My Relationship With Culture- 4 mins
The importance and intuitive appeal of culture initially became apparent to me through my work as Chief Graphic Designer of my high school’s languages magazine. I quickly realised that although the articles my classmates write are interesting, few would read the magazine if it wasn’t aesthetically appealing. It was my job to enhance this magazine visually — to design the magazine such that it both reflects the content inside and captures the attention of the high school community. Adobe InDesign, my creativity, and my (albeit limited) travelling around the world gave me the power to do this.
Each edition brought a unique set of articles and design challenges, but culture became my bedrock. I grew to appreciate that culture is the critical lens through which we all fundamentally connect with and perceive the world. It was my responsibility to harness culture in a way that made this magazine engaging and allowed it to reach its full potential. It was through my interpretation of my high school’s unique culture that my designs truly connected with readers. There is a fine line here, however, for if I was too mainstream in the culture I presented, the magazine risked being bland and unnoticed — invisible to those who were immersed within that culture. Alternatively, if I went too far afield, I risked displaying content that my peers simply could not relate to. What I created had to be simultaneously familiar and new.
This was the first time I had engaged with culture in such an explicit way. Through this responsibility, I learned about the tension between creating something that has roots in shared values and identities, whilst still being novel and stretching culture in a new direction. It then dawned on me that in this tension lies the key to successful innovation, not just compelling design.
They say that some of the most random things we do in life have the greatest influence. Only through being the Chief Designer and feeling the pressure to make encapsulating designs did I discover what I believe to be this fundamental ingredient of successful innovation — that to resonate with people, new ideas must both relate to the culture being addressed and be novel. I believe that this understanding of innovation will have far reaching consequences in my life, and in yours.
Inspired by both the tangible and intangible benefits that culture (and thus innovation) provide, I believe we should all try to dedicate our lives towards the pursuit of innovation. Thus, to successfully innovate, I came to the conclusion that my in my university experience I must not only focus on computer science, but also on courses and experiences that will provide me with deep cultural understanding. This is what I believe my life and Minerva’s unique travelling experience has provided me. I have lived around the world: Seoul, Hyderabad, Berlin, Costa Rica, London, Charlotte. All these places are unique in their own ways. And yet, humanity has found ways to connect them together. Globalisation has been a fundamental driver of this and at its core, innovation.
Not only do I want to pursue innovation in my career but also in the rest of my life. Previously, I modelled myself after my parents, my older brother, my friends, and authority figures I respect. I now realise that although it is important to remain connected to others through our common culture and thereby stay true to my roots and to myself, to make a real difference I need to push myself and cultural boundaries. There is no set path for me to follow, instead I must create my own.
I already set out to blaze a trail by joining Minerva. So why go back and attempt to conform to the treadmill that most people lead their lives on? I should be challenging myself with new experiences every day, and only with an innovative mindset can I do this. Culture, as highlighted, something that unlocks this pursuit.
It is only through my position as a graphic designer and being forced to create something innovative that I discovered the importance of culture in successful innovation, and ultimately, happiness. In finding a balance between appreciating culture and pushing its boundaries, I not only distinguish myself, but find meaning in my life. I hope you can too.