Localise Design with Context
Localise Design with Context
In this session, Paya will discuss different perspectives on design coming from a Japanese and US background and while currently residing in Stockholm
Hello, everyone, my name is Paya and I am currently a design lead at Klarna in Stockholm, Sweden. First of all, I want to thank the my friends at UXDX for giving me the opportunity to share the talk today. And my talk will be about how to localise design with context based on my experience in Japan and Sweden and how to make a better product. So let's get started.
A little bit about myself. I am half Japanese half American. I was born in San Francisco, and since then, I have lived in the US, in Vietnam, Singapore and Japan for about 15 years and I moved to Stockholm, Sweden over two years ago, I worked for H&M group and Klarna after I moved to the country, hence the Hello words in four languages. I studied political science but then I chose to become a graphic designer 10 years ago in Tokyo, and since then, I have worked with different clients in the E commerce and fintech industry. My clients include Raven Diesel, Michael Kors, I worked with Amazon, Japan and also Mercury, the biggest ecommerce B2C marketplace in Japan. On a more personal note, I love music. I love collecting vinyls, and hiking. I just went hiking in Spain. I love lots of impulsive adventures like the sky diving photo on the right.
So let's go to Tokyo. This is the photo I took at Tokyo before I left the country. In Tokyo there is about 38 million residents is a very highly populated cities. And this is Stockholm where I am currently living right now. Stockholm is smaller, more greens, more whitespace and negative space. So one would question how do you navigate in such two different cities? This brings us to the first insight that I will share right after this. The cultural and social aspects. This is very beautiful, minimalistic design. And this is from MUJI. So MUJI is a very popular Japanese consumer brand, not only in Japan, but also globally. A lot of people think that MUJI is focusing more on a minimalistic design. But actually MUJI in Japanese means no brand or unbranded and MUJI embraces the emptiness rather than minimalism. And they focusing on the functionality of the product more than is visual aspect.
Next is a soy sauce bottle. This design actually, is one of the most prominent industrial design from the 1960s. And the designers is Kenji Equilon. He's one of the most prolific industrial designers in Japan. And he's also designed the Japanese bento box and bullet train. What makes the soy sauce bottle very special is that before this transparent glass bottle, a lot of Japanese family they use a ceramic bottle to store their soy sauce. So this is best. This has more functionality. And this is one of the most prominent Japanese design that's still being used until this day.
And here is an orange bag that I came across a lot when I first moved to Sweden. This is everywhere on the streets of Stockholm. It's very straightforward. There's a logo, big block, and the bag is huge. And there's a website. And there's a phone number. This is for the Swedish people who want to throw away the waste that is too bulky, they can call the number or they can buy the bag online and they can just turn it on the street. And it's really easy for the people who work for the company to notice the bag and collect for you and you pay a fee of course, This is connected to the lagom principle, Swedish. This means just enough, not too much. Not too little. The Scandinavian design back in the 1930s focusing a lot at work on constructivism ,functionalism and in some cases, surrealism as well. And a lot of designers in the 1930s in the area, they started a golden age of Scandinavian design.
Let's go back to Tokyo, this is the business street of Shibuya, Japan, a lot of visual noise, a lot of colour scheme that's really bold, very in high contrast as well. A lot of people who haven't been to Japan, they will be very overwhelmed by the amount of people the amount of visual noises, like in this photo. But however, if you go to Japanese train station, you will see a lot of signage sliders in order to guide you to where you want to go. And this is calm progressive disclosure. So this is an interaction design pattern that sequences information and actions across several strings. For example, when we design a step by step signup flow, and the Japanese design, they focusing more on a lot of these kinds of behaviours. The purpose here is to lower the chances that the user will feel overwhelmed by what they encounter. Japan is a very heavily instructed society and many new companies in Tokyo, they have a lot of big public design projects. Another example on the right is the information boards when they go to a train station, everything's colour coded, different font size. And one can tell that like this is too much for me, I don't understand what's going on.
But a lot of Japanese people, they are more tolerant with heavy amounts information when it comes to visual cues. And they more familiar with consuming a lot information without much whitespace as at all. Another funny example Stockholm and Tokyo train station is very different, Stockholm train station is very simple with empty, I took this photo in the COVID time but the Tokyo translation again is very yellow. And it's really easy to navigate if you're used to it actually. And the yellow door here is indicated that only women can be allowed inside the car in front of the door.
Let's talk about layout and typography. This is a department store poster. A lot of Japanese designer, we still we mean a lot of people when I was living there, I had to work a lot still with print ads. Even I was working for like an IT and tech company, as you can see here and not much whitespace. But I had to learn how to play around with hierarchy how to break the line, and how to play with different hierarchical contrasts in order to prioritise the content. The lesson learned here is to utilise the contrast and the different images in different colours. Because the typography in Japanese we don't use a lot lowercase, uppercase, no italic and not much space between characters as well.
And how about a search experience in Japanese society like this is a train poster inside a car. And this is a poster to tell you how to not behave inside a Japanese train. I found it's really funny because the bad guy here is a Caucasian man with blond hair. So what is this about? You just have to type in the key words like in the red box and go to search. This design pattern is actually very familiar with the Japanese consumers because they live through an era of flip phone. And back then people were using Yahoo search more than Google search of course, even into now a lot of Japanese like older smartphone users, they still prefer Yahoo search.
And Spotify in Sweden, a very successful streaming company based in Stockholm, Sweden. One of the design principles from their design system or design guidelines is unified. Meaning everywhere that Spotify designs, they want to aim for the experience to be seamless to reuse the design patterns and to adapt for consistency and nobody should be reinventing the wheel. However, I found some of the interesting example of Spotify when they first came to Japan, the website was really not, they didn't do a good job with typography. For example, there's some light break here, that is not correct and doesn't make sense. And it can cause some misunderstanding. And then it's just very, the font and the typography here is not very consistent. So in the eyes of customers in Europe or in the Nordic Region, some design can be seen as a bad design and not very pretty. Sometimes Japanese or Asian design is not a bad design, it's just a design that we might not be used to and have the least context of, because I believe that we're still living in the words of a heavily Eurocentric design. But I think Spotify is doing a better job now, the last time I seen I think they doing a better job with the typography and the websites in Japanese language.
Another example, this is a positive example that I really love. This is from a Swedish musical device manufacturer. And this is their ecommerce website,. It’s very beautiful on the whitespace are designed to be functional, is used to divide between groups information, the design here is very light, very open. And this is one of the my personal favourite design principle of the Scandinavian region, they favour function over form, and they use a lot of negative space to create functions. Let's move on to sub the ecommerce or digital app start journey. The first one is Uniqlo app in Japanese is very different from the typical ecommerce website or app in the English language. On the left side is the homepage. As you can see here, there's no items listed. But instead, a lot of Japanese pm users they are used to seeing a lot of promotional image on the homepage. And then they know how to navigate the right item they want. And here the customer journeys makes sense for Japanese consumer because again, they are very tolerant to heavy loads of information. But the website hierarchy also give the Japanese user more context. You know, what's going on? What is the items that is on promotions? What's the news? What are the campaigns they are offering?
So the typical ecommerce journey here is the Japanese user, they take time to read the relevant information. They understand the context and they know how to look for the item that they want. They navigate, they go to the item detail page and they decide to purchase or not. And this is Klarna. This is an app homepage that if you have make a payment with Klarna, this is usually the homepage that you will see. And as you can see here, on the functions on the informations are being laid out in a perfect manner in a way that's very familiar to a lot of, I would say, European or North American users. The website or the app here has a more analytical design approach. And they focus on the specific needs of the users. By laying out on the categories and European customer, they typically they don't want to use a lot of time to find what they need. And therefore the navigation needs to be very straightforward and efficient. So non Japanese customer that will look for relevant information they navigate. They go to the item detail page or the page that they want to see. And they decide to use the function or decide or they decide to make a purchase.
The last topic I want to mention about localization is that inclusive design matters regardless of culture. The last project I was assigned to before I left Tokyo, Japan is that I had to go to different rural cities around Tokyo to conduct some kinds of user research with the senior Japanese internet users and I learned a lot and both Japan and Sweden have seen a prominent thrust in improving digital experiences for users of all age groups and on abilities. Japan is also an aging population. And this is one of the clearest examples in which in Japan, Sweden and many Western countries share a major social challenge, increasing aging population, and how to use digital product for healthy aging. I think after moving here, I just feel like my effort in this area of universal design has transcended more and more. And a lot of companies nowadays, they focusing more on improving accessibility when it comes to design, and also engineering as well.
So the last point, or this is a summary of the talk today that wants to make is that the ultimate design is very different from the natural world. And instead of trying to fulfill the functionality of our design, empathy is also the tool that help you understand who is right for your product and who is wrong for it. Context is everything the design can be bad or can be the context that you haven't gotten used to. I have worked in Tokyo in the past eight years, and often I heard some comments about Japanese popular digital apps are designed as some kinds of bad designs and many texts, many images and not very, like visually pleasing. The truth is many of us, we already have gotten used to the Eurocentric design workflow. So our designers, we also love to create principles to apply or reuse in many contexts, that customer are different.
So we shouldn't use a singular strategy for all our users. And smart designers should study how the principle can make it hard to do good design, so we should make a better one. And in short, please promise me to unlearn our existing design patterns or behaviours and listen to our diverse users in order to localise our design correctly because no personas can interpret the real customer in the real world. This is the end of my talk today. And thank you for listening.