Design for Cultural Revitalization

Ben Rankin
Partnering with the Nova Scotia Office of Gaelic Affairs, NSCAD Design students deeply examined and outlined the user-experience of the many ways to reach Gaelic language fluency—resulting in a booklet.

Seumas Watson was integral to the development of NSCAD’s Designing for Cultural Revitalization course. He visited the class on numerous occasions sharing his robust knowledge, powerful songs, wicked humor and gentle but rigorous critique. The passage to the right was first published in An Rubha, 15, (1):5 Iona, Baile nan Gaidheal/ Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum.

“Language is the primary tool for our Gaelic initiatives and requires treatment as such. It is not, however, the end game of itself, but rather a delivery system for maintaining the people’s cultural stuffing: the product of their social expression. One could say that for the want of a language the culture was lost. For the want of a culture the language was lost. It would be cliché to point out that these are not separate issues. The beat-ing heart of the matter ultimately becomes that for the want of both a people is lost …”

— Seumas Watson

20%     1. Digital Technology
14%     2. Books/Papers/Newspapers
12%     3. Social Event
10%     4. Social Learning
9%       5. Tradition Bearers
8%       6. Formal Education
7%       7. Music
7%       8. Family/Friends/Community
7%       9. Location
4%     10. Organizations
2%     11. Physical Technology

This project stemmed from a previous workshop held at Baile nan Gàidheal (Highland Village), where some members of the Gaelic community documented their paths to Gaelic fluency. This documentation was summarized to give us an idea of the multiple resources that supported their path. Students then individually analyzed and synthesized the data, resulting in an infographic.
When we saw the outcomes and the high diversity of our infographics, we decided to make them accessible to people who are interested in the Gaelic culture and may want to see/understand how people before them reached Gaelic fluency. We decided to do so in the form of a booklet that outlines our class, process, and design work.
While we were sourcing information and designing the booklet, we were also welcoming guests from the Gaelic community to our class. These guests gave us an insight into the many characteristics of Gaelic culture such as dance, song, history, and storytelling. Thank you to our delightful visitors—Lewis Mackinnon, Shay MacMullin, Mary Jane Lamond, and Leanne Aucoin.
With this booklet, we wish to summarize our research and give every reader examples to explore a pathway to Gaelic fluency and to reference the many valuable resources available to them.