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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Chinese Aesthetic Transculturation

Chinese Aesthetic Transculturation

“Poetry expresses human aspiration” – Shang Shu

John Berger’s TV documentary on Ways of Seeing is worth a watch, just to see how we are trained in our social context to see things in the western world. Lin Qinping takes us on a journey of comparison between the aesthetics of western vs the aesthetics of the east (china in this instance). The fundamental differences between the Chinese and the western ways of being, knowing and seeing are evaluated. In the eastern tradition we lose the rational and gain the spiritual side which is in harmony with its environment. This is echoed by Liu and Zhao in their article about the environment and its effect on the design process and the produced object, and further emphasizes the important role of harmony and balance as necessary ingredients in our quest for products that are relevant and useful in their particular context.

Written text is the symbol of a symbol and as a technology of power, it made the image and its contextual meaning redundant. However the image moved into the aesthetic and esoteric realm and gained a new role in aiding narrative and became representational of verbal forms. With the downsizing of polytheistic faiths into manageable Monotheic religions, it became possible for the state to separate itself from the church in the west. Text as a technology of power, ‘codified spirituality’ and faith was made permanent through this medium (Pasztory, 2005).  In this way the state and its elites, through the written text were able to create abstraction and with it herald in philosophical and critical evaluations which is only possible if distance is gained in perspective and the implicitness of the thing is exchanged for the explicitness of the symbol and the immaterial.

We have much to gain from both western and eastern traditional philosophies. By integrating our many philosophical traditions into our everyday life and refusing to marginalize them, we as “…human beings will not only be mere creators of those beautiful things and artworks but will also be active creators of their own beautiful existence” (Liu, 2006) Why limit our existence to just the rational man, when we are an embodiment of many elements: sensuous, emotional, voluntary, practical and instinctive. On a final note, there is a concept of culture not studied as transculturalism or cultural studies but culturology which was/is advocated by the likes of Bakhtin and Mikhail Epstein and I think Liu and Zhao’s paper are really more in-line with this view and the points that brought up by Liu and Zhao (2006) are better viewed through that particular lens.


  1. Pasztory, E. (2005). Thinking with Things: Toward a New Vision of Art. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Chapter 9, pp. 74-85.
  2. Liu, Q. (2006). The Worldwide Significance of Chinese Aesthetics in the Twenty-First Century . Frontiers of Philosophy in China, 1, 33-40. Doi: 10.1007/s11466-005-0007-y.
  3. Liu, G., & Zhao, D. (2009). The design of traditional artifacts and geographical features. Journal Of Communication & Computer, 6(8), 70-76.

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