BusinessWeek has just published a couple of interesting articles about designing across cultures. The first one looks at the challenges bringing OXO products to Japan, the second at design in India. I’ve discussed culturally sensitive design with several people over the last few years, and I feel these design challenges require an interesting balance of attention to the ideas that: “everyone’s the same” (usability, for example, is a fairly universal attribute) and “pay attention to the social cultural details” (understand how your design fits into people’s lives).

“”Most Westerners hold a spatula like a tennis racket when they stir, flip, or cook,” says Lee. “But the Japanese women we observed cooking all held it like a pen. Clearly the design of the tool had to be entirely rethought.” A set of six adjusted nylon server designs was released for the Japanese market only, along with precision tongs and angled measuring cups. Lee declines to share sales figures but says that the redesigns have “paid off nicely.”

Link: OXO, Remade in Japan (businessweek.com)

“…The glitzy façade did attract locals. But they were not comfortable in the bank’s space. The sari-clad women and their turbaned husbands who were at the bank were completely out of sync with the modern setting. While the women, with their heads covered, sat on the floor as a traditional mark of respect for their menfolk, the men-accustomed to squatting on the floor-curled up their feet on the sofa.”

Link: Designing for India’s Consumers (businessweek.com)