More on Culture and Icons: The Swastika

Love this post from the Cultural Detective Blog about the origins and use of the swastika symbol. Many of us automatically associate the symbol with dark and sinister groups and representative of the very worst aspects of humanity. Who could blame anyone for not taking an exploration of the symbol further, really?

However, in an increasingly global world where localization, personalization and awareness of cultural nuances are critical for superior user experiences, it’s worth understanding aspects of cultural appropriation, and how and where they can work. The swastika is a great example.

Swastika Laundry Van
Swastika Laundry Van. Referenced from Come Here To Me.

Realistically, we’re unlikely to see swastikas making it as a standard toolbar icon in enterprise applications user interfaces, but I could understand where regional businesses, local events, or social media or gamification startups might consider using them. Indeed, given the recent newsworthy events in the Middle East, Europe and at the time of Diwali, the blog feature is great timing and worth reading both by users and consumers of visual communications.

As I have pointed out too in a blog comment, Irish readers would be familiar with the Swastika laundry in Dublin.  I remember seeing the laundry vans (see above) about Dublin and walking past the laundry on my way to school and thinking no more about the symbol at the time. When I learnt a little more about history I reflected on how others in Dublin and elsewhere might feel very differently.


Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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