Recognition of symbols in different cultures: Chinese culture vs. non-Chinese culture
Graphic design in different countries exhibits strong cultural characteristics of the countries. The beauty of cultural differences is commonly viewed as making graphic design unique and valuable. Alternately, the diversity of cultures may also result in unsatisfactory design due to a cultural barrier between the designer and people who are from a different cultural background. As a graphic designer, creating high-quality visual information that satisfies consumers with different cultural backgrounds is very important. Misinterpretation and misunderstanding of some cultures may result in design failure or cause conflict between different cultural groups. This study compares the acceptance levels of various kinds of symbols between people with a Chinese cultural background and those with a background that is not culturally Chinese. For this comparative study, three representative objects were selected: dragon, monkey and fish. For each object, three symbols were selected or designed. An online survey was conducted among currently enrolled students at Iowa State University to evaluate people’ acceptance of these symbols. This study found that people from different cultural backgrounds perceive meaning of symbols differently. The choices they made were influenced by which ethnic group they came from. When looking at the same set of objects, participants from the same ethnic group tend to make the same choices. In addition, the study results also indicate that Chinese symbols do have strong cultural characteristics that can be easily distinguished from Western symbol designs. With the influence of cultural differences on symbols changing over time, the trend is that Chinese style becomes more recognizable by people from other ethnicities and who speak other languages.