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The Patterns: Aesthetic Values and Cultural Belief Systems. The association between cultural beliefs and aesthetic values.
Aesthetic Values and Cultural Belief Systems
Building Architecture
Social cultural belief systems can play a role in establishing a set of individual or shared aesthetic values. Some beliefs are based on the pursuit of natural patterns whereas others draw on man-made geometric shapes and forms. As we communicate and think across a diversity of cultures and beliefs, we may find that there are disparities in the way we draw mental models either as a individuals or as groups.  
Architecture Intensive Disciplines
In designing systems, human to computer interfaces or prototyping bear in mind that "beauty" is not always defined by western perspectives, symmetry and geometric forms. Consider both geometric and natural forms especially when designing systems that have a multi-cultural or global context - the internet, extranets, multinational corporate intranets.  
Case Study A: Large Corporate IT
Typically of large organisations, communicating ideas, finding common values and drawing the same mental models was a challenge. Cultural perspectives played a role in the organisation. Apart from the fact that South Africa is culturally diverse, the company was also made up of a global "family" of very diverse cultures. Social cultural issues such as Black Empowerment were high on the corporate agenda with strong underlying resistance to change amongst individuals.

The presence of a common application platform such as the SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and the application of best practices did provide a common focus and approach. Designing user interfaces is always a challenge and in this environment it was no different. With SAP/R3, the client's graphical user interface could be customised but it had its own distinct "look and feel". With web applications which were developed in-house, the "look and feel" was balanced by the web development team. Initially, it was difficult to find this balance with management, users and outsourced or contracted development having different standards. However, the company maintained a strong adherence to their brand image which helped to focus aesthetic standards.

The above pattern was best expressed when comparing portals from different nationalities - western and eastern values. The use of "african" and "european" images as well as religious holidays and seasons, were also carefully considered. One of the systems on the intranet was portrayed by a logo using a character image of a black south african. When it was suggested to "dress" him as Santa Clause for the Christmas period, it was quickly pointed out that not all members of staff were Christians. Due to the fact that the company was made up of followers of different religious faiths including Islamic, Christian and Jewish beliefs - people in general were careful regarding their comments on events such as September 11.  
Case Study B: Small Commercial Team
Despite this being a commercial software environment, the customer base was not very diverse. The team and the customer user base consisted largely of English speaking South Africans. While there were individual agendas and issues to overcome there was a common culture. Hence, ideas were easier to convey, visualise and agree upon. Despite this, it was generally agreed that the lack of diversity was a short-coming.  
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