The rise of national cultural identity in modern design

The concept of national cultural identity is still ambiguous to many people because of its generalization and “theories”. For example, Vietnam is accompanied with ao dai, lotus, red flag with yellow star, S-shaped strip of land, bamboo, a boy riding a buffalo, Dong Ho paintings… Cultural identity is a complex structure that reflects self-conception and self-perception of people of a nation and it can be expressed through symbols and images like that.

Art has long been inspired by aspects of cultural identity- which now appear to be a new element in contemporary design. Design trends in the last 5 – 10 years have seen strong and creative transformations with designs that make it easier to reach young people and go viral on social networks, along with technological development. Interestingly, the more developed new trends are, the more contemporary design exploits the national cultural identity as a way of finding national characteristics in an increasingly flatter world.

The way to bring national culture into modern design

Nowadays, things that can’t be separated from people, especially for the young generation, like laptops, smartphones, or tablets are all connected with the internet. The development of technology has turned actual exhibitions and museums into online libraries, online museums, where people don’t need to travel, they just touch and click. Instead of following the commercial way in “foreign” designs, brands are changing and making a breakthrough. The role of the designer becomes meaningful when they know how to explore the hidden beauty and find inspiration from typical cultural values.

Many designers have integrated cultural identity into designs and impressed friends around the world. These include Yayoi Kusama, a famous female artist whose works use large and small polka dots. The polka dots symbolizes the sun (the symbol of Japan), is energetic, dedicated, lively, connected infinitely. Yayoi’s dots attract the public around the world.

As modern designs gradually become so popular with foreign trends, the rise of national cultural identity is blowing a wind of change for creators. Because of the intimacy and familiarity, the hidden pride to the nation deep in the subconscious of each person, the designs of cultural identity can easily get strong support.

In 2015, the “Hoa văn Đại Việt” project, initiated by the Dai Viet Co Phong group, received a lot of support from the community. The project applied vectors to reshape the ethnic patterns using rich Vietnamese cultural aspects on many daily products: clothes, shoes, fashion towels, … Next is the project “Họa sắc Việt”  – the first project in the  digitalization of Trong painting village – a painting village with hundreds of years of age faces the risk of disappearing.

Next, we should mention the costume designs of Vietnamese representatives on the recent Miss Universe. The successive designs create good effects, contribute to promote Vietnamese culture to international friends: Nang May (2016), Viet Soul (2017), Banh Mi (2018), Café phin sữa đá (2019) ). Following that success, the competition of designing Vietnamese national costumes to participate in Miss Universe 2020 was launched with the theme of “Vietnam – Curve masterpiece”.

At the National Applied Fine Arts Exhibition in 2019, an undergraduate proved  his  product quality by inspiring cultural identity into the graduation project. “Wedding jewelry with the image of Phoenix in the royal pattern  of Hue imperial palace”. Nguyen Vo Kim Anh, alumni of course 21 of Industrial Design (Product Design) of Van Lang University won the second prize of the competition. When studying Product Design at Van Lang, Anh was equipped with hand drawing skills, 3D drawing on computers, and specialized design software right from the first year.

The exploitation of ancient ethnic elements into modern design has been developed by Van Lang University for many years and achieved many achievements, contributing to the career development of many students of Van Lang. Students majoring in Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Interior Design, and Industrial Design are trained to follow a style that reminds them of their roots but at the same time, still meets the requirements for diverse designs without losing their innovation and creativity.


Ethnic cultural identity: endless inspiration but also challenges

Ethnic materials and images easily become inspiration for modern designs, but not everyone can be successful. According to Mr. Ma Thanh Cao, former Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum, lecturer at Van Lang University,  National cultural identity must be a part of our life, deep in the blood, then the designer can have a breakthrough in design products. It’s not as a mechanical, boring and monotonous process. Contemporary designers must have a strong passion for it, truly love its roots, learn to acquire the values inherited from its ancestors thousands of years ago.

Designers must find out the unique features that are crucial to impress people. The more uniqueness associated with national identity, the greater the value of the design. It is also a challenge for designers to create a unique personality, to integrate without dissolution.

It is happy that students of fine arts schools, including Van Lang University, are increasingly interested in and finding creative ways to exploit cultural identity to create unique designs. Consumers are willing to support brands using materials and symbols of ethnic culture in an aesthetic and reasonable manner. The applicability of the design associated with daily life is increasingly accessible to users. The design trends are also increasingly optimal and supportive for creators. Symbols and images of ethnic culture can be more easily accessed via phone apps, 3D printing technology, AI, VR, etc

The artwork expresses the creative personality of the designer and the cultural personality of the nation- commented by Mr. Nguyen Dac Thai – Vice-Dean of Faculty of Industrial Fine Arts of Van Lang University on the quality of ICAD 2020 event organized by Van Lang University – Vietnam and Handong University – Korea.

Vietnamese and Korean design have many similarities such as appreciating the importance to cultural identity. To enjoy art works and designs inspired by the national culture in the 4.0 era of Vietnam, South Korea and more than 10 other countries, you can visit the online exhibition website at

The exhibition is completely free, join with just one click. This is the largest international exhibition on art and design in Vietnam so far and also the first online event. More than 400 works from 13 countries and 23 research papers to exchange international studies on design and art will surely be a “hearty party” for those who are passionate about the art.