Friday, November 2, 2007

The Cultural Context of Designing

When it comes to designing, no matter it is designing for print or web, cultural context is always vital. Graphics are not always obvious and that the order in which people read matters (Schriver, 1997). Designer need to gained insight into the knowledge, beliefs, and concerns of their audience and used what they learned to select symbols that were meaningful for their intended audiences so that readers will understand what the message is.

Readers will interpret meaning based on their past experience, cultural environment and also how well is their understanding on the subject. According to Walsh(2006), levels of meaning, depending on the type of text, can be enhanced by the reader’s background knowledge of the world, of how language works and of how text work as well as the recognition of discourses and ideologies. For example, foreigners will not understand the sign of a mosque, for them it may be something else and for them, it is a totally different meaning but for Malaysian, we understand that mosque is a place for Muslim to conduct their pray. Other than that, colour should also be in consideration when it comes to design. Red colour symbolize lucky for Chinese but it symbolize blood for other races.

Signboard of Mosque

Another important aspect to be considered is the context of situation. Halliday agrees with Malinowski in defining “context of situation” as the environment of the text (Halliday, 1985). Besides that, he also quoted Firth(1935) in defining context as the surrounding objects and events in so far as participants have some bearing on what is going on(Halliday, 1985). A designer must take into consideration what is happening and keep themselves updated on what is happening around so that their design matches the context of situation. Every instance of a genre is strongly influenced by the particular context of culture and context of situation in which it occurs. Language users need to be as aware of this as they are of the language they use to perform particular genres (Paltridge, 2000)

Chinese Traditional Culture - papercut
Google Images

The example given above is a chinese traditional culture, paper cutting. Chinese will definitely understand the meaning of the image but other people will not understand because they have no background knowledge on chinese culture.

Sepet- The movie
Google Images

Sepet is a well known movie in Malaysia as it involved relationship between two differenr races. For Malaysian, we definitely know what is the movie about and we know what makes it so special but for others such as foreigners, this is just another normal poster for them.

References List:

Halliday, 1985, Language, context and text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective, Context of Situation, Chapter 1, pp.3-14.

Paltridge, B 2000, Making Sense of Discourse Analysis: Genre Analysis, Antipodean Educational Enterprise, Gold Coast.

Schriver, KA 1997, Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York. Chapter 6, pp.361-441

Walsh, M 2006, Textual shift: examining the reading process with print, visual and multimodal texts, Australian journal of language and literacy, Vol.29, No.1,pp. 24-37

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