Navigating culture sensitivity when designing a brand's visual identity

15 February 2023  —  ⏳ 5 min read
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By @estyhimself

As brands are developed and marketed across the world, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities in order to avoid causing offence. Cultural appropriation can often be easily confused with inspiration, and it’s crucial to understand the difference so that brands can avoid crossing boundaries and causing backlash. In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of cultural sensitivity when creating a brand identity, and how you can learn to distinguish between appropriation and inspiration.

Understanding Cultural Appropriation and Inspiration

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking elements of another culture, such as fashion, music, or traditions, without proper acknowledgement, respect, or understanding. This can happen when a brand or individual uses cultural elements for commercial purposes without attempting to understand the significance of the culture in question. This can be seen as disrespectful, demeaning, or even exploitative.

On the other hand, inspiration can be taken from various cultures to create something new and unique. If done respectfully and with proper acknowledgement, it can be a way to honour and showcase the richness and diversity of different cultures. Inspiration is a celebration of cultural exchange, whereas appropriation takes cultural artifacts out of their original context, and uses them for profit or personal gain.

Why Cultural Sensitivity Matters in Brand Identity

Brand identity is about creating a distinct image and message that communicates what your brand stands for. Cultural appropriation can be incredibly damaging to a brand, as it can cause backlash, boycotts, and negative attention, especially at a time when social justice has been front and centre. By contrast, cultural sensitivity can create a brand identity that is culturally aware and respectful, helping to show your brand as inclusive, creative, and open-minded.

Therefore, being sensitive to cultural differences helps you create an identity that communicates your brand’s values and mission in a way that is authentic and relevant, while also avoiding the pitfalls of appropriation.

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How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation

To ensure that your brand identity avoids cultural appropriation, consider doing these:

📖 Educate yourself about other cultures: Before seeking inspiration from other cultures, it’s important to learn about them. Understanding the history, values, and significance of different cultures is crucial for avoiding offensive missteps.

👥 Work with members of the cultural community: If you’re drawing inspiration from a particular culture, consider collaborating with members of that community to ensure respect and sensitivity. Consulting with individuals from that culture can help you avoid appropriating a culture for your own gain.

🙏 Give credit where it’s due: If you’re drawing inspiration from another culture, credit the sources and individuals who inspired you. Doing so not only shows respect but also signals a commitment to informed and mutual cultural exchange.

Be mindful of visuals and symbols: Consider how a symbol or image is perceived within a particular culture, and avoid using them out of their intended context.

In conclusion

As we can see, cultural sensitivity is vital when creating a brand identity. Cultural appropriation can not only be disrespectful but can also have a negative impact on a brand’s reputation. By respecting other cultures and creating an identity that is culturally appropriate, you can create a brand that is inclusive, respectful, and socially responsible. Understanding and distinguishing cultural appropriation from inspiration is the key to creating a strong brand identity that is respectful of the diverse cultures around us.

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