, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 545–558 | Cite as

Poetry as a cross-cultural analysis and sensitizing tool in design

  • Patrizia MartiEmail author
  • E. B. (Ward) van der Houwen
Open Forum


The overall trend toward globalization in design, greatly enhanced by digital technologies, has raised issues and challenges on how to preserve the cultural differences and values of different societies. There is a tendency to lose touch with local cultural values when designing artefacts for global use, and social nuances and traditions risk to be flattened or stereotyped in the pursuit of developing new technologies and products for the global society. Attempts to reduce the tension between the global and the local in design can be seen in the development of standards and guidelines for cross-cultural design, that are mostly focused on (online) user interface design. However, when moving from preferences, metaphors, appearance, and navigation toward cultural models of interaction and physical design, new methodologies and tools for cross-cultural design are needed. This paper describes a poetry-inspired design method for cross-cultural sharing within the design process. The approach uses poetry to sensitize the designer to the subtleties and diversity of a (new or known) culture so that the design can be given new aesthetic and cultural significance. The methodology is exemplified by actual design cases developed within the course “Cultural Sensitivity” of the Master’s Degree Program in Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology, where poetry was used for uncovering underlying or implicit assumptions, intercultural differences and similarities, as well as for general sensitization of young designers.


Poetry Engineering tools Design method Cultural values Interaction design Cross-cultural design 



A special thanks to Jan Glas for his poetry and didactic poetry skills and for being a precious source of inspiration. Thanks to the students of the Industrial Design Department, Eindhoven University of Technology: Gijs de Boer, Tove Elfferich, Fabienne van Leiden, John Vlaming from the “Teh Lampu” project group and Junyu Lu, Marieke Voorhuijzen and Jim Steenbakkers from the “Kwai” project group for their project contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social, Political and Cognitive ScienceUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Industrial Design, Designing Quality in Interaction GroupEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Industrial Products DesignHanze University of Applied SciencesGroningenThe Netherlands

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