You are on page 1of 25

VOLUME 10 ISSUE 3

The International Journal of

Designed Objects
__________________________________________________________________________

Using Design to Support


the Acculturation Process
The Reflective Pyramid Process Model
of Cross-Cultural Dress Design
ELISA SERRANO, JOSEFA GONZALES, CHELSEA WILKINSON, AND GENNA REEVES-DeARMOND

designprinciplesandpractices.com

EDITORS

Lorenzo Imbesi, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy


Loredana Di Lucchio, University of Rome, Italy

COMMUNITY EDITOR

Jeremy Boehme, Common Ground Publishing, USA

ADVISORY BOARD

Genevieve Bell, Intel Corporation, USA


Michael Biggs, University of Hertfordshire, UK
Jeanette Blomberg, IBM Almaden Research Center, USA
Patrick Dillon, Exeter University, UK
Michael Gibson, University of North Texas, USA
Loredana Di Lucchio, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Jorge Frascara, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Canada
Judith Gregory, Institute of Design, USA; University of Oslo, Norway
Christian Guellerin, L'cole de design Nantes Atlantique, France
Tracy S. Harris, The American Institute of Architects, USA
Clive Holtham, City of London University, UK
Lorenzo Imbesi, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Hiroshi Ishii, MIT Media Lab, USA
Gianni Jacucci, University of Trento, Italy
Klaus Krippendorff , University of Pennsylvania, USA
Bill Lucas, MAYA Fellow, MAYA Design, Inc., USA
Ezio Manzini, Politecnico of Milano, Italy
Mario Minichiello, University of Newcastle, Australia
Guillermina Nol, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Canada
Mahendra Patel, Leaf Design, India
Toni Robertson, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Terry Rosenberg, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Keith Russell, University of Newcastle, Australia
Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos, University of So Paulo, Brazil
Louise St. Pierre, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Canada

ASSOCIATE EDITORS

Articles published in The International Journal of Designed Objects


are peer reviewed by scholars who are active participants of the Design
Principles and Practices Journal Collection or a thematically related
Knowledge Community. Reviewers are acknowledged as Associate
Editors in the corresponding volume of the journal.
For a full list, of past and current Associate Editors please visit
www.designprinciplesandpractices.com/journals/editors.

ARTICLE SUBMISSION

The International Journal of Designed Objects


publishes quarterly (March, June, September, December).
To find out more about the submission process, please visit
http://www.designprinciplesandpractices.com/journals/call-for-papers.

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL


OF DESIGNED OBJECTS
www.designprinciplesandpractices.com
ISSN: 2325-1379 (Print)
ISSN: 2325-1395 (Online)
doi:10.18848/2325-1379/CGP (Journal)

First published by Common Ground Publishing in 2016


University of Illinois Research Park
2001 South First Street, Suite 202
Champaign, IL 61820 USA
Ph: +1-217-328-0405
www.commongroundpublishing.com
The International Journal of Designed Objects
is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal.

COPYRIGHT

2016 (individual papers), the author(s)


2016 (selection and editorial matter), Common Ground Publishing
All rights reserved. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study,
research, criticism, or review, as permitted under the applicable
copyright legislation, no part of this work may be reproduced by any
process without written permission from the publisher. For permissions
and other inquiries, please contact
cg-support@commongroundpublishing.com.

ABSTRACTING AND INDEXING

For a full list of databases in which this journal is indexed, please visit
www.designprinciplesandpractices.com/journals/collection.

KNOWLEDGE COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP

Authors in The International Journal of Designed Objects


are members of the Design Principles and Practices Journal Collection
or a thematically related Knowledge Community. Members receive
access to journal content. To find out more, visit
www.designprinciplesandpractices.com/about/become-a-member.

SUBSCRIPTIONS

The International Journal of Designed Objects


is available in electronic and print formats. Subscribe to gain access to
content from the current year and the entire backlist.
Contact us at cg-support@commongroundpublishing.com.

ORDERING

Single articles and issues are available from the journal bookstore at
www.ijg.cgpublisher.com.

HYBRID OPEN ACCESS

The International Journal of Designed Objects


is Hybrid Open Access, meaning authors can choose to make their
articles open access. This allows their work to reach an even wider
audience, broadening the dissemination of their research.
To find out more, please visit
www.designprinciplesandpractices.com/journals/hybrid-open-access.

DISCLAIMER

Common Ground Publishing is a member of Crossref

The authors, editors, and publisher will not accept any legal
responsibility for any errors or omissions that may have been made in
this publication. The publisher makes no warranty, express or implied,
with respect to the material contained herein.

Using Design to Support the Acculturation


Process: The Reflective Pyramid Process Model of
Cross-Cultural Dress Design
Elisa Serrano, Oregon State University, USA
Josefa Gonzales, Oregon State University, USA
Chelsea Wilkinson, Oregon State University, USA
Genna Reeves-DeArmond, Kansas State University, USA
Abstract: The prevalence of multiculturalism in todays world has necessitated an understanding of how individuals
undergo the acculturation process with regard to material culture, namely dress. It is important to consider how design
can support the acculturation process because dress products informed by culture can provide support for acculturating
individuals. The complex negotiation of cultural features can be navigated with the use of a design model. The authors
used Lins Cultural Product Design Model and Mullet and Parks Cross-Cultural Design Framework for Apparel Design
as a foundation for the development of a new design model: The Reflective Pyramid Process (RPP) Model of CrossCultural Dress Design. The RPP Model is applied to the re-design of an Armenian-American wedding headdress in a
case study. The case study results revealed that the RPP Model made improvements to existing cross-cultural product
design models and contained limitations that could be resolved with further testing.
Keywords: Cross Cultural, Dress, Product Design, Model

Introduction

s cultural migration increases, the world is becoming more multicultural. An individuals


migration from one country or ethnocultural group to another leads to the learning of
cultural values and behaviors in the host cultural environment. The adaptation of dress as
material culture is one such learned behavior. The issue of how individuals adapt to host
ethnocultural environments is prevalent in the research literature. Culture is also a guiding
principle for the development of many products. This underpins the relevance of taking the
acculturation process in to account when designing cross-cultural dress products. Design models
can assist in the successful and systematic design of such products.
This study was a collaboration between the four authors: three apparel design students and a
cross-cultural dress instructor. The study and use of existing cross-cultural design models led the
authors to formulate a cross-cultural design process which incorporates a detailed procedure for
the design of dress products. The purpose of this research is to present and test the new design
process, titled the Reflective Pyramid Process Model (RPP Model). The RPP Model is applied to
the design of an Armenian-American wedding headdress (named the Althea Headdress) as a
case study.

Influence of Acculturation on Material Culture


The United States is now characterized by cultural1 diversity resulting from migration (i.e.,
migrating from a home culture to a host culture). Multiculturalism2the most recent ideology
1
There are many definitions of culture, each of which supports different systems of thought. For the purpose of this
research, culture is defined as the way of life for an entire society (Lin 2007, 46). The term ethnocultural group is
used in this paper to refer to a group of people who identity with the same cultural group.
2
Multiculturalism is defined as the phenomenon of identifying with and alternating between more than one culture
(Upchurch 2008, 13).

The International Journal of Designed Objects


Volume 10, Issue 3, 2016, www.designprinciplesandpractices.com
Common Ground, Elisa Serrano, Josefa Gonzales, Chelsea Wilkinson,
Genna Reeves-DeArmond, All Rights Reserved.
Permissions: cg-support@commongroundpublishing.com
ISSN: 2325-1379 (Print), ISSN: 2325-1395 (Online)

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

regarding cultural contactencourages and accepts ethnocultural diversity, which allows cultural
pluralism3 to exist. The multiculturalist ideology has necessitated the need to understand the
complex multidimensionality of acculturation. Acculturation is a concept used in numerous
disciplines to describe patterns and processes of cultural adaptation typically occurring after
contact takes place between two or more different cultures (Berry 1980).
Immigrants undergo the acculturation process with regard to many different aspects of
culture including beliefs, behaviors, and material culture (Gbadamosi 2012; Sam and Berry
2010). Ethnic traditions and values are expressed through material culture and important to the
maintenance of ethnocultural identity. 4 Dress5 products are a type of material culture.
Chattaraman, Rudd, and Lennon (2010) explain that apparel6 products communicate an
individuals ethnocultural identity.
A review of the findings in acculturation literature has shown that individuals choose to
acculturate within the host culture to varying degrees and with different strategies. Berry (2005),
for example, discussed several acculturative strategies that encompass varying levels of
involvement with the host culture: integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalization. 7
Integration is generally regarded as a strategy with positive outcomes, as well as an option that
allows for maintaining ones heritage culture while in daily interactions with other groups
(Berry 2005, 705). There will also be varying degrees of how much individuals wish to visually
identify with their home ethnocultural group once in the acculturation process. For example,
Gbadamosi (2012), in her study of clothing consumption among Black African women in
London, noted that individuals resolve the wide range of clothing choices available to them in a
variety of ways. It is important to consider how the design process can support the acculturation
process because dress products whose design processes are informed by culture can provide a
source of integration for acculturating individuals.

Culture as a Guide for the Design Process


Culture is important to the design8 process because traditions and values are expressed through
material culture. Some scholars (e.g., Hsu, Chang, and Lin 2012; Hsu, Lin, and Lin 2011; Lin
2007; Mullet and Park 2011) advocate for the importance of studying cultural product design 9
because it can contribute to a deeper understanding of the needs of diverse users and how cultural
value can be added to products. Lin (2007) and Hsu, Chang, and Lin (2012) argue that adding
cultural value in the design of an object is a key component of the products value. Several
scholars have addressed the importance of designing objects in such a way that cultural value is
maximized; this includes the use of both global and local design10 (e.g., Hsu, Lin, and Lin 2011;
3
Cultural pluralism is defined as [a society] in which a number of different cultural or ethnic groups reside together
within a shared political and social framework (Berry 2011, 2.2; Brooks 2002).
4
Ethnocultural identity is defined as the degree to which an individual identifies with a specific cultural or ethnic group,
by means of beliefs, values, language, race, [and so forth] (Forney and Rabolt 1985; Upchurch 2008, 12).
5
Dress is defined as an assemblage of modifications of the body and/or supplements to the body[including]coiffed
hair, colored skin, pierced ears,garments, jewelry [, and] accessories (Roach Higgins and Eicher 1992, 1).
6
While many scholars use the term apparel products, the authors have chosen to use dress products because RoachHiggins and Eicher (1992, 3) draw an important distinction that positions dress as a broader term which includes a greater
variety of products than apparel. Clothing and apparel two synonymous terms are used to describe enclosures that
cover the body. The authors assert that the model proposed in this paper can be applied to dress objects and provide a
case study in which it is applied to an adornment-based dress object. See Roach-Higgins and Eicher (1992) for further
clarification of these terms.
7
For more information about the four acculturative strategies that are listed in the text, please see Berry (2005).
8
For the purpose of this study, design is defined as the combination of components or elements into a cohesive whole
(Miller, Campbell, Littrell, and Travnicek 2005, 55).
9
Cultural product design is a process of rethinking or reviewing cultural features and then redefining them in order to
design a new product that can fit into society and can satisfy consumers culturally and aesthetically (Ho, Lin, and Liu
1996; Lin 2007, 47).
10
Local design is defined as a design that integrates the product into both the lifestyle and the local culture of the
intended region (Hsu, Chang, and Lin 2012, 276).

32

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Lin 2007; Mullet and Park 2011). Therefore, designers need a clear understanding of cultural
features to participate in both the global market and local design endeavors.
The increasing migration of people around the world creates a variety of challenges for the
design of cross-cultural products.11 Cultural value is added to an object by incorporating cultural
features.12 There can be difficulty in adding cultural value via cultural features in such a way that
meets the needs of more than one ethnocultural group. There are also many factors that affect
how individuals choose to relate to their home culture during the acculturation process. For
example, Sam and Berry (2010) explain that where and with whom an individual lives can affect
the acculturation process and the degree to which heritage13 culture is maintained. How often an
individual has contact with other individuals affiliated with his or her ethnocultural group is
another such factor. Design is, therefore, a complex negotiation of cultural features.

Cultural Features and Cultural Product Design Models


The complex negotiation of cultural features can be navigated with the use of a cultural product
design model. Some models that incorporate cultural features in to a products development have
been proposed in the research literature; including the Cultural Product Design Model (Lin 2007)
and the Cross-Cultural Design Framework for Apparel Design (Mullet and Park 2011).

Cultural Features
The foundation of several existing cultural product design models includes the systematic
integration of cultural features into the design of an object. Leong and Clark (2003) and Norman
(2004) have defined three layers of cultural features to include in the design process. Leong and
Clark (2003) identified three levels on which culture can be understood: tangible, behavioral, and
intangible (See Figure 1). The tangible level is defined by the visual and material aspects of
culture. The behavioral level is defined by the social and behavioral aspects of culture. The
intangible level is defined by the spiritual, emotional, and philosophical aspects of culture. The
understanding of a culture that results from the examination of cultural levels can be translated
into the following culture design features: visceral, behavioral, and reflective (see Figure 1).
Visceral design is characterized by physical and visual attributes. Behavioral design is
characterized by use and function. Reflective design is characterized by the personal and cultural
meaning of a design (Lin 2007). Mullet and Park (2011) provide examples of how design
features are applied to dress products: textile patterns or shapes are examples of visceral design,
athletic shoes with high heels are an example of behavioral design, and the use of a color on a
dress product with a culturally-specific connotation is an example of reflective design.
Norman (2004) discusses the importance of the three levels of cultural features in the context
of an argument that the emotional aspects of design are of as much importance as the practical
aspects of design. Emotion and cognition work together when it comes to how individuals
consume and interact with products; products can evoke powerful personal or symbolic meaning
that can, in turn, guide ones thinking process. Norman proposes that there are three levels of
design that stimulate emotion and cognition from a potential user: visceral, behavioral, and
reflective. While the names of the design features are the same, Norman defines them slightly
differently than Leong and Clark. Visceral design involves the consideration of physical
appearance. Behavioral design involves the consideration of usability and function. Reflective

11
Cross-cultural product refers to a product that is designed with the intent to meet the needs of more than one
culture/ethnocultural group.
12
Lin (2007, 45) explains that cultural features are the unique characteristics that can be embedded into a product both
for the enhancement of its identity in the global market and for the enhancement of the individual consumer experience.
13
Heritage is defined as representations of culture in material and non-material form that provide information about past
and present beliefs, values, and behaviors of importance to an ethno-cultural group.

33

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

design involves the message that the product sends to the user and others, personal
remembrances evoked by the product, and self-image.

Figure 1: An Illustration of the Relationship Between Cultural Features and Design Features

Lins Cultural Product Design Model


Lins (2007) Cultural Product Design Model provides a unique framework with which to develop
products from a cross-cultural perspective. The purpose of this model is to develop a design that
is informed by cultural features that are then translated into design features (Lin 2007). The
designers culture is not the same as that of the culture for which a product is being designed.
Lins model consists of three stages: identification, translation, and implementation (see Figure
2). In the identification stage, cultural features of the original cultural object are identified. The
translation stage consists of applying the information gathered in the identification stage to a
design problem within a chosen culture. In the implementation stage, a cultural object is designed
that combines the information gathered in the identification stage with the designers knowledge
of his or her own culture and design aesthetic (Lin 2007).
The design process that occurs within Lins model consists of four steps and overlaps within
each of the three aforementioned phases (see Figure 2): (1) investigation, (2) interaction/ telling a
story, (3) development/writing a script, and (4) implementation/designing a product. The
investigation step consists of identifying key cultural features in the original cultural object. The
key cultural features are used to determine a scenario that includes the cultural features to be
included in the design and accounts for the three levels of design features. The interaction step
consists of researching and observing how the cultural object is used by members of the cultural
group; a story-telling approach is used to explain the users needs, preferences, and uses of the
object. The development step consists of designing the cultural object via an illustration based on
the story developed in the interaction step. The designer may take the opportunity to modify the
story and further clarify how the cultural object can be best designed to fulfill the users needs.
The implementation step consists of developing a matrix table in which design features from all
three design levels (i.e., visceral, behavioral, and reflective) are listed to clearly show how the
new design meets the needs of the user. The designer develops a prototype and evaluates the
usefulness of the product once again to determine if modifications are needed, though Lin does
not specify how the usefulness of the product is evaluated in this step (Lin 2007).

34

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Figure 2: Lins Cultural Product Design Model, Including the Steps in the Cultural Design Process
Source: Adapted from Lin 2007, 47

Mullet and Parks Cross-Cultural Framework for Apparel Design


Mullet and Park (2011) proposed the Cross-Cultural Framework for Apparel Design. The
purpose of this framework is to identify design elements from one culture that can then be
transformed to fit the needs and/or preferences of another culture. The combination of design
elements from the two cultures results in a unique cross-cultural apparel product. The framework
involves the development of design elements on the tangible, 14 behavioral, and reflective levels
with two designers, each from a different culture.
Step one15 in the framework is the selection of cultural features by each designer that are
then classified according to the appropriate design feature level. Step two involves the
comparison of cultural features from each culture; similarities and differences are identified.
During step two, a comparison chart is made to visually represent similarities and differences.
Step three is the selection of design features that will be incorporated in to the cross-cultural
apparel product. Step four is the creation and construction of the cross-cultural apparel product.

Situating the Reflective Pyramid Process among Existing Cross-Cultural Design Models
The authors used Lins Cultural Product Design Model and Mullet and Parks Cross-Cultural
Design Framework for Apparel Design as a foundation for the development of a new crosscultural model for dress product design: The Reflective Pyramid Process Model. This new design
process examines the traditional cultural features of a home culture, the acculturative processes
14
Mullet and Park (2011) chose to describe the three levels of design features as tangible, behavioral, and reflective
levels. Previous scholars (e.g., Leong and Clark 2003; Norman 2004) working with these levels used the term visceral
to describe design features associated with the outer tangible level. Though the terminology is slightly different, the
intended meaning is the same.
15
Though the step-by-step process involved in this framework is not fully articulated in the article, Mullet and Park
(2011) explicitly identify the first step in the process. The authors of the present work summarize subsequent steps to the
extent that they could be ascertained from the explanation of the process in Mullet and Parks article.

35

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

of individuals merging into a host culture, and fashionable elements of the host culture that
connect to the home culture. The end result is a cross-cultural dress product that can assist
individuals in maintaining their cultural heritage and acculturating to a host culture.
The RPP Model includes the following steps (see Figure 3): (1) Selection of home culture,
(2) broad research of home culture, (3) determination of design focus, (4) design and design
feature planning, (5) creation of design prototype, (6) collection of cultural contact data, (7) data
analysis, (8) connection of literature and cultural contact data findings, and (9) modification of
design prototype. If further modifications are needed, the designer can repeat any of the steps as
necessary. The title of reflective pyramid was chosen because the process begins with a broad
review of sources that inform a prototype, members of the home culture reflect upon the
appearance and function of the prototype, and then the designers reflect upon how all of the data
can contribute to a comprehensive design that meets the needs of an ethnocultural group. The
two parts of this process are represented in pyramid shapes (see Figure 3).
Lins model and Mullet and Parks framework were chosen to inform this design process
because of their use of the three levels of cultural understanding and their demonstrated use for
designing cross-cultural products. Mullet and Parks framework was particularly important to
include because it is devoted to the specific type of product under investigation. While it is
important to apply design processes, it is also necessary to assess and critique them. The RPP
Model was conceived in the context of assessing these two models. Strengths and weaknesses of
the models were identified and used, in part, to inform the RPP Models development. There are
three ways to contextualize the RPP Model among these (and other) existing models: the (1)
development of a more systematic and detailed design process, (2) use of cultural contact and
features as the foundation of the design process, and (3) definition of the design process end goal.

Development of a More Systematic and Detailed Design Process


The authors assessment of the two models revealed the design process steps to be vague and
difficult to repeat.16 Lin (2007, 52) acknowledged the lack of detailed procedure as a limitation of
the Cultural Product Design Model in the Conclusions and Suggestions section: A detailed
design process needs to be developed in the future in order to provide designers with specified
procedures. Lins assessment was echoed by Ekandem (2009, 42), who stated that the latter
portion of Lins model seems unclear and undeveloped. Similarly, the framework proposed by
Mullet and Park (2011) provided some step-by-step instruction, but only the first step is clearly
articulated. The vague nature of the cultural design processes proposed by Lin and Mullet and
Park necessitated the development of a design process that provides a more specific procedure.

The Foundation of the RPP Model: Cultural Contact and Features


The authors of the two design models being used as examples for modification were clear that
having contact with members of the home culture during the design process is important. Userbased interaction is currently incorporated in Lins translation stage (see Figure 2). Lin (2007,
52) also suggested that contact be made with members of the culture being studied to more
accurately understand [the] culture and art so as to avoid incorrect interpretations when
designing cross-cultural products. Mullet and Park, each from a different culture, worked
together to develop an apparel design based on the feedback each received from the other. The
authors identified cultural contact as a key strength of the two models. Therefore, it was deemed
important to develop a new cross-cultural design model in which design feedback is sought from
members of the home culture as a formal phase in the design process. In so doing, the methods
by which design feedback can be obtained in such a model are expanded.
16
The first three authors applied Lins model and Mullet and Parks framework for a project, supervised by the fourth
author, in an undergraduate course at Oregon State University that covered cross-cultural aspects of material culture. See
Reeves-DeArmond and Pedersen (2012) for further information about this assignment.

36

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

The use of the three levels of cultural understanding as a framework for grounding a design
in cultural features was identified by the authors as a common strength among existing cultural
product design processes. Several scholars have demonstrated that the three levels of cultural
understanding and their corresponding design features (see Figure 1) provide a strong foundation
for cultural product design (see Hsu, Lin, and Lin 2011; Lin 2007; Mullet and Park 2011).
Therefore, the authors used these three levels of cultural understanding as the foundation of their
proposed design model.

Figure 3: The Reflective Pyramid Process Model of Cross-Cultural Dress Design

37

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

The End Goal of the RPP Model


The RPP Model includes an important departure from the two models being assessed with regard
to the end goal of the product. Lin (2007) and Mullet and Park (2011) clearly state that they
intend for the design process to result in a global product.17 It is important to consider
international implications for broad product design and use with the increasing impact of
globalization. It is equally important to consider the needs of ethnocultural groups as consumer
market segments in a world where, according to Sam and Berry (2006), all contemporary
societies are now culturally plural. Previous research (e.g., Gbadamosi 2012; Littrell, Ogle, and
Kim 1997; Upchurch 2008) has addressed (1) ethnic apparel market segments from a consumer
behavior perspective and (2) clothing preferences of ethnocultural groups when they enter a host
culture. However, research regarding how cross-cultural dress products can be designed for
ethnocultural market segments in the acculturation process is notably absent.
There is a delicate balance that must be maintained when designing cross-cultural products
for individuals in the acculturation process. Chang and Tung (2013) explain that consumers
desire more than standardized products because cultural differences offer a means to identify as a
member of a distinct ethnocultural group. However, there is also an established movement that
encourages the development of global products. One way to address this delicate balance is to
design in a way that ethnocultural groups can relate to one another; that is, to combine local
features from specific home and host cultures to create a design that is distinguishable and
meaningful for all.
Recent literature (e.g., Berry 2005 2011; Sam and Berry 2010) states that acculturation
involves mutual adaptation among two cultures. Sam and Berry (2010, 473) explain this mutual
adaptation in the following way: No cultural group remains unchanged following culture
contact; acculturation is a two-way interaction, resulting in actions and reactions to the contact
situation. Berry and Safdar (2007, 19) even describe cultural contact as a creative and reactive
process that can lead to the creation of new customs and encourage stronger identification with
ones home culture. Therefore, the RPP Model was developed with the intent to (1) invoke
creativity that results in a distinguished product containing cultural features meaningful to a
specified target cultural consumer who is in the acculturation process and (2) incorporate design
features into products with which members of the host culture can identify. Cultural similarities
provide a foundation for a cross-cultural dress design. As a result, members of the host culture
may develop a refined recognition of cultural features associated with other ethnocultural groups
(Hsu, Lin, and Lin 2011) and members of the home culture can ideally maintain a clear
connection to their heritage.

Applying the RPP Model to the Design of an Armenian-American


Headdress
The authors applied the RPP Model to the design of an Armenian-American headdress that was
titled, the Althea Headdress. The authors had limited knowledge of Armenian culture prior to
beginning this research. The designer who applies this process should be a member of the host
culture, so the host culture is pre-selected. All of the authors self-identified as members of the
American ethnocultural group.
The case study was devoted to an investigation of the acculturation process that an Armenian
bride and her dress undergo when incorporating elements of heritage into a wedding celebration.
The scenario specifically considers a cross-cultural wedding celebration held in the United States
to which traditional Armenian dress is worn. Each step in the design process is informed by an
aspect of Lins model, Mullet and Parks framework, and/or related cultural design and
17
A global product is defined as a product that uses cultural design features to merge cultures and the systems by which
they operate to enhance global relationships of people and cultures (Hsu, Chang, and Lin 2012).

38

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

acculturation literature. The case study is presented in subsequent sections that explain (1) how
each step in the design process was applied to the case study and (2) the literature that informed
each step.

Step One: Selection of Home Culture


The first step is to select a home culture of study. Armenian culture was selected from a list of
available cultures designated for an undergraduate course assignment (see Reeves-DeArmond
and Pedersen 2012). While the Armenian culture was selected from a convenience sample in this
case study, it is important to note that cultures on the list were identified as having acculturative
needs within the American ethnocultural group. Sources such as Lynch and Strauss (2014) were
consulted. The model is also intended for use with other cultures that may be chosen in a
different manner. Leong and Clark (2003, 50) support the selection of a culture for design
research by any means: The point of entry isless important than the desire to be enriched by
greater cultural awareness and understanding. The selection of the home culture may be
determined by conducting formal preliminary research of ethnocultural group needs; the design
process can still proceed in the same way if this is the case.

Step Two: Broad Research of Home Culture


The second step is to conduct broad research of the culture through scholarly sources and online
image searches. This step is grounded in the work of Venkatesh (1995) and Leong and Clark
(2003). Venkatesh (1995, 13) discusses the usefulness of a comparative study with textual
information to compare two cultures in the context of ethnoconsumerism research. Leong and
Clark (2003) describe a design process that was guided by the determination of basic traits within
a culture. The inclusion of this step is also informed by the authors assessment of Lins model.
The authors noted that a scholarly literature review is not incorporated to seek information about
the culture prior to collecting cultural contact data. Lin (2007, 47) does state in the identification
stage section that the designer should use the scientific method and other methods of
inquiryto obtain design information, but it is not clear if Lin meant for this to mean scholarly
literature.
A broad literature review of scholarly sources was conducted about the Armenian culture.
Images in scholarly sources were collected. An exploratory internet image search of Armenian
dress was conducted to provide the authors with ideas for search terms and visual idea examples.
The authors observed that headdresses are a common form of dress in Armenian culture and
began to focus more upon this product category. The research assisted in creating a framework of
information that explained why the Armenian headdress was worn, what it looked like, and how
it is connected to Armenian heritage. The acculturative needs of Armenian Americans were also
identified in some sources (e.g., Takooshian, 2000). The research gathered during this step is
discussed in further detail in step five.
The authors proceeded to identify preliminary visceral similarities that they observed
between the dress objects of Armenian culture and American culture. For example, the veil
attached to the traditional turret hat was pictured in several images; this reminded the authors of
the veil that is traditionally worn by American brides. A connection was also made between the
accessories (e.g., body chains with decorative coins) that accompanied belly dance costumes in
some images and the popularity of body jewelry in American culture.

Step Three: Determination of Design Focus


The third step is the determination of a design focus. It is in this step that the scholarly
information is synthesized to fit the chosen product category. The synthesis of scholarly
information assists in the determination of how the design will meet the three levels of design

39

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

features. Further scholarly sources were sought as needed. Leong and Clark (2003) cited the
value of having a holistic picture of the host culture in the design process; obtaining a holistic
picture is rooted in comparative cognition because it provides a source of comparison for the
information gathered in step two. Another part of this step is to determine where the design will
be worn, which is informed by the story-telling approach in the interaction step of the Lin model
(see Figure 2). This step also includes the research of recent/current trends and material culture in
the host culture that align with the design focus. The work of Littrell, Ogle, and Kim (1999)
informed the research of fashion trends; they conclude that ethnic apparel should incorporate
elements of current fashion in their study of consumer segments for the marketing of ethnic
apparel.
A product category of headdress was chosen. The inspiration for the Althea Headdress came
from the connection between two key sources: (1) traditional Armenian wedding headdress
designs (e.g., the Akhalzikha headdress, a small fez-like cap with attached decorative coins)
(Lind-Sinanian and Lind-Sinanian 2010) and (2) American body jewelry trends. Electronic
fashion databases (e.g., Fashion Snoops) and fashion magazines were used to research body
jewelry. The literature revealed that it has become popular to adorn several areas of the body
(e.g., the shoulders, legs and head) with jewelry in American culture, specifically within the
bohemian style tribe (see Nelson 2013). The authors also observed that American popular culture
has been affected by Armenian American acculturative processes related to dress. For example,
celebrity Kim Kardashian wore an Armenian-inspired headpiece for her 2011 wedding (see
Krupnick 2011), which contributed to the ongoing trendiness of body jewelry.

Step Four: Design and Design Feature Planning


The fourth step is to plan the design and consider the design features that will be included. The
authors undertook an iterative process of design sketching and review of scholarly information
and visual references (see Figure 4). The scholarly resources assisted in creating a preliminary
list of design features. The iterative process of design sketching is informed by the development
step in Lins model, in which the cultural object is designed via an illustration. The creation of a
preliminary list of design features is informed by the implementation step in Lins model, in
which a matrix table is developed that contains information about how the cultural needs of the
user are being met.

Figure 4: Preliminary Sketch of the Althea Headdress Design

40

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Step Five: Creation of Design Prototype and Explanation of Design Features


The fifth step is to create a design prototype. This step was conceived from a limitation that the
authors identified in Lins model. Lin does not clearly include an evaluation of the design by
developing a prototype; only an illustration is mentioned. The designer may not know whether
the design was executed according to the needs and preferences of the participants in the absence
of a design prototype that is available for assessment. The RPP Model addresses this limitation
by including the creation of a design prototype prior to obtaining feedback from members of the
home culture. The resulting order of steps (i.e., identifying cultural information through research,
building a prototype based upon this information, and then identifying emotional and symbolic
meaning through participant feedback) parallels the cultural cognition-design criteria-cultural
integration framework outlined by Leong and Clark (2003, 56).18
Preliminary sketches were completed and the design prototype was constructed (see Figures
4 and 5). A unique name for the product was assigned in this step: The Althea Headdress. The
headdress (see Figure 5) is a combination of materials including silver plated chains, red beads,
clear Swarovski crystals, and faux diamonds and pearls. The headdress rests securely on the
circumference of the head at the temple level. A blue jewel is featured in the center of the
forehead (see Figure 5a). The back includes chain links that drape downward and an intricate
horizontal chain that resembles a lace embroidery pattern (see Figure 5b, c). The headdress has
the ability to serve multiple functions by fulfilling the ceremonial need during the wedding and
then transforming for other occasions. For example, the wearer can detach a portion of the
headdress that then becomes a necklace (see Figure 5d).

Figure 5: The Completed Prototype of the Althea Headdress Design

18
See Leong and Clark (2003, 56) for more information about the cultural cognition-design criteria-cultural integration
framework.

41

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

A list of all design features included in the prototype was created. When deciding upon
design features to include in the prototype, the authors selected those with a stronger American
influence because some sources (e.g., Takooshian 2000) discussed the acculturation process of
younger Armenian Americans who do not wish to participate in traditional aspects of their
heritage/home culture. It is important to note that several pieces of information from the
scholarly literature overlapped among the three design levels. To ensure the clarity of how
literature is applied to the design, each design element of the headdress is discussed individually
with an explanation of how it meets one (or more) of the design feature levels.
The Althea Headdress design, as a whole, represents all three levels of design. The overall
appearance of the headdress represents a visceral design feature because it is reminiscent of the
historic Akhalzikha bridal headdress (Lind-Sinanian and Lind-Sinanian 2010). The headdress
fulfills behavioral design because it is used to perform rituals before a wedding ceremony. For
example, single women wave the headdress over the head of the bride for luck in her marriage
(Hintz 2004). Another ritual includes the throwing of pomegranate seeds at the wedding (Hintz
2004; Petrosian and Underwood 2006), which is similar to the throwing of rice in American
culture. Materials meant to represent traditional displays of wealth in historic Armenia (e.g.,
silver and gems) are emphasized on the headdress as a display of heritage, which fulfills both
behavioral and reflective design. The headdress represents the brides golden bracelet, which
fulfills reflective and behavioral design because it is a meaningful cultural symbol associated
with tradition that also served the function of a mobile bank in historic times (Lind-Sinanian and
Lind-Sinanian 2010).
Behavioral design is also represented in the customizability of the headdress. Each aspect of
the headdress is customizable and removable in order to suit American brides, Armenian
American brides, or other customers who do not wish to include certain materials. The
customization option also extends to the transformative aspect of the headdress; the headdress
transforms into a necklace that can be worn for everyday occasions as a representation of
Armenian heritage and reflective design (see Figure 5d). The option to customize the Althea
Headdress was also informed by Leong and Clark (2003), who stated that individuals choose to
express the aspects of culture that are most valuable to them. Customization provides the wearer
with an opportunity to change the design so that it accurately reflects their position within the
acculturation process.
The blue gem on the brides forehead fulfills visceral design because it is visually
identifiable as a traditional Armenian evil eye talisman and fulfills behavioral design because it
serves the function of protecting against evil spirits (see Figure 5a). A superstitious aspect of
Armenian culture is also represented by the blue gem because of the cultural belief in evil spirts
and the need for protection from them (Hintz 2004). Red jewels are also included as a visceral
interpretation of semi-precious jewels that were found on traditional Armenian bridal
headdresses (Lind-Sinanian and Lind-Sinanian 2010). Pomegranate seeds are a popular visual
icon in Armenian culture, so the red beads are meant to viscerally resemble pomegranate seeds
and reflect their symbolic importance (see Figure 5b). The red beads are supported by reflective
design because Armenian superstition includes the linking of pomegranate seeds with fertility
(Hintz 2004; Petrosian and Underwood 2006).
Diamonds fulfill visceral design because they are a shiny gem found in and exported from
Armenia (Hintz 2004). Behavioral design is fulfilled by diamonds because they indicate wealth
and social status; they are used on American bridal wear for the same reasons. Diamonds
symbolize love and marriage in American culture, which fulfills reflective design. Pearls serve as
visceral design because they are a common decorative feature found on traditional Armenian
bridal headdresses. Pearls fulfill behavioral design because they are worn by the bride to fulfill a
queen-for-a-day status bestowed upon the bride for her wedding (Lind-Sinanian and LindSinanian 2010).

42

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

The seven chains that cascade down the back of the headdress are meant to symbolize the
traditional seven day celebration with extended family before the wedding; reflective design is
represented by the seven chains because they represent an aspect of Armenian heritage (see
Figure 5b). The traditional Armenian wedding headdress is characterized by elements of
adornment, including silver chains, that encircle the face (Hintz 2004; Lind-Sinanian and LindSinanian 2010). The headdress fulfills visceral design because the cascading chains resemble
American wedding veils and create an option for Armenian brides to wear the headdress in lieu
of a veil or with a veil. A lace-like embroidery pattern created with silver chains fulfills visceral
design because it resembles the lace trim that accompanies traditional Armenian wedding dress.
Intricate embroidery patterns were discussed as an indication of wealth and social status in the
literature. Only wealthy individuals could afford such decoration, so behavioral design is
fulfilled. The center chain that lies upon the top of the head represents behavioral design because
it replaces the traditional turret hat for stability and support (see Figure 5a) (Lind-Sinanian and
Lind-Sinanian 2010).
Coins fulfill visceral design because they are found on traditional Armenian bridal
headdresses (Lind-Sinanian and Lind-Sinanian 2010). The coins were traditionally located
around the frame of the face and the forehead (Hintz 2004; Lind-Sinanian and Lind-Sinanian
2010), but the headdress features coins on the back to adorn the seven cascading silver chains
(see Figure 5b). Reflective design is fulfilled because good fortune is a common wish for married
couples and Armenian superstition includes a connection between coins and good fortune (Hintz
2004; Petrosian and Underwood 2006).

Step Six: Collection of Cultural Contact Data


The sixth step is to collect cultural contact data in the form of design feedback. This step is
grounded in the model proposed by Lin, which incorporates field investigation in the form of
user-based observation during the interaction step (see Figure 2). An important point of departure
between the two models is the point at which feedback is sought from members of the culture.
Lins model directs the designer to observe the product in use before creating a visual
representation of the proposed design. The authors determined that it could be more effective to
have a prototype available for viewing during data collection so participants can provide user
feedback that is directly related to the design features in three-dimensional form. Vecoli (2000,
xxi) also informs this step by stating that culture is the lens through which one perceives and
interprets the world; therefore, it is important to speak with members of the culture being
studied to obtain their cultural perceptions and interpretations of dress.
The authors sought to assess the extent to which the (1) scholarly research findings apply to
the lived experiences of participants and (2) acceptance or rejection of specific Althea Headdress
design choices by participants. A list of focus group questions was written by the authors (see
Table 1); the questions were informed by the literature findings in step two and design prototype
and features determined in step five. An Armenian church in the Pacific Northwest of the
apostolic denomination served as the cultural institution of study. Arrangements were made to
hold a focus group with a convenience sample consisting of Armenian women who were
members of the church. A total of nine participants were included in this focus group. The age of
participants ranged from 27 to 45. The length of time lived in the United States ranged from two
to thirty years. The focus group session took place at the aforementioned Armenian Church and
notes were taken during the session by the authors.
Participants who agreed to participate were read an introductory script that introduced the
purpose of the study and the reason for assessing the headdress design. Participants were asked to
choose a pseudonym name during the focus group introduction by which they were referred for
the duration of the focus group; they are referred to by these pseudonyms in this paper to protect
confidentiality. The focus group began with asking participants open-ended questions about
Armenian culture. At the conclusion of these questions, the authors introduced the headdress
43

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

design to the participants with an explanation of the design choices and the meanings that had
been attributed to Armenian culture in the scholarly literature. Participants were then asked a
series of open-ended questions with the intent to elicit assessment of the design. A list of sample
focus group questions can be found in Table 1.

Step Seven: Data Analysis


The seventh step in the RPP Model is data analysis. The analysis process included theme
identification using the constant comparative method. The analysis of focus group responses
yielded four distinct themes related to feedback of the Althea Headdress: (1) recognition of
design as Armenian, (2) addition of materials, (3) shifting focus, and (4) representation of
heritage in the design.
The first theme was the recognition of the design as Armenian. All of the participants
expressed that, at first glance, the Althea Headdress did not look Armenian. One reason for the
participants lack of visceral connection to the design was that it resembled a traditional
headdress from a previous historical period. Lucine spoke first stating that, It looks like
something from the 18th to 19th century. She added that coins are a material used by several
Middle Eastern cultures, but it is the amount of coins used on the headdress that sets it apart as
Armenian. Therefore, it is important to use a large quantity of coins on the headdress so they can
accurately express their Armenian identity via dress. Gadar stated that the chain that lies on top
of the head is not Armenian and suggested that it be removed; Lucine agreed. One of the authors
explained to the participants that this chain was only included to stabilize the headdress on the
head in the absence of the turret hat when worn. Lala expressed interest in wearing the Althea
Headdress as a fashion piece. The headdress fulfills a connection to fashionable and marketable
design elements associated with American culture for Lala.
Table 1: List of Focus Group Questions

44

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

The second theme was the addition of materials to the Althea Headdress. The main critique
of the headdress was that the quantity of each decorative material applied to the design was
sparse by the participants standards. Lala exclaimed it needs to be more busy and Seda
quickly added, yeah, morebigger! Lucine also emphasized that additional silver chains
needed to be added along the forehead and under the chin of the Althea Headdress; this
suggestion was made with the intention to assist the design in looking more Armenian. One
author showed the participants how one of the chains could be removed or flipped over to the
front to be positioned under the chin. In this way, the design included elements of flexibility to fit
both varying levels of participation in Armenian tradition and individual preferences. The
customization of materials is an intentional feature of the design that the participants appreciated.
The third theme was the shifting of focus. The Althea Headdress was designed with the
focus on the back of the head so as to draw a visceral connection between the two cultures. The
authors had designed the headdress with the focus on the back of the head; a series of chain
strands that resembled an American wedding veil were draped in a cascading pattern so as to
draw a visceral connection between the two cultures. However, the participants expressed that
the design would reflect Armenian culture more successfully if the focus was brought to the front
where more flashy materials (e.g., beads, coins, gemstones, and pearls) were placed. Lucine
suggested that the authors add another chain that draped across the forehead. If a veil is desired,
Lala said that it would be acceptable to attach a veil to the headdress. All of the participants felt
that the representation of a veil across the two cultures was a successful aspect of the design
because, as is, the chains represent a veil or a fabric veil could be attached to a modified version
of the design.
The fourth theme was the representation of heritage in the design. Heritage was represented
in three ways: (1) the passage of Armenian family history through material culture, (2) the
importance of family in Armenian culture, and (3) showcasing Armenian heritage through
popular culture. Armenian family history is passed down through written and spoken word and
material culture. Lucine talked about a white wedding headdress with coins that her grandmother
had worn for her wedding and again for her 25th wedding anniversary. The white headdress was
inherited by a family member 200 years ago and remains in the family. An unexpected
behavioral design benefit of the headdress was that it could be worn to represent heritage upon
subsequent wears for wedding anniversaries.
Another important aspect of heritage fulfilled by the Althea Headdress is the maintenance of
tradition. Lucine said that she would buy this design, if slightly modified and made with solid
silver, and present it to her daughter for her wedding day. Possible use as a piece of heritage
jewelry was an unexpected reflective benefit of the design. She added that passing possessions
down to children or other family members to maintain heritage is important in Armenian culture;
it is common to inherit family heirlooms because of the Armenian cultures tumultuous history.
When individuals fled from Turkey during the Armenian genocide in the early 20 th century,
Lucine explained that individuals buried their possessions in the ground for safe keeping and
carried one special object with them as a cultural keepsake that was kept in the family. The
symbolism of the multi-day celebrations with the seven chains cascading down the back of the
headdress was well-received by participants; they spoke of the importance of celebrations with
family and friends over many days and expressed that this was an innovative way to symbolize a
traditional aspect of Armenian weddings.
The authors learned that heritage is still a significant component of Armenian culture; it is
even infused into popular culture. When discussing the general appearance of the headdress, the
majority of the participants took out their cell phones and began showing photos of the popular
contemporary Armenian singers known as Anush and Inga Arshakyans. The women explained
that what set these singers apart is their commitment to modernity, while incorporating
traditional Armenian dress into their stage costumes and music videos.

45

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

Step Eight: Connection of Literature and Cultural Contact Data Findings


The eighth step is creating connections between the literature and cultural contact data. More
specifically, it is crucial to create connections to cultural features in the heritage culture that also
bear similarity to those in the host culture. This step is informed by Lins model, which
incorporates validation of the design in the implementation step of the design process (see Figure
2). The authors discovered that there were several differences between the information stated in
scholarly literature about Armenian material culture and that stated by the focus group
participants with regard to (1) cultural symbolism and (2) how traditions are maintained in the
present day.
The authors found that the meaning behind symbolic elements incorporated into the Althea
Headdress had shifted over time. The scholarly research included information about the evil
eye being integrated into the traditional Armenian headdress to ward off evil spirits. Two
participants explained that, while Armenian culture is very superstitious, the evil eye is now
only worn on babies for the first 40 days after birth. A similar shift in meaning occurred with the
pomegranate seed symbolism that is communicated through red beads. Aleena explained that the
inclusion of the pomegranate symbolism makes sense because of their significant symbolic
importance in Armenian culture, but it is more a symbol of Armenian culture as a whole as
opposed to wedding-specific symbolism. A design feature that is not prioritized as necessary for
inclusion should be removed from the design sketch, prototype, and list of design features.
Step eight also involves the designer(s) seeking additional information and/or scholarly
resources that are suggested by the participants; this information is incorporated into the
explanation of the three levels of design features in a modified list. For example, the participants
suggested that the authors seek additional information about Anush and Inga Arshakyans because
they are considered exemplary Armenians with regard to their integration of traditional
Armenian dress while still being international public figures. Participant feedback that was
offered about these singers reinforced what the authors had already found about them in the
literature.

Step Nine: Design Modifications


The ninth, and final, step is design modification. Conclusions regarding the necessary
modifications for the headdress were made using the data analysis results in steps seven and
eight. This step is informed by the authors assessment of existing cross-cultural models. Lins
model concludes with the designer validating the product by creating a matrix table in which it is
verified that each level of design feature is met before creating a prototype. The authors chose to
end the design process with a multi-step review and analysis of information acquired in steps one
through six and then complete the design modifications. This additional analysis allowed the
authors to connect the participant feedback to scholarly research in an effort to verify that the
levels of design features were supported in a comprehensive manner.
A modified Althea Headdress has been illustrated (see Figure 6) and a modified prototype is
in progress. The authors determined that the following modifications needed to be made: replace
the red beads with coins or have a greater ratio of coins to red beads, remove the blue evil eye
gem, shorten the length of the draped chains on the back, add a draped chain at the forehead, add
coins to the draped chain at the forehead, increase the amount of coins on the individual strands
for coins to overlap, increase the amount of pearls on individual chains, and remove the top
center chain on the top of the head.

46

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Figure 6: Illustration of the Modified Althea Headdress Design Based Upon Participant Feedback and a Review of the
Connection Between Scholarly Literature and Participant Feedback

Discussion and Conclusion


The RPP Model assisted the authors in determining the viability of the Althea Headdress as a
cross-cultural product that assists in the acculturation process. The RPP model provided a
systematic process for gathering information about the Armenian and American ethnocultural
groups via scholarly literature and a focus group. The results of the case study revealed that the
RPP Model (1) made improvements to existing cross-cultural product design models, (2) has
several strengths, (3) contained limitations that may require further testing and refinement of the
model, and (4) navigated the complex negotiation of cultural features in the design process.

Improvements to Existing Cross-Cultural Product Design Models


The RPP Model made a few notable improvements to existing design processes. The assessment
of existing cross-cultural product design models revealed that information about the home culture
of study is not explicitly sought prior to collecting cultural contact data. The application of the
RPP Model requires a more comprehensive review of sources in steps two, three and six that
includes both scholarly resources and potential product users. The literature review served three
key functions during the design process. First, Leong and Clark (2003) and Norman (2004)
identify multiple layers that comprise a culture; it is fitting then that a cross-cultural product
design process include multiple layers of sources to inform the design. Multiple sources assist in
the formation of a composite view of the home culture and how it may be influenced by the host
culture. Second, the literature review enabled the authors to identify similar products in the
fashion literature that are considered both fashionable and marketable while accommodating
Armenian traditions.
Third, the literature review allowed the authors to examine information related to Armenian
heritage and history. Leong and Clark (2003) explain that exposing oneself to a cultures history
in the design process is an opportunity to learn its origins and revive ancient cultural meanings
that have been forgotten over time. Tseng and Yoshikawa (2008, 356) also discuss the
importance of acquiring a historical perspective when studying a culture in the context of
acculturation, explaining that it can increase understanding of changes in who migrates, the
conditions under which migration occurs, and the conditions that affect the mutual adaptation of
immigrant and host communities. A strength of the Althea Headdress that resulted from the
literature review was meaningful representations of heritage. For example, the participants were
impressed with the way in which pomegranates and multi-day wedding celebrations were
symbolized in the design.

47

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

One source of crucial information in the design process was the cultural contact that
included a focus group with Armenian American women. The authors assessment of existing
cross-cultural product design models revealed a lack of in-depth contact with the home culture.
Mullet and Parks model only incorporates the designers feedback during the design process and
information about his or her own culture. Lin incorporated some consultation of ethnocultural
with group members in the form of product user-based observation, but did not explicitly include
in-depth conversations with product users. Lin recommended that designers consult members of
the culture being studied when creating an object. The RPP Model has incorporated this
recommendation as a required step in the process. The authors concluded that this is, in fact, a
vital step in creating a successful cross-cultural product.

Limitations
There are limitations to the use and application of the model in this case study that are important
to note. The RPP Model is experimental and has only been tested once thus far in the context of
the Althea Headdress case study. Further assessment is needed to determine the extent of its
efficacy. The authors identified improvements that could be made to existing cross-cultural
product design models in the context of a controlled learning environment. The model could be
improved with further assessment of the models proposed by Lin and Mullet and Park in a more
applied consumer research scenario. The authors tested the model with a small convenience
sample of Armenian American participants from one region of the United States. The focus
group participants stated that there is a large Armenian diasporic population in California; the
authors recommend that the model be tested with a sample from this population. In so doing, the
user feedback dataset would become more valid and comprehensive. Connectedly, the authors
recognize that it is a limitation to only test the model with one pairing of home and host cultures;
it is recommended that other home and host culture pairings be tested as well.
While the authors conducted a broad search of literature, they were limited by what was
available based upon geographic proximity and what had been published about the topic by
reputable sources and in the authors primary language of English. The literature review revealed
that Armenian culture has not been studied in great depth. Few sources have addressed material
culture and, more specifically, dress. However, it is important to note that the availability of
literature may not be a limitation for all cultures that are researched using this design process.
The authors contend that the findings from the cultural contact data still render the RPP Model
useful even if the available literature is weak or incomplete. The authors also had difficulty in
deciphering the appearance of Armenian material culture objects because photos were sparse and
the text of a source often mentioned the name of an object without providing a description of its
use or appearance.
The literature also indicates that there is a difference between the acculturative processes of
older and younger individuals within an ethnocultural group. As a result, the headdress was
designed with younger Armenian American women in mind. The participants in the Althea
Headdress case study were adult women of various ages who had largely worked through the
acculturation process and had a more traditional connection to Armenian culture. It would be
useful to test this model by also including the participants children or other adolescent Armenian
Americans to compare preferences among different age groups and generations. Another
limitation is that the current model was created with only dress products in mind and used Mullet
and Parks framework to inform specific steps in the design process. However, it is possible that
the model would apply to other product categories as well. Further testing of the model could
explore this possibility.

48

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Complex Negotiation of Cultural Features in the Design Process


A finding from the Althea Headdress case study that is worthy of discussion is the participants
visceral assessment of the headdress as not Armenian enough. While it may seem that this
assessment signals a fault in the design process, it is important to note two points of discussion:
(1) cultural member feedback is sought with the intent to receive feedback that will assist in
necessary modifications and (2) design is a complex negotiation of cultural features. Berry
(2005) explains that the intercultural contact that occurs because of the acculturation process
produces a potential for conflict and negotiation is needed to achieve an outcome that allows for
successful adaptation. A designer may encounter conflict in several forms, as found in this study:
(1) cultural ceremonies dictating the extent to which a dress product abides by tradition,
(2) changes in cultural symbolism over time, (3) individual preferences, (4) varying acculturation
strategies, (5) generational/age differences, (6) varying interest in maintaining the heritage of the
home culture, and (7) the balance of fashionable design elements from the host culture with
traditional elements from the home culture. The finding related to the Althea Headdress not
appearing Armenian enough illustrates the conflict that can arise. The work completed by the
authors throughout the design process illustrate the negotiation of design features that results in
the modified Althea Headdress design seen in Figure 6.
The authors encountered conflict in the form of cultural ceremonies dictating the extent to
which a dress object abides by tradition. The participants may have deemed the Althea Headdress
to be not Armenian enough because it is common for special occasion dress to be more
traditional than daily dress. Lucine, a focus group participant, explained that most Armenians
still engage in traditional weddings and wear traditional wedding dress. Gbadamosis findings
(2012, 12) provided support for this possibility; special occasion dress was found to be more
traditional than daily dress for Black African women in London. The authors tried to balance
cultural features of the host and home culture in the Althea Headdress design, but ultimately
chose design features more consistent with an American bride or younger Armenian American
woman who is largely integrated into American culture. The authors suggest special attention to
the selection of design features when designing a dress object for a special occasion or ceremony.
A factor that may influence the negotiation of culture features is the malleability of culture;
this may result in changes in cultural symbolism over time. For example, the participants in the
Althea Headdress case study explained that, while the evil eye is still a prominent part of
Armenian symbolism, it is now incorporated primarily with babies instead of the bride at her
wedding. All of the participants identified with various aspects of symbolism included in the
design and identified elements that united the home and host cultures. Some participants
expressed that visceral-level modifications would make the design more culturally meaningful
(e.g., adding a chain with attached coins that drapes across the forehead). This feedback may
account for individual preferences, as well as the presence of varying acculturation scenarios and
levels of interest in heritage maintenance within the group of participants. The customizability of
the Althea Headdress also assists in meeting the needs of individual preferences and varying
acculturation scenarios. The findings of the focus group revealed that cultures can be merged
along a continuum, with the balance shifting more toward the cultural and design features of one
culture over the other; the RPP Model can help to mediate the balancing of these features. For
example, the consultation of both scholarly sources and home ethnocultural group members
assists in determining how to balance cultural features.
The general consensus among participants was that it looked more like fashion jewelry
inspired by Middle Eastern cultures, but did not fully reflect Armenian culture. Lucine explained
that coins are a material used by several Middle Eastern cultures, but it is the amount of coins
used on the headdress that sets it apart as Armenian. This is an interesting finding because it
speaks to the participants desire to have products designed for specific consumer market
segments that fit their acculturation needs and distinctly identify with their unique ethnocultural
group.
49

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

The RPP Model calls for the designer to be from the host culture; in the case study, the
authors self-identified as members of the American ethnocultural group. There may be additional
negotiation involved in the design process, but the authors agree with Mullet and Park (2011)
that designers from one cultural background can design for other cultural backgrounds as long as
information about the other culture is available.

Concluding Invitation
The Althea Headdress case study suggests that the RPP Model shows promise for future use in
cross-cultural dress design. The goal of the design process is to produce a product that promotes
cultural heritage and incorporates the merging of a home and host culture in a distinguishable and
meaningful way. The Althea Headdress showcased successful inclusion of Armenian heritage,
represented the veil and cultural symbols in a way that can be meaningful across cultures, and
provided opportunities to customize the design according to ones preferences and individual
acculturation process. The authors even discovered that there are other possible uses for the
Althea Headdress by Armenian American women, such as a heritage piece worn for
anniversaries or to be put away for a daughter to wear on her wedding day.
Future research may include further application of the RPP Model in the context of other
cultures and product categories. The authors also suggest the inclusion of this model in design
process courses at the university level, as it is important to equip students with a process-oriented
approach to design. The authors advocate for further testing of the RPP Model and invite
interested authors to join this endeavor. As a result, the efficacy and precision of cross-cultural
product design could be refined.

REFERENCES
Berry, John W. 1980. Acculturation as Varieties of Adaptation. In Acculturation: Theory,
Models and Some New Findings, edited by Amado M. Padilla, 925. Boulder:
Westview Press for American Association for the Advancement of Science.
. 2005. Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures. International Journal of
Intercultural Relations 29: 697712.
. 2011. Integration and Multiculturalism: Ways towards Social Solidarity. Papers on
Social Representations 20: 2.121.
Berry, John W., and Saba Safdar. 2007. Psychology of Diversity: Managing Acculturation and
Multiculturalism in Plural Societies. In Appreciating Diversity: Cultural and Gender
Issues, edited by Aneta Chybicka and Maria Kazmierczak, 1936. Cracow: Oficyna
Wydawnicza Impuls.
Brooks, Stephen, (Ed). 2002. The Challenge of Cultural Pluralism. Westport: Praeger.
Chang, Tsen-Yao, and Fang-Wu Tung. 2013. Re-engaging with Cultural Engagement:
Innovative Product Design of Cultural Field Experience. Cross-Cultural Design:
Methods, Practice, and Case Studies/Lecture Notes in Computer Science 8023: 39.
Chattaraman, Veena, Nancy A. Rudd, and Sharron J. Lennon. 2010. The Malleable Bicultural
Consumer: Effects of Cultural Contexts on Aesthetic Judgements. Journal of
Consumer Behavior 9: 1831.
Ekandem, Josh. 2009. Designing for Cultures: An Approach for Product Design Using
Components of Regional Culture. Masters thesis, Auburn University.
Forney, Judith, and Nancy Rabolt. 1985. Ethnic Identity: Its Relationship to Ethnic and
Contemporary Dress. Clothing and Textile Research Journal 4: 17.
Gbadamosi, Ayantunji. 2012. Acculturation: An Exploratory Study of Clothing Consumption
among Black African American Women in London (UK). Journal of Fashion
Marketing and Management: An International Journal 16: 520.
Hintz, Martin. 2004. Armenia: Enchantment of the World. Canada: Childrens Press.
50

SERRANO ET AL.: USING DESIGN TO SUPPORT THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

Ho, Ming-Chyuan, Lin, Chi-Hsian, and Yi-Chun Liu. 1996. Some Speculations on Developing
Cultural Commodities. Journal of Design 1: 115.
Hsu, Chi-Hsien, Chang, Shu-Hsuan, and Rung-Tai Lin. 2013. A Design Strategy for Turning
Local Culture into Global Market Products. International Journal of Affective
Engineering 12: 27583.
Hsu, Chi-Hsein, Lin, Chih-Long, and Rung-Tai Lin. 2011. A Study of Framework and Process
Development for Cultural Product Design. In Internationalization, Design and Global
Development, edited by P.L. Patrick Rau, 5565. Berlin: Springer.
Krupnick, Ellie. 2011. Kim Kardashian Wedding Headpiece: Love It or Hate It? Huffington
Post, August 23. Accessed May 28, 2015.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/23/kim-kardashian-wedding-559
headpiece_n_933872.html.
Leong, Benny D., and Hazel Clark. 2003. Culture-Based Knowledge Towards New Design
Thinking and PracticeA Dialogue. Design Issues 19: 4858.
Lin, Rung-Tai. 2007. Transforming Taiwan Aboriginal Cultural Features into Modern Product
Design: A Case Study of a Cross-Cultural Product Design Model. International
Journal of Design 1: 45-53.
Lind-Sinanian, Gary, and Susan Lind-Sinanian. 2010. Armenia. In Encyclopedia of World
Dress and Fashion, Vol. 9, edited by Joanne Eicher, 287297. London: Oxford
University Press.
Littrell, Mary A., Paff Ogle, Jennifer L., and Soyoung Kim. 1999. Marketing Ethnic Apparel:
Single or Multiple Consumer Segments? Journal of Fashion Marketing and
Management: An International Journal 3: 3143.
Lynch, Annette, and Mitchell D. Strauss. 2014. Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural
Encyclopedia. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Miller, Nancy J., J. R. Campbell, Mary A. Littrell, and Daryl Travnicek. 2005. Instrument
Development and Evaluation for Measuring USA Apparel Product Design Attributes.
Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal 9: 5470.
Mullet, Kathy, and Mi-Ryung Park, 2011. A Cross-Cultural Design Framework for Apparel
Design. Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal 4: 5764.
Nelson, Karin. 2013. The Excessory Designers. W Magazine, August 7. Accessed May 28,
2015. http://www.wmagazine.com/people/insiders/2013/08/ashley-lloyd-ken-borochovand-juniper-rose/.
Norman, Don. 2004. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. New York:
Basic Books.
Petrosian, Irina, and David Underwood. 2006. Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction and Folklore.
Bloomington: Yekir Publishing.
Reeves-DeArmond, Genna, and Elaine L. Pedersen. 2012. Applied Learning in a Cross-Cultural
Dress and Textiles Course: The Development and Assessment of a Product
Development Project. Paper presented at the annual meeting for the International
Textile and Apparel Association, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 1317.
Roach-Higgins, Mary Ellen, and Joanne B. Eicher. 1992. Dress and Identity. Clothing and
Textile Research Journal 10: 1-8.
Sam, David L., and John W. Berry. 2010. Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of
Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5: 472
81.
Takooshian, H. 2000. Armenian Americans. In Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America,
Vol. 1, edited by Robert Dassanowsky and Jeffrey Lehman, 109-122. New York: Gale
Research Inc.

51

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGNED OBJECTS

Tsend, Vivian, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa. 2008. Reconceptualizing Acculturation: Ecological


Processes, Historical Contexts, and Power Inequities. American Journal of Community
Psychology 42: 35558.
Upchurch, Whitney Alexa. 2008. Relationship Between Level of Acculturation and Clothing
Preferences for Asian-Indian Females. Masters thesis, Auburn University.
Vecoli, Rudolph J. 2000. Introduction. In Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, Vol. 1,
edited by Robert Dassanowsky and Jeffrey Lehman, xxi-xxvii. New York: Gale
Research Inc.
Venkatesh, Alladi. 1995. Ethnoconsumerism: A New Paradigm to Study Cultural and CrossCultural Consumer Behavior. In Marketing in a Multicultural World: Ethnicity,
Nationalism, and Cultural Identity, edited by Janeen Arnold Costa and Gary J.
Bamossy, 2667. New York: Sage Publications.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS


Elisa Serrano: Graduate of Bachelor of Science Program in Apparel Design, School of Design
and Human Environment, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
Josefa Gonzales: Undergraduate Student, School of Design and Human Environment, Oregon
State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
Chelsea Wilkinson: Graduate of Bachelor of Science Program in Apparel Merchandising,
School of Design and Human Environment, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
Genna Reeves-DeArmond PhD: Assistant Professor, Department of Apparel, Textiles, and
Interior Design, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA

52

The International Journal of Designed Objects


is one of six thematically focused journals in the
family of journals that support the Design Principles
and Practices knowledge communityits journals,
book series, conference and online community. It is
a section of Design Principles and Practices: An
International Journal.
The International Journal of Designed Objects
examines the nature and forms of the objects of
design, including the products of industrial design,
fashion, interior design, and other design practices.
As well as papers of a traditional scholarly type, this
journal invites presentations of practiceincluding
documentation of designed objects together with
exegeses analyzing design purposes, purposes and
effects.
The International Journal of Designed Objects
is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal.

ISSN 2325-1379