it may not resonate with that of someone from a different region. With the internet, this is now somehow easier, but not necessarily easy, to discover.
2. Conduct a Regional Design Research
Spend time researching design preferences for the region you are designing for. Do they appreciate cultural designs? Pop designs? Classical designs? Do they like vibrant and vivid colors? Do they prefer dark or more neutral colors? Do they appreciate happy or formal designs?
Although some clients may already come with fixed idea of what they want, doing the design research will only help, not hinder you. This is especially true in building up your design capabilities and your client’s confidence in you, knowing what will resonate with the target audience in that region.
3. The same thing may mean different things in another region
More often that not, this is true. So be clear about the different elements in your design. For example, a nod might mean “yes” but in another region or culture, it actually means “no”. Similarly with a “thumbs up” which although in many regions is positive but is considered taboo in other regions such as the Middle East region. In some cultures, the number of flowers used can mean something. In Russia, “an even number” of flowers means “death”. Lastly, in most places, the “OK” sign is represented by creating a circle with your index finger and your thumb with the other three fingers upright. In most places, this is a good thing. However in Brazil, it means giving someone the “middle finger”. You can find other interesting scenarios here.
So, be mindful and do not always assume that things mean the same all over the world.
Do not be afraid to cross-pollinate design ideas
These best practices should guide and not restrict your creativity. As the world become increasingly connected and global, people in different regions become more exposed to other cultures. So, try everything you think that might give more value to your design or make it stand out. Mix design concepts or present them harmoniously. You can only tell if your design is exceptional when you test it by letting others see and react to it. From there you will learn what “new concepts” could work for different target audiences in different regions.