The Bridge Between Cultures and Design

Why certain cultures struggle more with UX then others.

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Over roughly the last 10 years, China and India have given way to a huge rise in technology outsourcing. Jobs are outsourced from companies like Microsoft, Google, T-Mobile, Honeywell, and many others. In Microsoft I’ve worked with teams in both India and China developing software for a variety of uses. Having our headquarters in the US, I usually work with small satellite teams in these countries. I couldn’t help but wonder why these countries who had become huge in the area of software technology, struggled so much in the area of user experience and UI innovation.Note: this article refers specifically to software UX. Both of these countries have very innovative and creative aspects in other areas of their culture, and I’m not expressing these comments as blanket statements.

Specifically I noted a series of different challenges with each team. For example the team in India has appeared weaker in developing the details in their work. While they grasp large issues, nuances often have to be explained in painstaking detail, which more or less involves giving all the specifics of those nuances.

Justin Maguire, a Creative Director as Frog has dubbed this the 70/30 effect. The first 70% of the process around big and broad thinking is great, but the last 30% of the details is like squeezing blood from a rock. Even with these explained down to “dotting the i‘s and crossing the t’s” we often found ourselves coming up short in the last 30%.

The China team has several similar shades, but in a slightly different flavor. While the nuances we needed often had to be detailed out in exact specifications, China seemed to be great about copying those details in an amazing and precise method. The last 30% was pristine when given all the specifics. When design specifics were enumerated out, the team could carry through the task with a level of detail rarely seen. This was especially apparent in visual UI work. Conversely the initial 70%, or big thinking, was slightly rougher to achieve. Two countries, both huge in technology, with somewhat opposing problems. This became my curious head scratcher, and I wanted to learn more.

Given the issues and connections I was seeing, I decided to go straight to the source and start to ask the offices I had worked with, as well as other designers I found through my various networks about these issues. These are just the initial thoughts I’ve started to gather. I plan to interview many more people with what I’ve deemed my curiosity research project, but thought it would be interesting to share a few of the insights I’ve gathered thus far to give a view to others who work with these countries. Given the format of Johnny Holland, I’ve kept these short, but often there are great (and sometimes very amusing) stories behind each point.

India

In interviewing people thus far there have been three points that have so far come forward

  1. The “Does it work?” principle: This appears to be the strongest rationale the attributes to the lack of detail I discuss above. In talking with designers in India they stressed that with Indian culture, given their daily life, the details are often a luxury. For example, in the morning they must think of how to get work, making food, washing clothes, getting fresh water, and taking kids to school among other things. Simply from a cultural and living conditions standpoint there is a strong focus on getting by. Details are a luxury that many don’t have in this society. Europe and America have the basics taken care of, which allows them to culturally focus on the details of what a water bottle looks like, having a specific cut to jeans, or separate forks for salad, soup, and cereal.
  2. Schools have become a common thread in most of my interviews. For the most part I’ve only found three schools named when discussing design and user experience specifically, with the National Institute of Design (NID) being the top. This school was more of less started by C&R Eames during their work with the Indian government. Secondarily within schools that exist for teaching design, there appears to be a lack of process and design thinking, with a stronger weight on the final product. This type of oversight may account for the lack of innovative software UX. In the end, there just isn’t a strong student community or education around design, which would then carry into the workforce culture.
  3. As a last and very logical point, we just haven’t used India as a country to outsource software and technology design experiences, so there has been no reason for them to exercise that muscle, as a result, it’s never been grown. The corollary I was presented with when talking with a designer in India was to think of UX in the US around the 1980’s. It was there, but just barely. It had just started to be cultivated as a solid field.

In the end, we’re asking India to apply Western techniques that have been developed from specific cultural surroundings but have never been part of daily life in their culture. While we tend to overlook it, when I hear people talk about it, it’s almost a “duh, how did I miss that” moment. To be reminded of this, has certainly been an eye opener.

China

With China I’ve been able to get to less people, but found these two points of interest.

  1. Waiting for commands/chain of command/questioning commands. I’ve seen this in several Asian countries, so it’s not without expectation that China has the same issue. Chain of command and management plays a very strong role in corporations. When you’re handed a command from your manager, you are attentive to that command, and you are more or less at the mercy of your superior in a way. In addition, decisions made by superiors are often less questioned. This means less room for rigorous debate of ideas or pushing back on potential bad decisions. Often with the UX field, the debate can make or break a product. It gives way to new ideas and innovation. Without that, it’s somewhat expected that products may not be as innovative and strong as they could be. If your ultimate goal is to please your manager, it’s easy to see how the details can play a big factor. Ideas and principles are hard to measure, but the physical details are much easier, making a UX culture ripe for lack of conceptual play, and tight on measurable specifics. With the focus on details, can often come a lack of being able to see the 10,000 foot view, playing into the idea of the last 30% is strong, whereas the broad 70% can be a struggle.
  2. Second, I’ve found in my discussions, success is often achieved from mastering old techniques. For example, calligraphy is mastered successfully from studying old masters, but there isn’t high praise given to striking out your own path and finding new innovative ways to approach the discipline. Therefore, the desire is to achieve parody of something, not strike out to create something new. With what I’ve seen working with various teams, this echoes true for me. The ability to create great work from a detailed system is amazing, but to blaze new trails is a long, difficult, and tough road.

I’ve discovered a wealth of cultural information from these discussions and as I mentioned, these few points are just the start and the most interesting I’ve found. I’m not exactly clear what my desired outcome is, as this started as a simply curiosity issue, but I hope it’s also piqued others interest from reading this.

Global focus

If we really want to move towards a more global focus in our teams, and a better age of thinking and design, we must develop a strong appreciation and understanding of the other cultures we work with. It’s not a nicety, but a necessity. Especially if you manage teams across these countries. The rise of these two specific countries, with cultures so different from Europe and the US, points to a specific need to understand what drives them, and why they have developed into what they are. This understanding will help everyone in finding the path to greater partnerships.

These links may provide some additional thoughts for those interested

Do you feel I’m incorrect on these cultural statements? What to give your perspective? Are you part of the workforce in one of these countries mentioned or worked with them? Let me know and I’d love to set up some time to chat over the phone and continue collecting information.

Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher is currently an associate creative director at frog, and previously a design lead at Microsoft. After graduating college in 2001 with a degree in Communication Design, he taught school before moving back into the design field.

39 comments on this article

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  3. Nice read, a very interesting topic that seems to provide fruitful and engaging research. I’d like to see what you would come up with interviewing people in the UK/US as I still think there is a lot of work to do in those places too.

  4. As I read the article I recognize the evolution already done by the UX designers in USA and UK and by me :-)
    Being able to set a web site but being oblivious of the UI is a geek’s behaviour in the nineties. Like India now.
    The opposite is the usual graphics designer´s outcome then. Like China now.
    The evolution in USA, EU and me was the convergence of the technical base and the detailed design.
    Shall we expect the same to happen with those two great Nations?
    The outcome, after enough years, might be India specializing in web applications with much server programming, and China doing obsessively detailed front end for mostly visual sites.

  5. @Drew – [For good or bad] I’m generally using US as my control, since I live here. My goal is to find out better ways to work on UX with these emerging tech giants from a company/management/designer POV. There is plenty in the US that is flawed around UX :) Many people have written how the US could drive design and innovation in companies in stronger and better ways. However I hadn’t seen anyone write or look at what I’m doing. Right now the people who will get the most from this are people in the US [and secondarily the UK] who outsource to these countries. That’s my hope. In another 6 month I hope to have a full presentation/paper with recommendations on how to improve process with these countries and get a better ROI from them.

    @Jaun – it’s be really interesting to see these countries play to their strengths. Somehow I believe UX will become homogenized as a process across these countries and everyone will do everything like the US or UK does now. However just like people play to their strengths, it’s intriguing to think that countries and cultures could do that as well.

  6. Thanks for sharing the relevant ‘design research’ that is part of our own practices/craft as an example to others. Great insights!

  7. Hi Joe,

    A very interesting read. I can’t really comment on the India side of it, but it’s eye opening to see how different working there may be.

    I’ve been living in Hong Kong for 10 years now and worked in the UX field for 4-5 years. What you reflect about China holds very true even here, in Hong Kong, where the society and workplace is (arguably) more mature than in China and had more exposure to the Western way of doing (though not really in the UX field).

    Your first point to me is spot on. I saw this pattern personally as well in all Asian countries that followed to some degree Confucian ideas: king vs. servant, father vs. son, boss vs. employee, all highly hierarchical relationships. What the boss says is a command, not a starting point for discussion (like it is in France where I come from). I’m having a hard time adapting to this with my current Hong Kong boss. :o )

    I would expand on your second point to say that the whole learning system even today in China emphasizes replicating known techniques and learning by heart, instead of practicing critical thinking. One may argue that this is required to really master the Chinese language in its written form. In the end this makes it very hard for new graduates for example to grasp the design process and the thinking required to come up with innovative ideas. People just do not believe that more thinking and more planning will lead to better design.

    It will indeed be very interesting to see how these two countries evolve in terms of UX. I would think personally that China will develop a slightly different approach than in the US or Europe…

    Thanks for a great article.

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  9. Thanks Joe and enjoyable reading.

    Suggest part of any relationship starts on how one is viewed or perhaps empowered as part of that relationship.

    So how do Western Designers view Asian Designers, how do Asian Designers view Western Designers AND how do Asian Designers view themselves now and going forward? What do we want to work towards?

    * Follow my direction and be my “wireframe factory” (because you are cheap)
    * Work with me as my peer to create better designs together (understanding our respective backgrounds and talents)
    * Give me the opportunities you have been given and vice versa (in terms of learning)
    * Add your own

    If India or China, as examples, feel “outsourced to” this may have some impact in how they feel about their design work. Suggest we all have work to do to change this perception.

    Understanding, appreciating and learning about “culture” takes time. It takes more than 1 visit, more than translating words on a screen, more than looking at differences alone and as someone who has lived in Asia for 10 years, more than 10 years living in Asia :)

    rgds,
    Dan

  10. Soo on

    This is a very valid post, Joe. I went to school at NID and have worked in both India and in China. I agree with most of your points.
    However re India, I feel you are being too “understanding” in the first point, that designers miss the details as it is a part of their cultural background. This is probably because these designers have not been formally educated in design, and specially graphic design. Therefore, there’s very little understanding about grids, white space and the basic foundations of graphic design, at least.
    I don’t think designers who have a formal education in graphic design and/or software and UI Design would not be detail-oriented!

  11. @Soo – While I agree the education is an aspect, from what I’ve heard from people points to culture. I don’t just see this in software experience design. For example, the building where I worked in India, is a huge very new building. Looks nice on the surface, but when it rains, there are buckets all over in the main lobby as the glass roof drips in many places. Seems to point to the 70% being done, but the last details have fallen through the cracks.
    However I do believe if there were stronger schools in design (more like NID), that specific field would be stronger.
    Do you mind if I follow up with you more offline?

    @Daniel – agree the idea of if they feel “outsourced” it may impact the growth/perception. However we (US) do consistently refer to these as our “outsourcing” countries, so there is a large cultural aspect here. I agree it takes a long time to understand a culture… and arguably near impossible unless you fully grow up there… or live there for a damn long time. I’m not sure where I *hope we go. I could say I hope to see everyone on a level playing field, or I could hope that across the world, different countries are known for different strengths. I have a feeling given time, it will be the former, but both could be good directions.

  12. sunrise chen on

    Thanks for sharing your point. I’m interested in such a cross cultural topics. You are absolutely right, on one hand, it is a common phenomenon that most Chinese workers tend to wait for commands/chain of commands before doing things, the reason of which is partly caused by tradition, or hiearchy, or Confucian thoughts, just as Nicolas Lassus remarked. On the other hand, most Chinese, I suppose, are pragmatic, seeking usefulness, simplicity, ease of use, efficiency of use, availability of indicated use, prioritized use, audial/visual appeals and satisfaction, etc. Most Chinese youngsters are innovative and/or potentially productive if given right training.

  13. I am presently graduating from UX design from NID, India. NIDs core philosophy lies around the design process with greater emphasis on detail over the final product itself. Well I don’t think detail is considered as luxury (neither in designers perspective or the users). I would rather think the users doesn’t have the keen eye to notice details unless he is professionally trained in that field or read about it somewhere. Few of my friends who are engineers working in different out sourcing companies think all the jeans look the same. If they notice they notice by the actors they have seen wearing and not by the terminology “low raise” or “slim fit”. And brand association overpowers the detail too.

  14. @Nicolas – thanks for the comments. I think part of the way these countries evolve will have to be an evolution of their education system. The “more thinking and more planning will lead to better design.” is a very eye opening perspective. As you mentioned you’re having a hard time with your boss… while I love Asia, that’s a key reason why I’d have a very hard time working there.

    @Sunrise – I hadn’t thought (or heard yet) about the tie in to Confucianism. Interesting to think of religion impacting design. Of course it would impact culture, and culture would impact design, so it makes sense. Interesting point about the younger generation of China. As Ken Robinson would say, we’re educated *out of creativity. I’d imagine Chinese kids are just as creative as US, European, African, Mexican, etc. It’s the education system that has strong hold on the grown up culture, and [I would guess] causes some of the stagnation of creativity. However I’ll caveat with I know much less about the Chinese education system, and this is my guess.

    @Daniel – Thanks for the links. I’ve traveled to Korea a ton, always impressive, and very quick in growing and evolving their culture. It’s amazing to think of the growth since the Korean War/1950’s, and now, going there for the last 7 years, the growth just in that time!

    @Pavan – You’re comments around NID are consistent with what I’ve heard. Given the birth of NID and the Eames history, I’d expect good things. I’m impressed it’s stayed so strong with its programs! Interesting comment about details and jeans. Again, I’d go back to the cultural impact of “does it work”, and when you come to Europe/US, because the basics are given, we can concentrate on the details, many people see the difference in jeans, clothes, and general product quality. I am willing to think perhaps I’m skewed and since many of my friends are in the field, the general public doesn’t think as I do. However with the strong culture on ads and differentiation in the US between products, it appears as the details are alive and well. Though this discussion we move into Brands, products, and cultures, which while I love it, is out of my scope 

  15. Well this article arose a huge discussion in NID college campus and we discussed continuously for four hours. The summary of discussion which many of us agreed upon is as follows. Any design would do well in user segment when its perceived value is greater than market price among its users. And the user experience research methodologies and design processes would help us in increasing the perceived value of the product. For some consumers/users just functions/features have more perceived value and for some users well-detailed, aesthetics have more perceived value and for some products brand, trust factor, show-off, attention have more perceived value.

  16. Soo on

    Sure, Joe let’s follow this up offline. I would like to continue the discussion. My email is soosixty at gmail dot com.

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  18. @Soo – I’ll do that. Will contact you soon. Do you happen to be in India now? I’m heading there in about a month (Hyderabad).

    @Pavan – I don’t disagree with that statement, that’s more a statement on consumption culture as a whole I think… but don’t think it solves the problem I’m after of designers/engineers/companies of different cultural backgrounds working together to produce great products. There are 2 NID campuses, right? Which one are you at. I’m in Hyderabad in Feb. If I’m super lucky I could try and stop by.

    I love the fact it stirred up debate in NID. I’ll admit I was somewhat nervous about putting this out as I didn’t want it to be seem as anything derogatory to other cultures or their workforces. What I’ve presented is merely the aggregation of what I’ve heard from people in those cultures, so I didn’t feel it was negative, but presenting how people feel, and what we can do about it.

    My next step in continuing these interviews is to dig into what people feel could be better. I want to know how the people in China and India could feel empowered to do great work and work they are really proud of… And what that means to them.

  19. The discussion we had was progressive but was not guided. And the results came closer to consumption culture. :) I am from Bangalore Campus. Please stop by anytime in Bangalore campus and I would be pleased make any arrangement if necessary. We have UX design, IXD and Retail experience design courses taking place in this campus. And regarding this topic, I would be pleased to discuss this topic offline and share my observations. My email id is garrepavan at gmail dot com

  20. @Pavan – thanks, if I can stop by I will. Slim chance though :\ I’ll follow up with you offline.

    @Nurit – Thanks for the link! I love reading more about the topic in general. Some interesting points. I see @eitankur doesn’t see the connection as much, but what s/he describes is task management (Excel, managing site visits), over a way of thinking; those are separate to me. You can have a great task manager and be a lousy designer… and vice versa. Most of the time I find designers *are lousy task managers, haha

  21. @Nurit – The Hans Rosling clip/talk on your site is actually what inspired me to ask these questions and think about cultural seperations and differences.

  22. Nurit on

    Thanks Joe, happy you came by.
    I thought about your observation that designers from India easily get the ‘big picture’ and think it is very typical for India b\c (from my experience when traveling there) they are used to a more abstract line of thought and a philosophical perspective.

  23. Jeo,
    Nice article and good observations. But i want to put some thoughts on few things. One is the concept of outsourcing. I agree with Daniel Szuc. If you open a new office from San Francisco to New York, do you say its outsourced to NY ? India is also a big software product consumer and generate good revenue for US companies. So its logical to have a office in India to understand the market and build for that continent. If korea opens an office in London, its not outsourced to London. So its time to change this thinking. No longer the labor in India is cheap. Same with china. If you want to sell globally you need a global perspective. (I wonder how Koreans sell around the world and they never design outside Korea, neither they speak English- i work here)

    The other observation you had is very true for India. There is no time to think for details and perfection in our products(after what i see in korea). We are so much concerned with the basic things like light, water, roads, mosquitoes,hospitals.. there is no time for perfection. Even now in Indian metros there is 2-4hrs of power outage everyday. In rural areas it is 18-20 hrs no power. Its not that we dont want to improve this, but its that we have to put lot of our energy in solving other important issues like religion, multi-language and border tensions. There are other troubles to solve first. I envy Korea and Japan. They dont have to learn multi language, no religion issues, border is Ok, No terrorist threats,and everyone works like a disciplined worker. No questions to manager. I work here in Korea with a large mobile company as UX researcher.
    Having said all this, India has still done amazing progress still being united. I remember when i met HFI’s CEO Eric Schaffer and asked him why he moved his HQ from US to India. He said, he found Indian designers the most caring and thoughtful. And thats what UX is about. I hope what Hans Rosling talked about TED will be true.

    By the way, i come from another big design school from India that you have not mentioned. Industrial Design Centre(IDC) IIT Mumbai. http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/ . I am a industrial designer.
    thanks for your perspective..
    cheers !!
    sameer

  24. Jhumkee on

    Great to see your post Joe – thanks for articulating a much-needed reflection on ‘east’ by the ‘west’, and nicely expressed observations. In speaking and writing on these lines since 2006, I gathered then that the west was not yet ready for what I had concluded as ‘Offshore usability needs to be addressed by the global usability community as a whole in the interests of the emerging global work culture’, also expressed similarly in your post. Dan has also captured the ‘being outsourced to’ phenomenon, which is very real at least in India.

    The detail-orientation issue you mention is very true in daily life and the cultural ramification of the complexity that is India, as highlighted by Sameer too, is that Indians are adaptable and flexible (also what keeps us functioning amidst the colorful chaos) and carry an attitude of ‘what’s in a few details’.
    I am not sure though how literally it applies to design. The fact of the matter is that most Indian UX professionals are very young, many that join the workforce graduate in Design often with no formal training in UX and there are many others who come from various disciplines and are essentially self taught. Hence they will all typically not have the rigors of process and methodologies. Design schools are still working on embracing and integrating UX. If they could do that with the needed zeal per the times, I believe Indian UX could be in a strong position, originating and operating from a position of strength – Design.
    An interesting and similar add to Eric’s comment several years ago quoted by Sameer above was ‘Indians are very hospitable and that’s what you need to create a good user experience’ but the ‘chalta hai’ attitude (loosely translated to ‘its OK’) is difficult to manage’!
    Having studied, worked and lived in the US for over a decade and now back to working, living and teaching in India and therefore being reasonably tuned with both ’sides’, I could not agree more with your statement ‘It’s not a nicety, but a necessity’. You have nicely highlighted strengths of each. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could move beyond highlighting cultural differences (problems) and start playing a ‘global orchestra’ to strengths?

  25. @Jhumkee
    I looked at your site. Very interesting. You’re the first person I’ve seen besides myself to really look at these issues… although I’m sure there are more. Your last comment is what I’m striving for. It’s easy for me to make these observations, but harder to say “let’s do this to help solve it”. Yes the field is young, yes schools are scarce, but what can we do within companies to help pool and utilize our strengths. That’s where I want to go with all of this. Figuring out how to better manage these partnerships so everyone rocks.

    @Sameer
    I’ve been over to Korea a ton of time and for a white guy, know a decent amount about the area (plus my wife is from there). Sometime I’d love to get your thoughts on working at a Korean company :) Especially as an Indian person.

    I think you have a good comment about the terminology. Outsourcing seems mostly associated with cheap labor, but I have heard people say they’re “outsourced to the US” or other countries, but not nearly as common. Korea does have issues selling outside the US, and has its own micro culture on the web. I remember the company you work for having issues about 8 years ago breaking into the market because it was being designed in a US way, not taking into account Korean culture. I don’t know where you guys stand now. The reverse is somewhat true where Koreans have issues building for the US. Take for example when they tried to bring CyWorld to the US and failed… I don’t’ even think it got off the ground.

    I agree on how far India has come, it really is amazing. I wouldn’t envy Korea for working style. They still have issues of questioning management, political issues, and work culture. They have issues with race and age. I know when my wife applied for jobs, she had to include a picture on her resume. My guess is your company is more progressive, like the Microsoft office I visited, and is more influenced with US culture.

    In the end what you said about Indian designers being caring and thoughtful is a great point. One thing I miss in the US is the sense of “being together”. China seems to have this, Korea has it around drinking, but the US, everyone goes home after work. There doesn’t seem to be as strong a sense of community.

  26. Slight update to the @Sameer post. I thought he worked for Yahoo, but I was incorrect. For anyone wondering what my comments were about (8 years ago having a hard time breaking in)

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  29. In response to the last pingback (State of UX in India).

    ——————-

    Hey Kshitiz,
    Happy you read the article and have some points to debate :) It’s how I learn more about the situation and how to approach it.

    This point “Creativity is hampered when things are already created.” is huge and something I didn’t mention. It my dealing with India teams, it is often the case that requirements are handed to them, and innovation can often be hampered by someone else starting the process for them. It’s difficult to pick up someone else’s trail, especially when it’s across countries and cultures.

    Overall I agree with the growing state of IxD and UX in India, but I also have to think about it from the POV of a corporation working with teams there. What’s the best approach, what’s the best methods?

    What’s been really interesting is to think if India can use some of its natural/cultural information to become stronger at certain UX problems/areas. When you can play to a countries strengths, that’s really intriguing to me.

  30. vinay on

    Hi Joe,

    Nice article. Adding to what Sameer, Jhumkee, Kshitiz and other Indian designers have written…

    I think a lot of knowledge about – attention to details and why details are important- comes when you work throughout the product lifecycle and work closely with usability testing and engineering groups in the last stages of the product.

    It is a different thing to make assets on Photoshop and wireframe interactions. To become sensitive to detailing, and to know what all things to include in a spec document (for lets say a very small screen phone) – you have to be where the action is. You have to see the chaos, the screw-up, and feel the pain the product went through when the engineering group found a detail missing and the engineers ‘designed’ that interaction on the fly.

    More often than not, Indian UX groups work as consultants for a very specific part in the product and the requirements are handed over by home-UX group in UK or US.

    Sometimes it is also about resources & budgets !
    When I was attending design school in India, I did a summer of research in Germany.
    At that time my research project was NFC and RFID communications, as usual we made beautiful posters and made wireframes etc. but we didn’t have the actual devices to build software and test it out. When I went to Germany I saw a similar project in the lab, but in this case the students had the budget and resources to build it out, test and refine it and were now working on the finer details like positioning the service, after sales, customer-care systems, news-letter design etc.

    Having said all this, I am happy that things are changing fast thanks to a lot of Indian home bred start-ups where engineering and design both happens in India. These start-ups are mostly web products – companies who know that they produce in India but sell to a world-wide audience. To sell well must get the design and details right.
    Zoho CRM is a very good example of ‘made in India.’

    Another interesting aspect, I have seen in these start-ups is, they don’t have the resources but want to produce the best. So they do lightweight design research and testing. They interview people on the phone, designer sits beside a developer, and they thrash out the details on code and design together. Indians are pretty good at this , with the cultural shortage of resources, we know how to get more done with less resources.

    As for design education in India, I think there is not enough focus on implementation and detailing when it comes to software UX. Design schools are happy to have their students make beautiful posters and wireframes and explain a concept. I would like to see more focus on prototyping ( whether it be flash or paper or actual HTML , code) and building the actual working thing and then testing it out.

    About me: I studied design in India at IIT Guwahati http://www.iitg.ac.in/design/about.htm, then
    have worked with some exciting start ups in India and am now working in UK.

  31. @vinay – your thoughts about seeing things up close and live are true. I’ve also seen that with the teams I work with. On the consultant part, I wouldn’t even go that far. Sometimes perhaps, but often times I see India used as a set of hands. It was mentioned above that to help get over this issue, we also need to change our terminology and not use “Outsource”, which I also agree with.

    I’ve also heard similar issues with schools not focusing on process as much. I hope as the design culture in India grows, that changes. I’m sure it will over time just as the US has [and continues to change and grow]. I’m hoping to visit NID or another school next time I’m in India to really get a sense of how the schools differ from US design schools. Of course each school is different, but even one visit could help broaden my views.

  32. Joe, great article! Thanks for writing this.

    One misconception I see across all cultures is the confusion between goodness/greatness and perfection. Note that Joe didn’t use “perfect” anywhere in his article, yet a typical response (from anywhere, not just the comments) is effectively “we can’t afford perfection, so you’ll have to settle for whatever we give you.” This is an example of Voltaire’s classic “The best is the enemy of the good”, where the inability to be perfect is used as an excuse to not do anything at all.

    Training is the best solution to this problem because it’s impractical to learn UX design through “trial and error” on the job. Having formal UX design training certainly helps, but that’s not a practical solution for most professionals. As it happens, I’m now in the UX design training business (http://www.uxdesignedge.com). I have a three-day UX Design Essentials course for people who don’t have a design background. It sounds like there should be a great opportunity to offer such a class in India and China, especially to those managers who aren’t leading their teams well. Does anyone have any thoughts on how I might be able to offer my training courses abroad? If so, please share (you can contact me directly though my website).

  33. Hey Everett. True on the training before work… a lot of the people I talked to do training on the job, which can cause stress and take a lot of time, but often times it’s just what has to be done since there isn’t a choice in these countries. I didn’t know you left MS. Pretty cool gig you got going on. If I leave MS maybe I’ll email you for a job… or perhaps help you out with a workshop :D

    I’ve done a few in Mexico working with students are various universities. Always a blast.

    Go find my page on Facebook :)
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joe-Fletcher/113096605392439

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