Developing cultural sensitivity: A student’s perspective

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Cultural sensitivity is an important issue in design and not only about dealing with cultural diversity, but also about designing for cultural dilemmas that are related to multi-cultural contexts. This paper is concerned with cultural sensitivity and presents students’ perspectives, which were obtained through workshops. For this aim at first the previous workshops on cultural sensitivity in design, which were held in different parts of China were briefly introduced. Then the last workshop, which was performed in Kish Island (Iran) at University of Tehran, was explained and some design results were presented through illustration. The workshop, took place in six days and 70 design students with different backgrounds and nationalities including 64 Iranian from different cities of Iran, 5 Chinese and 1 German participated. They were divided to 14 groups, which were supervised by four design teachers. The workshop theme was cultural diversity on Kish Island and it was tried to design for improvement of the tourist experience of the Island, mostly through interconnection between tourists and local communities. In order to obtain the students’ perspectives, an online questionnaire was sent to them. The mix of open and closed questions was related to students’ learning experiences. The results were categorised in five themes that arose from the open questions:

1. The experience of the international setting and the ‘outsiders’ role
The students indicated that meeting new people with different cultural backgrounds, from various design schools and levels of education, was an important and beneficial factor of the event.
2. The experience of a positive educational culture
Students emphasised their enjoyment and the relevance of the - to them - new supervising approach, which was friendly and at the same time serious. It was tried to improve the students’ works by seeking the positive points, rather than criticizing.
3. The experience of time pressure to digest what culture is
The students experienced the workshop as very intense and mentioned that next to the time to digest new theories and methods the time for social events is equally important to understand culture.
4. The experience of working with methods and tools for culture sensitivity
Although at first it seemed hard to get the overview of the different design methods and tools that were introduced, eventually most of students could use them successfully. Their project results show their ability to distinguish the relevance of culture sensitivity in design from different angles and perspectives; cultural heritage, family culture, national cultures, and subcultures.
5. The experience of the course theme ‘designing for cultures‘
Most participants liked the comprehensive approach towards the concept of culture, and the context for application to Kish Island.

The findings indicate that students had a fruitful experience in the workshop and obtained a large amount of knowledge and experience regarding cultural sensitivity, not only through the workshop approach and teaching style, but also through the international character and its social aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference Engineering and Product Design Education
Editors Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Ross Brisco, Dorothy Evans, Hilary Grierson, William Ion, Robert Ian Whitfield
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-912254-05-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E and PDE 2019: the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019) - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sep 201913 Sep 2019


Conference21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E and PDE 2019
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Culture sensitivity
  • design education
  • international design workshops
  • design methods

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