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I’m sure we’ve all been feeling a little stir crazy lately, considering we’ve mostly been cooped up at home for the last few months. I know I’ve been getting restless and just want to get out and explore now that many of our original summer plans have undoubtedly been cancelled or postponed. Since now we’re left with more of the same, I’ve been trying to come up with creative ideas to enjoy the feeling of traveling without actually doing so.

Combined with flavors and ingredients, design and visuals can help ignite our imaginations and may even access our memories or induce déjà vu. We have the ability to “travel” through the incredible variety of food and beverage products available to us. For example, Denver-based Spice Trade Brewing Company does an excellent job at this. Their carefully curated beers aim to share the flavors of the world with us. They’ve also done a fantastic job at drawing us in with intriguing label designs that evoke a sense of adventure for those seeking delicious new experiences.

So how can design transport us?

Design is its own language, but instead of words and letters it uses visuals and layout to communicate. The language of design is universal and shares similar aesthetics, elements and guidelines to all who use it. However, each design can always be adapted with its own cultural characteristics. As David Carlson states, “Design and culture have always been closely interrelated, but in many instances, design is flaunted as the true measure of culture, rather than belonging to part of cultural context of the society.” Understanding this means that design simply illustrates the context behind a specific culture and doesn’t actually portray the culture as a whole.

The following design features, when used effectively, can build a strong impression of another culture or country to help entice the consumer and transport them elsewhere.


The use of illustration may be the most obvious tool in creating a sense of cultural context in design. Throughout the years, many countries have established their own traditional style of art which has become recognizable to the masses. With classic Asian art we tend to think of flowing calligraphic lines, delicate realistic details and bold, but minimal color. In contrast, African art is vibrant and lively with a more abstract quality and a focus on pattern. So when incorporating illustration into branding or packaging be sure to do your research on the region you’re attempting to emulate.


The typefaces we use in design can speak volumes. Right off the bat they can help capture the viewer’s attention and hold it, but more importantly, trigger their curiosity. There is an endless variety of fonts ranging from simple, sleek and classic to quirky, themed and decorated. Though themed fonts may seem like the easiest solution in portraying a specific culture or country, be careful to avoid the cliché and cheesy options. Type can also evoke a specific mood or feeling so be aware of the what you’re trying to achieve when selecting fonts.


Using a proper color palette in design can do wonders being that it’s one of the most noticeable visual tools. While there are many commonalities in the meaning of color across the world, there are also many differences between cultures. One of the most contrasting examples is white & black. In our culture, white symbolizes peace, purity, and cleanliness while in Eastern cultures, white carries meanings of death, funerals and mourning. Black then portrays a sense of wealth, health, richness and prosperity in Asian culture, while for us it can mean death, darkness, emptiness, and power. Be sure to take these cultural differences into account when creating the ideal color palette for your project.


Last but not least, texture is another powerful technique in creating a compelling culturally-driven design. It may not be physically tactile, but the visual suggestion is strength in itself. Visual texture creates an illusion and aids in creating a sense of environment. Incorporating natural textures bring an impression of life, serenity and comfort to artwork while complex patterns add a striking, dynamic intensity. Choose the background imagery that works with the ambiance you’re trying to achieve.

So next time you’re out at the grocery or liquor store, take a look around, explore, and see where your purchases can take you.