The Importance of Cross-Cultural Learning in the Design Disciplines: A Case Study Reviewing a Series of Short Term Study Tours Designed to Support Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Asia-Pacific Region


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Short-term overseas study tours are integral in tertiary education, and even more so in disciplines, such as design, that utilize and create culture. While these study tours offer limited and guided breadth of experience of a foreign culture, they represent an innovative global opportunity for students whom otherwise may not have the time, inclination, or simply cannot afford to travel overseas. This intercultural experience opens students’ vision of the world to new cultures, different people and their customs, and different ways of thinking and doing. Experiential learning is especially important in creative disciplines such as design, where a user-centred approach is crucial. In the design disciplines creation has a very definite purpose, which is to cater to the needs and wants of people. A better understanding of different cultures also means a better understanding of different people, and this knowledge, which is vital for designers working in this interconnected global world, can be acquired through study trips. To support design study tours, the authors have applied for and secured continuing Australian Government funding to organize and facilitate an annual series of short-term study tours. The tours give students in the Bachelor of Graphic and Industrial Design at the University of Canberra experiences creating, exhibiting and critiquing design in Asia. Funding has supported tours to Shanghai (2012), Hong Kong (2013), Singapore (2014) and a future tour to Japan (2015) and Shanghai/Beijing (2015). The initial trip “Inspired by Shanghai” in 2012 focused on creating an original body of design work and tasked students with creating an exhibition of graphic posters to visualise their experience in a culture different to their own. Subsequently in 2013, students were provided an understanding of Chinese culture and design through an experience of studying wayfinding and signage in Hong Kong and in the most recent trip, to Singapore in 2014, the program was opened up to include Industrial Design students and looked at Packaging Design and Environmental Graphics in Singapore. The paper reflects on how these experiences can offer elements such as student recruitment and retention as well as opportunities to create new products and IP, build partnerships and industry relationships for continued research funding thus supporting a more sustainable approach to supporting design disciplines in higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-442
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Arts and Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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