How to Design For a Global Audience

My job is awesome. I work with all different kinds of people from all over the world every single day. But, naturally, this global working environment brings its challenges. And when you’re designing infographics for someone in a country you don’t know much about, it can be a minefield.

While basic design principles can be applied to any country and any context in the world, things like diversity and cultural differences shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are the rules I follow to keep our data visualization designs relevant:

Don’t whitewash
when it’s ingrained in us that the standard depiction of a human being is a white man it can be hard to get rid of. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about diversity in your designs, but when you remember, your work is so much more effective (not to mention way more accurate).

Many of the clients we work with are based in the UAE. With all the different religions, races and ethnicities in the country, showing lots of white men in suits just doesn’t cut it here.

Be culturally sensitive
when you’re working in the culture you grew up in knowing what flies and what doesn’t is easy. When you’re working for an audience from a culture you don’t know as well, designs need a lot of thought.

I learnt how important this was while I was giving a conference in Kuwait. While I didn’t bat an eyelid, I found out pretty swiftly that this infographic showing the effects of smoking on the human body wouldn’t go down well with my audience because of the nudity. Invest time in really thinking about your audience and you’ll avoid offending them!

Understand your demographic
As a designer you never want to create something that won’t appeal to your audience. It has to conform to the person’s way of understanding and their life. You have to go beyond the audience’s age, gender, nationality, etc, and understand and represent their world.

This is easy to do. If you’re creating a report on entrepreneurship in Beijing, for example, create depictions of entrepreneurs in Beijing. If you’re giving a presentation on transport in Dubai, make sure the audience knows you couldn’t be talking about anywhere else but Dubai. By creating icons and images that reflect the culture, your design will have much more of an impact.

To see examples of our global designs, check out the work page on our website.