Design, color, and cultural power

A fascinating long interview with a Portuguese communication designer who has taught design courses and workshops in Maputo, Mozambique. In situations like the ones she describes with her students, there’s always the risk and temptation (for both teacher and students) of straying from helpful cultural empowerment to a sort of patronizing teacher-as-messiah role. I like the exchange below because she doesn’t say “And to think nobody had ever told them that their local cultural knowledge had value!” but rather, “Of course they knew it had value in their everyday lives; my job was simply to help them extend that value into the specific practices we were studying.”

It’s interesting to see that although people appreciate their very rich culture, they do not connect its traditions to contemporary knowledge and practices. For example, students in the graphic design course I taught at ENAV asked me to give them lessons in color, insisting they knew nothing about it. This really surprised me. My immediate answer was, “But you should teach me! You’re surrounded by color and use it in such powerful ways in every aspect of daily life. I admire you for it!” Their response was to laugh and say, “But Teacher! That’s not design! We need to use design colors.” From talking to my students and people in the cultural sector, I got the impression that design was this distant, quite artificial, field they had to adapt to. Their main concern is learning software.

from ““But Teacher! That’s Not Design!”,” by Vera Sacchetti, Change Observer, 8 July 2010 :: via koranteng

Originally published at

Add Your Comments