In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s talk culture and how it influences graphic design.
Design is a visual language that communicates a message to a targeted audience. In the same way verbal languages differ round the world, so do visual languages. The elements of design remain the same—that is, shape, color, space, form, line, value and texture—but the way these are used differs from culture to culture.
This past year I’ve been privileged to see such influences first hand as I design for the Hispanic Health Resource Center and HUB Waukesha, two organizations that are working to improve the health of the Hispanic community in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Our goal together is to communicate accurate health information and available resources. We’re doing this through newsletters, posters, social media and a website. As I design these projects, the element in which I’ve felt the most cultural influence is color.
“More color,” the organizations repeatedly reminded me. “We need bolder, brighter colors—purples, teals, reds, blues, oranges, yellows.”
Interestingly, at the same time I began shifting my brain to Hispanic design, I was also reading Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Author Ingrid Fetell Lee explains how there are many parts of the world where vibrancy is natural and effortless. At the same time, she says, Western society maintains a cultural bias toward the somber, neutral hues of supposed sophistication.
Vibrant joy vs. neutral sophistication?
I’d like to think I’m the former. However, in truth, my European restraint often shows through—my website is done in sepia, after all.
“Chromophobia,” says Fetell Lee.
“Needing to push myself out of my comfort zone,” says me. And opening my mind to the wonders of other cultures. I think they call that respect, right?
Here are a few of the pieces I’ve done together with Hispanic Health Resource Center and Hub Waukesha. I’m very proud of them, thanks to the influence of these beautiful people.