Cultural Design

Culture provides the catalyst for Designer to create services and products that are fit for their context but also innovative and culturally sensitive.

Our role as designers hinges on integrating the socio-cultural factors that leads to the final outcome. Now more than ever, we need to be aware of the impact of culture.

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Designing for a Contemporary Family

The non-traditional family that I chose to base my design on are DINKS (Double income/No Kids). The scenario is actually inspired by our own very time poor lifestyle. Our household is a multicultural household. My husband is very Euro-centric and although I am also Euro-centric, our communication styles are formed by the interaction and unique cultures of our families. Both my husband and I come from traditional models of family with breakfast served at the table with all family members present. This dynamic changed for both as we moved to teen years and later university life and finally ceased once we left the nest. The Dink family unit, although is a good place to start, contains many different variations. There can be Dinks in their 30s, 40s and 50s, with children who have left the nest or no longer live at home. Dinks could be either high income or low income families and their particular cultural and social divide would put them in distinctly different House Societies as Laura Stone explores her paper (refer to list of references).

Time management and particularly scheduling time to be together is very important to creating a breakfast experience that is not rushed and enjoyable. As we also hold irregular work and study hours it is important to have a large electronic display that is fixed to the wall. This computer screen can be seen not as personal computer but what I would like to call a domestic interface. Situated in the living or dining room with Touch Screen Facilities. Ideally the size of this domestic interface could be between 42″ and 55″. The idea behind the “Domestic Screen” is a device where its function and meaning is extendable by the users and the available technology. The touch screen creates a kinetic connection and reduces the tiresome task of using a smart phone while at home.

As Suri points outs, our experience of objects and their use is coloured not only by our internal states, but also the context that provides the backdrop for social, cultural and idiosyncratic display of these qualities. In this particular instance both participants in the non-traditional family are early adopters of technology. Technical devices already owned could be used to share information and schedules via cloud with both parties. And any changes made on the Domestic Screen will automatically be synced with any hand-held devices used at home. Any free time in the morning, then can be set to automatically alert both parties and an automatic event generated. The choice to have breakfast in or eat out together would then be up to the participants. If the plan is to have breakfast-in, there could be a list that could be emailed to both parties if there is a 48 hour window so certain foods can be purchased if there is no inventory.

Using functional analysis, it would be great to have the fridge and perhaps even the pantry capable of transmitting data regarding which foods need to be replaced and replenished. In a less complicated way, using the iphone or the domestic Screen already available to participants they would be able to update a shopping list while at home or on the go. By taking advantage of voice commands already featured in the iphone this task could be become fun instead of a chore (till the novelty wears off).

As there are many family members overseas the domestic screen can be extended to accept skype calls and many other functions such as doing financial budgets, paying bills, etc. The placement of the screen could easily allow for both parties to communicate with family members overseas or locally, instead of trying to squeeze in front of a computer. My brother is getting married in August and although I have a 24″ iMac at home, I am not able to share dresses that I have purchased for the bridesmaids via skype. Although I could send stock photos of the dresses or take a video having that instant live link would enhance the experience. When this device is not in active use it can be set to display photos and play music.

For all this talk of technology and experiential design, I personally like to adhere to the slow movement. There is nothing like making the time.


Mead, E., Gittelson, J., Kratzmann, M., Roache, C., & Sharma, S. (2010). Impact of the changing food environment on dietary practices of an Inuit population in Arctic Canada. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 23(1), 18-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2010.011102x

NAPA. (2002). American Breakfast and the Mother-in-Law: How an Anthropologist created Go-Gurt Retrieved 14 APRIL 2012, from

Parkin, R., & Stone, L. (2004). Kinship and family : an anthropological reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Saxelby, C. (1997). Family fare–how family meals have changed since the 1950s. Nutridate, 8(2), 5.

Suri Fulton, J. (2003). The Experience Evolution: Developments in Design Practice. The Design Journal, 6(2), 39-48.

Tilbury, F., Dziurawiec, S., Gallegos, D., & Abernethie, L. (2005). ‘Because we can spend quality time together’: Year 10 students’ Experiences and Perceptions of ‘Family Meals’. Paper presented at the TASA CONFERENCE, University of Tasmania.

Westerlund, B., Lindqvist, S., Mackay, W., & Sunblad, Y. (2003). Co-design methods for designing with and for families. Paper presented at the 5th European Academy of Design Conference, Techne: The design wisdom, Barcelona.

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