How Travel Shaped My Craft As A Designer
Ever felt like your creativity needed a passport? Well, that's been my journey as a digital design entrepreneur — jetsetting around the globe, soaking in the colours, shapes, cultures, and energies that have added some extra flavour to my designs.
In April 2021, I launched Supercharged, a remote design studio that specializes in crafting websites, apps, and brands. Once my business found its rhythm, I hopped on the next flight overseas, officially embracing the digital nomad life. Since then, I’ve visited about 24 different countries in 24 months — which has truly been a journey of a lifetime!
Though my design business was the golden ticket to my globetrotting dreams, I hadn’t expected my travels to influence my craft the way it did. It’s only halfway through my travels I realized that my journey across the globe was my secret sauce to becoming a better designer – it's been a kaleidoscope of colours, shapes, and stories from my travels that have influenced the way I think and create.
So, ready to dive deeper? Let's unpack how every corner of the world shapes my craft — from global architecture to local scripts to cultural colours. Let me take you through this visual diary of lessons learned, cultures embraced, and stories waiting to be told. Welcome to the intersection of travel and design, where every destination becomes a palette, every structure a muse, and every story a design waiting to unfold.
#1 Colour Chronicles
Crafting A Palette Of Global Adventures
In the vibrant medinas of Morocco, the deep, energetic blues made me feel like I was in an oil painting. The lush greenery of Vietnam created a deeper connection to the earth we belong in. The orange spectrum of Portugal, whether across rooftops, castles, or sunsets, reflects its warm emphasis on community.
My travels have helped me understand how different colours have unique meanings to various cultures and their international perception or ‘branding’. Indigo for instance has been traditionally viewed as a colour of trade, whereas the colour red on certain flags as a symbol of all the bloodshed that led to the formation of that state. The grey atmosphere of the United Kingdom contrasted with the bright yellow & blue skies in Cuba play a role in their respective cultures’ mood and symbolism.
Surrounded by varied colour palettes across cultures, whether occurring naturally or designed by people, I've gained insights into how colours impact our perception of the world. It has exposed me to individual colours or palettes I would have never otherwise worked with.
Portugal’s use of orange helped me craft a stronger brand identity for Niche Kreations, a handmade clay jewellery brand.
Panama’s ecological & green vibes helped me forge a better website designs for my GreenTech clients, Energeia and Cell Agri.
#2 Architectural Symphony
Shapes That Shape My Designs
As I crisscrossed all over the globe, my craft was influenced by geometry and how it orchestrates balance in design. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the enduring pillars of Greece and the hexagonal stones of Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway, symmetry is all around – giving the world we live in a sense of structure.
Uzbekistan's architectural intricacies left an indelible mark, showcasing how geometric patterns, when scaled, create a mesmerizing visual tapestry.
Conversely, my travels have also shown me how asymmetry can be used to achieve a deliberate psychological effect. Asymmetry can be used to draw attention away from the predictable and towards something you’d want to highlight. Just as unique structures stand out in a skyline of uniformity, intentional design breaks draw focus. Below are examples of awkwardly shaped buildings in Qatar and Batumi that are bound to catch your eye.
In design, maintaining a consistent flow is impactful, but intentional disruptions can be even more compelling. For example, the example below shows a website whose predictable pattern is built with circles & whitespace. Any time we would like to capture someone’s attention, we would strategically place a bright red rectangular button.
Moroccan riads, with their central courtyards, echo the importance of a focal element. In contrast, the Cu Chi Tunnels in Southern Vietnam, long and narrow, limit access intentionally. In the realm of tech design, I try to think if I’d like to build an experience that is accessible to all or one that is intended for a specific persona with an intended goal.
#3 Artistic Wanderlust
Canvassing Creativity Across Continents
Art and design, while sharing common ground, bear intrinsic differences. Art is a subjective expression of the artist, a realm of emotion and personal narrative. Design, conversely, is a structured process aimed at achieving a specific outcome.
In the realm of design, acknowledging the artistic dimension is vital—considering how it will be perceived and the emotions it may evoke. To enrich this perspective, I explore art galleries and museums globally, immersing myself in diverse visual experiences and the spectrum of emotions they evoke. This exploration not only widens my creative lens but also influences my personal artistic style as a designer.
Taking all of this global artistry in, I have found myself creating a subconscious bank of colourful impressions which have helped develop a stronger artistic perspective.
#4 Framing The World
Capturing Stories Through The Lens
Photos, like art, can speak a thousand words with just one glance.
As a travel blogger, I am constantly immersed with stunning photos to feed my wanderlust across digital platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. While I travel, I'm on a perpetual quest to capture these moments through my lens, sharing my experiences with the world.
Surrounded by the world of photography and social media content creation, my skills have evolved over time. The constant ‘exposure’ has honed my perception of photography technicalities like placement, lighting, tones, and framing. Though I may not be a photography pro, my skills have definitely improved since day 1.
The fusion of travel experiences and photography creates a unique design perspective. For instance, a photo capturing a Georgia sunset not only conveys beauty but encapsulates emotional essence, influencing design choices. Similarly, a photograph showcasing Lisbon's street culture, when integrated into a design, becomes a totally different narrative, elevating the user experience beyond functionality to immersive storytelling.
Below are examples of the same website layout using different photos to elicit very different emotions.
#5 Breaking Borders
Increasing Cultural Awareness in Design
Embracing cultural inclusivity in design has always been a ongoing journey for me. As I travel, I find myself growing out of the confines of an ethnocentric view. It's like swapping a narrow lens for a panoramic one, embracing a macro perspective that helps you resonate with a broader audience.
It's this shift that kindles a mindfulness for cultural nuances, both in the places I visit and within my own cultures — turning me into a more empathetic and aware individual with stronger cross cultural knowledge and communication skills.
When designing technology, you can see how these cultural differences can impact the way apps are used across cultures. By adopting such perspective, you have the ability to create better technology that can cross cultures and adapt to different parts of the world.
I am now more mindful of how people think differently and how their needs or perspectives on a situation could vary greatly from mine. Today, I can confidently say I’m in a better spot to empathize with different people and communities and could professionally cater to their needs better.
In an educational community app I was working on, I was analyzing how users had been using the app. When I segmented app usage by location, I noticed much higher engagement rates in Asia compared to North America — which further investigating was due to the different ways these cultures viewed community. Armed with this knowledge, we crafted new features that accounted for these cultural differences to cater to their local needs.
#6 Digital Landscapes
Navigating Technology Across Cultures
As digital designers, we are naturally influenced by the technology we use most — which in my case has been very Canadian and North American centric. Though as I’ve travelled, I've come across various scenarios of how tech is used differently across cultures.
Payments is something that always intrigues me! India’s digitized movement that enables street vendors to accept payments on their smartphones through QR codes. On the other hand, the USA still requires swiping cards, manually writing the tip and signing after most transactions.
What’s funny is that a minimalist website using abundant whitespace such as Apple will garner higher trust in North America whereas as an extremely busy website emulating a shopping flyer such as Amazon will garner higher trust in the East Asian market.
When it comes to ridesharing apps, I was surprised to see monopolies of the same types of services being held by different apps in different parts of the world. You have Yandex in Central Asia, Careem in the Middle East, Grab in South east Asia, and Uber elsewhere globally – despite behaving in a very similar manner, these companies have locally managed to edge the competition out by adopting a cultural and communal edge.
Another example is QR codes — these were well adopted in China when I went there in 2018 whereas it was a novelty in the western world until the pandemic practically forced its adoption and it’s made life a lot easier!
These are some of the ways my travels have exposed me to different digital ecosystems that shape individual and communal behaviour across the world.
#7 Nomad Narratives
Experiencing Emotions Through Storytelling
Storytelling is an art that helps you connect with your audience beyond the rational. It allows you to take them on a journey with you in which they emotionally invest in our narrative.
While travelling, you're bound to listen to stories of different cultures, folk tales, fellow travellers, and locals all the time. And on the flip side, you'll constantly be telling your story to all the new people you meet.
As I have been honing my storytelling skills, I've noticed the impact it has been having on my work as a designer. Whenever I'm designing a website or a brand, I want to take my clients and their audience on a journey that reflects their story and helps them forge stronger connections with one another.
As a storyteller, you want to tell a tale that engages someone, hooks them in, introduces a plot, and show how you worked through it — interweaved with emotions to add a layer of depth.
Similarly, as a designer, I create brands which feel immersive and have different personalities to appeal to different people. Building on these, I weave these brands into websites and apps that feel like you’re uncovering a new adventure as you explore deeper and get invested.
When you’re designing an experience, you want your user to be the main character and map their journey out on a canvas. You want their journey to unfold through different chapters of education, implementation, and connection using visual cues and interactive elements — eventually resulting in them unfolding their plot using what you’ve designed to solve a problem and add some value to their life!
#8 Typography Travelogue
Scripts That Script The World
Spending time in the midst of foreign languages introduces me to a symphony of scripts, each carrying its cultural nuances. It's not just about the words; it's about the rhythm, the flow, and the visual poetry that scripts bring to communication. From the elegant swirls of Georgian to the intricate curves of Arabic and the graceful loops of Thai, every script tells a story.
Despite not being fluent in the languages of the diverse cultures I visit, the familiarity with scripts becomes my guide. A stroll through a market with signs in Thai script or a glance at Arabic street names becomes a navigation through the visual language of the region. It's a silent conversation, a dance of shapes that transcends linguistic barriers.
Understanding the visual impact of each script allows me to create designs that resonate across cultures. It's not about knowing every language; it's about recognizing and respecting the visual essence of each.
When crafting of the logo for "l'Assiette de Sandrine", a Parisian gastronomical brand, the influence and understanding of French script and culture was necessary. The delicate balance of curves and flourishes mirrors the elegance of French culinary artistry, creating a visual feel that resonates with the brand's identity.
On the lines of French, one amusing fact I learnt a few years ago is that sentences in French are 25% longer than those in English. Keeping this in mind, there are some changes you need to accommodate for when you’re designing for bilingual audiences.
Similar accommodations for scripts and languages need to be made for multiple cultures. For instance in the Middle East, technology needs to be built to accommodate English which is a left-to-right script as well as Arabic which is a right-to-left script. Arabic’s right-to-left orientation isn't just a change in direction; it's a shift in perception. The flow of these scripts transforms and influences how one should approach messaging and layout. It's a reminder that design is not just visual — it's a dance with cultural context.
Another project I recently worked on was inspired by ancient Indian scripts. While designing a logo for The Urban Astrologer, I envisioned a fusion of tradition and modernity using ancient Indian symbols. The curves and intricacies of the logo pay homage to the cultural roots while maintaining a contemporary appeal, encapsulating the essence of astrological wisdom. A testament to the old ways with a kiss of modern aesthetics.
And That’s A Wrap!
As I continue on my odyssey, building a remote design business while travelling this big blue earth, I'm reminded that creativity is boundless, and its source lies in the diverse corners of our world.
From the vibrant streets of Morocco to the geometric wonders of Uzbekistan, each journey has added a stroke to the canvas of my design narrative. The symphony of scripts, the hues of different cultures, and the narratives captured through the lens — all serve as base to our shared human experiences — which now is connecting us even closer through technology.
So, let this be an invitation to all fellow wanderers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and professionals — immerse yourself in the wild worlds outside of your workspace and get inspired!
Safe travels, and may your passports always be filled with the vibrant stamps of inspiration. Until the next adventure!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a UX designer be a digital nomad?
Absolutely! UX designer is a common profession for digital nomads. UX designers primarily build mobile apps, websites, and other software which require minimal physical tools making it easier for them to work remotely compared to other professions. With just a laptop and a phone, a UX designer can have a successful life and career as a digital nomad.
Can a graphic designer be a digital nomad?
Graphic designers as well as positioned to live an enriching digital nomad life. Since a graphic designer’s primarily tool is their laptop and software, there isn’t much binding them to a physical office. Graphic design is one of the more common career paths as a digital nomad.
Do designers work remotely?
Most designers can position themselves to work remotely if the products or services they’re working on only require the design work done through the screen. Designers can spread their creative wings and work remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. The world becomes your office, and the freedom to choose your workspace adds an extra layer of inspiration to your designs.
What is a digital nomad entrepreneur?
A digital nomad entrepreneur is an individual who runs a location-independent remote business and travels the world while doing so. It's a blend of creativity, business acumen, and a passion for exploration.
What is an example of a nomadic entrepreneur?
Nomadic entrepreneurs operate businesses without being tied to a specific location, often running tech startups, travel agencies, design studios, or e-commerce ventures. They embrace the freedom to work from global hubs like Chiang Mai, Medellin, and Bali.
Is being digital nomad worth it?
If you’re one whose passion is to explore the world while maintaining a career, being a digital nomad is 100% worth it! The nomadic lifestyle is a treasure trove of inspiration, cultural encounters, and personal growth. The experiences gained are worth more than gold, and the flexibility it provides amplifies the worth of every moment. It's not just a lifestyle; it's a journey that enriches both personal and professional facets of life.
How do digital nomads make money?
Digital nomads make money through various avenues—freelancing, remote work, entrepreneurship, and even through creating and selling digital products. Digital nomads don’t necessarily have to be entrepreneurs, they could be part-time or full-time salaried workers who work for a remote company. The key is to leverage your skills, embrace the gig economy, and explore opportunities that align with your expertise. It's not just about making money; it's about creating a sustainable and fulfilling nomadic lifestyle.
How much does a digital nomad make?
Digital nomads could be making anywhere between minimum wages to running multi million dollar businesses. The beauty of the nomadic life is its flexibility, and income can vary. It's not just about the dollars; it's about the experiences gained and the creative wealth accumulated. The earning potential depends on your skills, projects, and dedication. It's not just a job; it's a lifestyle, and the value extends far beyond the paycheque.