Design Needs Localization, Too: Tips for Global Content Marketing Design

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This is a summary of two sessions at the High Five Conference in Raleigh, N.C., on March 2-3, 2016: Designing for Diversity and How Culture Affects Typography.

It’s not just words that can derail your global content marketing strategy. Design choices can also trip you up.

“You must mirror the communities you serve,” reminds Anna Maria Marich, Director of Visual Communications for international architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. “Cultural awareness and sensitivity play key roles in developing meaningful and symbolic design.”

That includes images, colors, and even fonts. “Lots of people have become immune to typography,” laments Nikki Villagomez, Creative Studio Manager at Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Yet it plays a key role in design effectiveness, whether on its own in straight copy or combined with graphical elements and colors.

Maybe the feeling you have when you see particular typographic choices used is just “I like the look of that, that feels good. that’s my kind of product.” But that’s the type casting its secret spell. – Rick Poynor

The keys to avoiding these global content blocks for target countries and cultures? Research and understanding. Whether you transcreate or localize with a translation provider or your own in-country team, cultural diversity and sensitivity must be baked into the design process from concept to completion. That’s the best practice to ensure multicultural marketing integration. Here are two ways to get started.

Global marketing design tip 1: visual cultural exchange

One useful and fun way to learn more about other markets is to do what Villagomez calls an “exchange”—an idea she pioneered as chairman of her local chapter of AIGA, a professional association for design. Her group partners with another chapter for a deep dive into each other’s cultures. That includes items from the local area, like popular foods, postcards from local landmarks, indigenous crafts, etc.—anything that’s representative of the local culture.

The kits also contain design materials created by and for the local market, which provide insights into colors, fonts, images, etc., preferred by the target audience. The items form a visual guide to the other culture. Global marketing designers can do this exercise with in-market partners or experts to gain both insight and inspiration for projects.

“This is how you see the impact of the local culture on design,” Villagomez explains. “You can literally see the differences and similarities between markets.”

Global marketing design tip 2: diversity review

When it comes to targeting a global audience, too many marketers feel it’s a question of cultural awareness and diversity OR multicultural marketing engagement, but Marich says the first ensures the second. “If the audience sees themselves in your work, they are engaged,” she asserts.

The key to relatability (and thus engagement) is thoroughly evaluating your design choices and direction. Look for cultural miscues related to the clothes people wear in images, body language, etc. Imagine the negative impact of a photo showing a woman driving in marketing materials for Saudi Arabia, or of using a red to convey “stop” or “bad” in Asian cultures where it means “good”.

“You have to look at your materials and ask ‘what does that image say?’, ‘Can people see themselves in this work?’,” Marich explains. And not just in a rhetorical sense. “Step back and engage people working with you,” she counsels. That includes your colleagues, clients and/or translation provider. “You never know what they can bring to the table.”

A final thought on localizing global content marketing

If all this seems like overkill, Marich offers this final thought:

“You are losing audience by not including diversity in marketing materials, but you’re also pushing away staff.”

Think about it. If prospective employees don’t see themselves in your public-facing marketing, they—just like customers—will look for a company or brand that looks and feels more like them. That doubles the impact of not localizing images, type, colors, and design in your global content marketing assets.

>> For more information about engaging global audiences, learn Why Transcreation Is Needed For Creative Marketing Content.

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