We are living in – what is at the very least – the second era of globalisation, the first being in the pre World Wars expansion of transportation, what makes this so different is the electronic and (
Harriet Ferguson makes some really good points about the challenges and opportunities of global graphic design; certainly the danger of ‘homogenised and bland aesthetic’, she then speaks about the benefits of globalisation through the example of Taylor’s of Harrogate using illustrations from around the world. But if one side of the coin is a flattening of culture, and a more uniform visual culture (as Kris says), would the opposite not be true, that more distinct idiosyncratic illustrations would have made for an even more stunning project, or is it in fact that the illustrations had to be slightly different, but somewhat smoothed out to be acceptable to the Uk market. Is this globalisation or positioning the brand as exotic? It is certainly easier to get in touch with and collaborate with designers in different places.
Airbnb that has these wonderful aspirational global goals but forgets, or probably doesn’t care, that their global impact is ruining lives on a local level. Their logo is not a symbol of belonging, but a cold, heartless, cultureless symbol of losing your community. The euphemistically named sharing economy is one that not everyone can participate in or benefit from. It supposedly stands for ‘people, places, love’ and yet, makes it harder for local people to stay in the places they love. This doesn’t take away from a great campaign and logo, but should designers and brands not also consider their impact globally and locally if they are working globally and locally.
Havanna Club is a nice example of involving local artists in a campaign which leads to greater authenticity, but not unlike Hendrick’s Gin, Havanna Club is not the local Cuban artisanal rum maker but is now a joint venture between Havana Club and Pernod-Richard. Authenticity is also a questionable term in advertising, Is Cuba always happy and sunny, are the dissidents languishing in Cuban jails enjoying the Mojito street culture? Where is the Cuban advertising agency, would they not be more authentic? Of course, I realise that there is no Cuban agency capable of creating such a campaign, and this campaign is also targeted at non-Cubans, in order to sell more Rum internationally, which brings in more money, which in turns benefits Cuba(ns) However, previously we had talked about major industries being the fuel for local designers, be it the silk trade, or aerospace. Is there a danger of creative colonisation? This may sound very Marxist, which I am not, but it bears thinking about, I think.
If we have such great communication channels and are all global citizens, and distance and location don’t matter, why would you possibly assemble 500 individuals on a giant campus in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world to work on campaigns that are not even for that location? My incredulity is, of course, feigned. There are many practical reasons for this, but is one that – in this case, 72AndSunny – also want their own culture, one that prevails throughout their global offices and is only somewhat related to the actual location. Oh, and by culture, I suppose I mean brand
Non Format is an interesting example or working across distance, time zones and cultures, but they are both from a very similar background, and previously worked together; this arrangement seemingly works well for them, but is it a model for others?
Simon Minchipp is enthusiastic about globalisation and sees nothing but opportunities, he is the British East India Company (complete with Chinese herbal imports). Sarah Boris is the Grand Tourer, her opportunities are more personal in exhibiting and learning from other artists and designers. Sam Winston has a more nuanced view of it, more of a Marco Polo, part merchant, part explorer, and Intro Design seem to be – not Luddites – but passive observers, sticking with their ‘people-people’ approach.
It would appear that there are not only multiple approaches for designers to react to and benefit from globalisation but the need for both global design agencies and local designers with a craft, process, or approach rooted in a specific culture.
There is a belief that globalisation is not so much a choice as it is a system, it cannot be stopped, a giant wave that you can either be swept away by or one that you ride. I don’t completely disagree with that, but I think we do see attempts at stopping it. On a small scale, Sam Winston is cognizant of the impact that publishing in multiple languages and the actual production can have on design, and he resists it. Politically, there seems to be a move to a more (very worrying) nationalistic outlook. This could be the last hurrah of an antiquated approach to the world, but the rising tide does float a lot of boats, but it sinks some, this can lead to reactionary actions.
In addition, it seems to go unmentioned that the large cities in which global agencies have their offices are already global. The cities that are mentioned are always metropolises and global hubs. London is almost not the same country as Chorley, Lancashire; Los Angeles is very different from Bakersfield, let alone anywhere outside of California. I am not saying that London, Los Angles, New York, Singapore, Beijing, &t are the same or even that similar, but they are cities that are outward looking, having been exposed to, and absorbing different cultures for decades if not centuries.
Finally, Japan Airlines is an interesting example, in that they hired a Western Agency to create a more global logo/brand in 1989, at the very end of the Cold War period moving away from the Kamon-influenced Crane logo. Two decades later, they have reverted to a version of their more traditionally Japanese-looking logo.
To be clear, I am not anti-globalist. As someone who is considered a foreigner in every country, I could call home, the idea of cultures coming together and a loosening of borders and boundaries is one I enthusiastically welcome, but globalisation is primarily an economic force, these forces are merciless and there will be losers.
What I am driving at is that in order to have an agreeable encounter with the twenty-first century, we will have to take into it some good ideas. And in order to do that, we need to look back to take stock of the good ideas available to us. I am suspicious of people who want us to be forward-looking. I literally do not know what they mean when they say, “We must look ahead to see where we are going.” What is it that they wish us to look at? There is nothing yet to see in the future. If looking ahead means anything, it must mean finding in our past useful and humane ideas with which to fill the future
1. Postman, N. (1999). A Bridge to the 18th Century. In Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (first, p. 13). New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf.