World Design: Nationalism and Globalism in Design

Rizzoli International Publishing, 1992

The success of New American Design gave me the opportunity to write further about design. The obvious thing was to write New XXX Design, where XXX was a country of temperate climate and delicious food in which it would be enjoyable to observe the goings-on for a while.

But that was too easy. Instead, I wanted to look at the big picture. Why is it that we pigeonhole design along with every area of cultural activity in national pigeonholes? Is design actually different from country to country? And if so, what do those differences mean in a time of accelerating economic globalization?

As I began to think about these questions, everywhere nations were being born or were choosing to surrender their identity by joining supranational clubs. The Berlin wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed, the European single market came into operation...

For World Design, I travelled (too quickly and too cheaply) round the world, asking designers in 19 countries on four continents how they felt about these developments, and whether they thought they could still find a cultural as well as economic role amid the trend to globalization. I also tried to indicate how designers could preserve and revitalize thir national cultures even within this apparently unsympathetic economic system. In some ways, the book anticipates Naomi Klein’s complaint against the culture of globalization voiced in her book No Logo-but, published some years earlier, it already went beyond it by proposing these remedies, in which contemporary design is revealed as a vehicle for authentic cultural expression within the global economy.

Although this book has stimulated a regular flow of international lecturing, teaching and consulting projects, I am continually surprised that World Design remains the only analysis in its field. In the decade since it was first published, issues of national identity have grown ever more acute, and the book’s hopeful but practical message is more relevant than ever.

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