Designing Globally

03/30/2017 By Kadie Yale

We live in an interesting time, albeit not a particularly unusual time. Throughout history, as we’ve seen a meeting of cultures, we humans have accepted aspects of others’ societies while simultaneously rooting ourselves deeper into our own clan or nationalistic beliefs and aesthetics. While the driving forces behind populism in America and Europe since the Great Recession have taken a narrow view of the history of globalization in society—focusing on post-9/11 xenophobia, the internet, and off-shore production—it’s easy to forget that design has been influenced by globalization since its earliest days to the point that the line between archaeology  and design often blurs. We date European archaeological finds according to relics showing the expanse of Roman influence and rule that permeated into the materials and design semiotics (I had the honor of standing in one of these sites recently in Spain, of which you can see in photos on our website). Our museums are filled with designs which migrated thousands of miles from their original sites in conquests—centuries-old issues which our current legal system is still trying to wade through. And, of course, the early-20th century Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs adorning architecture in places like New York City and Chicago harken back to the influences of Japan and Egypt which permeated American and English designs after the reopening of the Japanese ports to the West in the mid-19th century and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922.

However, the ease in which the internet has allowed us to work on a global scale has only increased the international dialog. Instead of waiting years to see the latest in design from overseas at a World’s Fair, our media partner Kenn Busch was able to email us images and thoughts from Orgatec (Happenings, p. 16) the day of. We’re able to take a peek at the Kempinski Beirut project and the Bibliothèque Alexis de Tocqueville public library in Normandy, France, (Product in Placement, p. 40) without ever putting our feet on the soil of either country. And with a few clicks of the mouse, you’re able to order products from our International Sources pages for your projects.

Throughout history, boarders have opened and closed. Nations have embraced and rejected outside influences. However, I’m hoping this issue can be a reminder that design has always found the beauty in the unfamiliar. We have always been a community which picked up bits and pieces of our travels and thought, “How can I incorporate this into my world view?” Refusing to be afraid of “otherness” is intrinsic to the design thought process, regardless of what we may hear otherwise.

Kadie Yale | Editor in Chief