When we think of designing products for global markets, we often just think of translation, unicode, and other language-related issues. With the increasing importance of visual and interaction design, it is also becoming important to ensure the design of products is appropriate to various cultural preferences and sensibilities.
We've been aware of this opportunity at IBM for some years based especially on our experience with using our design centers around the world for the design of systems and websites for the Olympics. Each Olympics requires that the hosting country be responsible for a good chunk of developing systems for it. What we quickly discovered was that visual designs originating from certain countries were very different and sometimes differed significantly from North American preferences and sensibilities. It can therefore be quite a challenge to determine the best style to choose. Of course, that isn't any different from the other design decisions that need to be made based on user input. The point is though that this is another important factor to consider in design. It is also a great source of novel ideas to influence innovative design. A recent article in Fox Business reports Nokia Opens Satellite Design Studio in Rio de Janeiro and outlines Nokia's use of its world-wide design studios for the design of its future products.