Design and Globalization


When you think ‘Dutch’, you immediately think, wonderful typography, and an appreciation and open mindedness for other culture. ‘German,’ still greatly influenced by the Bauhaus, is more rigid, detailed, striving for perfection. And ‘American’ gripped by the bright colours of POP, is always busy. But do our surmise really exist, can we still think of Style on a National level?

Globalism. London, Sydney, Athens, New York, all within a flight journey away, almost every part of the globe is now accessible to anyone. Many of us no longer consider working in a foreign country to be a hard decision; emigration has brought every culture to every corner of the world.

Global networks, such as e-mail, Twitter, Skype and blogs, make communication instantaneous. All of us make use of these technologies now, even the older generations see the huge advantages that contemporary technology brings, while to the younger generation, it is second nature.

So what effect does globalization have on design? Many companies are now international, having offices in multiple cities and countries, designing for businesses and services in yet other countries. There is a growing need for a global design, which can communicate in every culture, over a range of languages. The movement of people around the globe means their style and history goes with them, integrating their styles as they go along.

Can we therefore still consider a National Style? Do many of us still consider our work of this style, from this country, or have all movements, styles and cultures been adapted and adopted so much by countries, that there is no real difference anymore?

Finally I ask you this: “Are you true to your roots, or are you a child of the world?”

posted  4 comments to “Design and Globalization”

  1. Panos,
    With all respectfulness offered, I think your premise is false from the start.
    Americans have a style and flair completely different From France and France different from China, and China from Japan. We have different laws, culture, language and traditions. What I see as a great design will not fly too well in Johannesburg or Beijing. The laws of right hand drive will not work to well in our left hand drive America. 1/4-20UNC still does not fit into a metric hole. I for one love the separation of miles and look forward to visiting Istanbul with all its individuality and then to Sidney for its own characteristics. In my humble opinion I think globalization and homogenization is a concept that will never be totally achieved because we as people across the globe are snowflakes, our communities are snowflakes and our countries are snowflakes.
    To get them to all match will be a horrible tragedy.

  2. I am glad that my post has created some debate on this matter. It is the purpose of my posts to encourage the views and comments of others.

    I agree that each country, continent and even city has its own history and culture, and through it developed its own style, but I also believe that these styles are ever changing and there are elements of other styles that run through it. Furthermore there are styles that do not belong to any one place.

    As designers it is in our nature to take our inspiration from what is around us. So having visited Istanbul or Sydney, would you not take pleasure in incorporating some of those characteristics and elements into your own work? If perhaps someone else find’s their inspiration in your work, and someone else in theirs, would that not become part of your cities or country’s style?

    Would someone from Istanbul or Sydney coming to live and work in your city just give up all their history and culture or would they try to incorporate it into this new style and culture they have come in to? Adding to your city’s style with their own.

    Take for instance the modern sky scraper with it’s sleek glass and steel structure adapted, in Chicago, from the original sky scrapers, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from Germany, through the Bauhaus and International style. Now that sky scrapers dominate almost every major city in the world can it now be considered American? German? or has it become a global style?

    I believe that globalism is much more subtle than just black and white, I do not believe it is about taking the world and forcing it into one style, it is continually evolving. More like speaking in a tone of voice that all languages can understand rather than creating one language and getting everyone to give up their own language to speak it.

    Please continue to post comments and views, I am very interested in hearing them.

  3. having the questionable “privilege” of working from four supposedly very different locations in three continents (athens – GRE, london – UK, zhuhai – PRC, miami – US), moving from one place to the other weekly, I find it more and more difficult to notice “character” differences amongst the locations.

    If I blindfold you and let you loose in any one of my above offices, it might prove quite tricky to instinctually distinguish one from the other… do I like this homogenisation??? certainly not.

    Indeed I have to agree with the author as it seems that a globally “digestable” tone is here to stay…

    panos mantouvalos

  4. Dear Panos,

    I fully agree with your point of view and I can also provide one more example. Take for instance a Skyscraper built in NYC. Now, imagine we had the technology to “beam’ that Skyscraper from NYC to Shanghai. Would the Skyscraper “feel at home”? Or not?

    I am more than convinced there would be no problem/issue to see any of NYCs Skyscrapers in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai or even London. Modern architecture and design seems to lack elements of local culture and there is no full integration between any kind of artifact and the local environment that surrounds the artifact.

    Finally, I also would like to thank the author (Karin) for sharing her view with all of us.

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