Don Norman: Does Culture Matter for Product Design?

Worth reading the whole post. Come on, it is Donald Norman.

Technology dictates the activity. In turn, the activity dictates the design. When the design is appropriate for the technology, people accept it, regardless of culture. Consider musical instruments as a good example. Many are difficult to learn, such as the violin that requires an awkward, injury-prone posture and hand configuration. Consider the awkward fingering of musical instruments across the world. People learn these with incredible skill, not because they fit the body, but because the designs seem quite appropriate to the technology, and therefore to the activity.

There are regional differences. Food and eating provide dramatic contrasts with different cultures adopting very different behavior. Some use silverware, some chopsticks, and some use fingers or bread. Some cultures prefer more ornamentation than others, so that, for example, products intended for East Asia display decorative scrolls and artwork. When the same products are sold elsewhere in the world, they are often identical except for the removal of the ornamentation. Style differences? Yes. Fundamental differences? No.

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