The evolution of cross-cultural design

We look at how brands are increasingly using design to engage with different cultures and communities around the world, and why there’s no room for cultural faux pas anymore

For a long time, the most celebrated or emulated work coming out of the design community was created during the 20th century by a monolithic group of white, mostly male, designers. But in an increasingly globalised world, where more businesses are beginning to acknowledge the role of brand and design in helping them resonate in different cultures, the need to make room for other narratives is imperative.

The recent explosion of global type – or what problematically used to be known as ‘non-Latin type’ – is a good example of the broader changes sweeping through commercial design. While businesses traditionally focused on developing their Latin typefaces first, shoehorning in global scripts later on, there’s now greater recognition that in order to have a truly global brand, they need to speak to consumers in their language – and that requires investing time and money in type.

Born in Lebanon and based in London, Samar Maakaroun has spent the last two decades exploring the nuances of cross-cultural design. “There was nothing linear about how I arrived at design, and specifically brand identity, but there was always this dialogue between East and West,” she tells CR. “Language has been a connector through all of this, because language gave me the words to understand and define and express. It gets interesting when I have more than one language for expression, which words I can use and where, and what stories I choose to tell.”

Top: Branding for Museum of Chinese in Australia, based in Sydney, by R/GA; Above: Ramadan campaign for Porsche by Samar Maakaroun