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Journal of Design History Vol. 18 No.


Local, Regional, National, Global and Feedback:

Several Issues To Be Faced With Constructing Regional Narratives
Anna Calvera The author is grateful to Professor Christopher Bailey for advice on the English version of this article.

This paper aims to clarify the methodological problems faced by a local historian when he or she attempts to describe design from his or her own viewpoint. It will set out the theoretical and general questions that arise when the many different aspects of the creative design process are documented. To document an item means to provide information about the designers biography, the manufacturing companys history and policies, the marketing strategy, the zeitgeist shared by designers and consumers at a particular concrete historical moment, the technological context and means of production, and the prevailing design trends. We also need to explain the design concept, or problem, in design terms in order to understand what sort of solution the design is intended to offer and, even more complex, we must also justify the value system within which the historian selects and evaluates a particular design object.

Introductionminding the map

In his paper to the International Design History conference in La Havana in 2000 on the historiography of design from a regional perspective, Tevk Balcioglu put the central problem in a new way. He said the tacit acceptance of universal communicative power of design and its multicultural identity does not only support, but also requires a global understanding of the subject.1 As far as I know, this was the rst time design standards were seen as multicultural, the outcome of a synthetic process resulting from the contribution of many different regions and cultural realities. To verify how far this was so we, together with professors Lucila Fernndez from La Havana, and Cecilia Loschiavo from Sao Paulo, took up this challenge when preparing a strand called Local Chapters for a Global History for the Istanbul Design History Conference ( July 2002). Devoted to the exploration of local or regional matters, its main goal was to look for and discover all those aspects of

regional histories that could be considered from a comparative approach. The next task was to reect on these local histories considered as a whole and thus to propose an integrating eld of discussion for all them. There are many theoretical issues underlying Balcioglus statement that will be considered in some way. They could be identied as follows: what does the universal communicative power of design actually mean now that modern standards and a modern style of design seem worthless as a reference to be shared globally? Does identity, when referring to many different cultures, mean just an analytical approach; or rather is it a synthetic one, the identity of the whole of design culture itself ? If so, what is and should be the role of different cultures and regions in dening what a shared design culture may be? And nally, what is meant by a global understanding of the subject? Is it a claim for a general history that could explain and tell many different histories at the 371

The Author [2005]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved.

Anna Calvera

same time, integrating them in a new synthesis such as that included in the scope of a Worldwide History? In that case, what could be the logic, or rather the articulation, of that general history in case it should act, or has to perform the role of a larger narrative? These questions are approached from the point of view of a local, or national, historian who studies what is close at hand, but who sometimes also plays the role of a world historian outside his/her own country. At the same time, this paper is located in the context provided by Victor Margolin and Jonathan Woodham when preparing their session for the Istanbul conference, when they invited the author to contribute to the matter by dealing with the relationship between the local/national and its role in a global approach. Their contribution was titled Design History Narratives: Local, National, Global and its brief put the matter in these terms: how does the issue of local histories and the criterion for doing them relate to the theme of a larger narrative? Thus, the whole question takes on a new character: the aim nowadays is to nd a way to manage and to draw a new outline of the map of design useful enough to build upon a World History that allows a global understanding of the subject. Both Margolin/Woodhams and Balcioglus questions reect a similar worry even if their meaning is subtly different because it is based on some different assumptions, mostly concerning the concept of design used, which is strongly dependent on the area of the map from where they have been drawn up. Thus, while proposed in the context dened by two former international conferences on Design History (Barcelona 1999 and La Havana 2000), the existence of the debate clearly suggests there is a general desire for an integrating discourse which might be a theoretical tool strong enough to manage the already well accepted existence of the plurality of histories of design that have recently risen, according to the variety of approaches used to study design in history. So, what is presently at stake is the capacity and usefulness of a geography of design seen as a structuring element for a World history.

Towards a geographical approach to the history of design

Looking for a new outline of the map of design, two directions have already appeared for research among

local or national historians. The rst one deals with the differences existing among Design cultures trying to establish identities of Design, grasping peculiarities and national oddities. This is a direction that could easily help to build a general, or rather a common, large narrative of the World History of Design, openminded enough to be shared by different regions or nations. It permits a research approach that works from the general to the particular. The second research direction aims at nding points and aspects to be compared between different local, or rather national, identities notable for their differences. This approach works from the particular to the general and, through sharing particularities, it should introduce new interpretative models (might we also call these larger narratives?) that are adapted to local realities.2 Both research directions were displayed and discussed at the Havana conference, although the focus was mostly on the second one as this was considered to be the next step, its having been accepted at the Barcelona conference that the plural applied to the history of design has also acquired a geographic sense. In fact, underlying the Barcelona debates was the opportunity to employ the geographic plural, using an approach similar to that used to grasp the other plurals that have arisen recently in Design History, namely, all those reecting the many marginalized, or simply omitted; in short, the many design experiences left on one side by the standard larger narrative, such as, for example, commodities actually consumed in preference to the heavily promoted high culture or designer goods; other popular items, whether these are not considered because they address market needs or are inspired by mass culture.3 Besides these examples left on one side by History, there are also the works made by female designers, or those considered solely as suburban creations. From the geographical point of view, those left aside are the nations and cultures whose design activities and achievements are still unknown abroad. The subject was not completely new in Havana or Barcelona: a quick glance at Design Issues and the Journal of Design History back issues proves that many historians from the category of unfamiliar countries are nowadays trying to introduce and explain their experiences to a larger public, mainly the international community of design historians. So at last, after this rst stage of acknowledging and collecting pluralities, we are now able to confront many other histories besides the old history of


Local, Regional, National, Global and Feedback

design, the alternate ones, the peripheral or the marginalized ones, using and taking advantage of the polysemic character of all these words. Therefore, the Barcelona conference Design History Seen from Abroad had mainly geographical connotations but it also suggested the need for a way of looking that is able to recognize boundaries wherever they exist: in the social environment, in cultural performances, among demographic groups or even academic disciplines. Once the whole map of design is considered, specic issues appear due, in part, to the need for managing different cultural models dened anthropologically. Within the broadly dened Westernized area, it must deal with geopolitical areas dened according to the economic development achieved, all of them connected to one another in a globalized scene. At Havana there was also a wish to overcome the proposal at Barcelona to use the centre/periphery distinction to articulate the map. In fact, translating literally from Spanish4, the title of Barcelonas conference was doing history from a peripheral standpoint. At the time of its foundation, to focus on geography was a claim to enlarge the boundaries of design history, and it has been proposed using the contrast between a large periphery composed of many different and rather unknown regions, against a unique centre dened by the larger narrative shared internationally as the History of Design of reference. Of course, this was an unbalanced schema articulated on a vertical axis where regions and countries nd their own place according to the different viewpoints used to characterize them: sometimes this is the scale of economic developmentand thus the map becomes a geopolitical or geo-economic one; at other times, the degree of modernization achieved, mostly through designand the map becomes a sociological one; or the degree of Westernizationand thus the map displays the colonization process and the paths of dissemination of Western ways of life.5 There is also the possibility to consider an intellectual or scholarship map along with the others, in which the periphery affects Design History activities, taking account of the spread of research outcomes on an international scale. The central/peripheral approach to the map of design can be traced back to the 1970s and Gui Bonsiepes writings about economically dependent countries. His thesis was used subsequently by other scholars, among them Victor Margolin, who wrote

about it when facing the question of the different worlds that existed prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall: I use the term Third World provisionally to include those countries outside the sphere of the industrially developed nations. Perhaps a better term is countries of the periphery which is used by Gui Bonsiepe and others. The latter offers a better description of where these countries are actually located in the world economy.6 Perhaps Guy Julier is the historian who has used Bonsiepes statement more often, combining it with ideas derived from Jamesons famous book The Geopolitical Aesthetic (1992). In 1997, when speaking about Spain and Hungary, Julier proposed an interesting distinction between countries that represent a semi-periphery which may interact with the Western Capitalist core or create its own centres. This is a rst step to oppose the vertical axis in the relationship centre/periphery and the implicit interpretation posited on the existence of inuences working just in a single direction. For the rest, in historiography, the argument goes back to Emmanuel Wallersteins book on the World System and has been pushed further by Ferdinand Braudel, considering the drawing of concentric peripheries around a centre as a powerful tool to deal with all the human activities usually considered by history: The sketch is valuable not only for the economic life. It is an engine capable of explaining the whole history of mankind, of societies, cultures, the States, all the ways of life.7 Then, it is also worth noting that nowadays many historians working in, or studying the situation of, countries that are usually considered peripheral, talk naturally about the peripheral condition of their nations as a starting point for their research. This is the case for scholars such as Alpay Er and Ozlem Er from Turkey but also for some young Brazilian emerging scholars, such as Dijon de Moraes.8 Their approach is clearly reected in Ers words: Now it is known that industrial design in peripheral countries has its own character, and a distinctly different historical development () industrial design in the periphery is described as being peculiar since they have not emerged as expected.9 On the other hand, the character of marginality of some countries in the West was proposed by Tony Fry in his well known article devoted to design made in Australia but, although the reference to margins has a more aggressive connotation than the peripheral one, its meaning adds no new information to the debate because, though sharing the colonialist


Anna Calvera

approach, it does not acknowledge alternative experiences that can be peculiar to local characteristics: Marginal modernity is built upon appropriation () desire is produced by the circulation of directly or indirectly imported signs.10 In fact, according to Fry, the notion of geography being put into play is marked by the spatial, social, historical and the economic as expressed in and relations of exchange, and thus, the relationship between countries is centred by the economic role they play. Design History, and through it, design itself, are only seen from the point of view of the establishment and reproduction of capitalism which is, of course, a model of interpretation quite difcult to refute. However, Fry keeps a door open for local narratives when he proposes that Design History scope might take a new character and could be addressed to recognise the formation and place of design in the rise and extension of modernity; the operation of design as a generative medium in the formation of the modern social subject through the globalisation of the practices of capitalist means.11 In proposing this, Fry opens up the possibility of a richer conception of design, though it is still understood through its relationship with industrial processes and means of production. Fry also introduced an idea of Design which already included the multicultural identity of design to which Balcioglu referred in the quotation above. In that way, design becomes, as Margolin suggested in Istanbul, an instrument of economic and political nation building shared by many different nations. Moreover, culturally or socially speaking, the peripheral approach has the advantage of combining geo-economic information with cultural issues into the analysis of a Design reality because it can be understood completely in terms of intellectual or knowledge production. In this case, it is necessary to accept that sometimes the leading position corresponds to economics while at other times it is taken on by cultural or mentality developments. Then, when it is necessary to compare different realities from a worldwide point of view, the concentric peripheral model of explanation offers, following Braudel, the possibility to reect how different are the situations coexisting at the same time around the globe and so, would probably show that actually there are many different centres acting and having a dialogue between them.

What is and should be understood by a peripheral or marginal country in design matters? From Barcelona to Havana we tried to nd a denition that allows us to deal with those peculiarities Er was talking about. Then, in Havana, we dened the peripheral condition according to the dependency of models whether economic or cultural, coming from a centre; we also stressed the fact that those models or ways of life are usually not refused, but, on the contrary, they are imported, accepted and integrated to full a new reality, and this is an important step if the aim is to research and grasp local realities. So, peripheral works and items are similar in character and features to those made in the centre while always springing up a little later. There is a delay, sometimes subtle, sometimes quite large, which is culturally speaking the main attribute of the peripheral character. Peripheral art works or design items, although delayed, belong to the main stream of history but they are rarely described because they are nothing other than new examples to conrm what is already known. They prove the spread of a concrete movement and, in doing so, conrm the style of the age; however, in the background, there is a tale which follows the spreading paths and which only takes account of the arrival of inuences. Thus, peripheral narratives related to local matters have always the same structure: a nation is only known by a highlight moment or personage but nobody knows anything about the historical background which explains the work and the character of this highlight moment. The latter becomes the main argument of the research.12 It is easy to see the connections between the objectives of this research and a very old question in the philosophy of history: how to overcome the boundaries imposed by the grand narratives of history. Arthur Danto perhaps put this question most clearly when he showed that, according to Hegel and some later historians, the selection of those who are set aside, or who stand outside historys boundaries, depends on the argument to prove which is presented as a goal to reach usually in the future. Danto himself proposed this description as an explanation of the notion of periphery.13 Now that the future is no longer held to be predetermined, it is possible to enter into and build history on a new basis taking account of the broad and fascinating complexity it actually has. On the part of peripheral or national histories, the job to face is rstly, how to get a place, or the right place, in the


Local, Regional, National, Global and Feedback

global history of Design and, secondly, how peripheral research can win credibility and be attractive enough to locate its outcomes in Design History. It is easy to deduce the rst step is necessary and it is a consequence of the statement about the boundaries of history. To get a place in history and enter inside its boundaries, it is necessary to have a history, and to have a history, it is necessary to build up local and national histories and begin to tell them. That was the aim of the Havana conference and its promising title: The Rise of Regional Histories. Its job was to encourage the research done from a local frame to build those many regional histories. The proposition set out in Havana also had a methodological element: to set aside the vertical axis of economic dependence as the main argument to portray the peripheral situation and to try to balance the model focusing on those aspects that give originality to peripheral experiences in order to build up a map composed of equals. It could be objected that the question, if posed in this way, becomes the expression of a narrow provincialism. This may be so. But while it is a danger, it could also be a challenge and so, perhaps the rise of regional histories might overcome the risk of provincialism because many provinces could acquire new character and interest, as much local research is already proving. The true challenge nevertheless is to avoid the danger of giving even more legitimacy to the centres power, as Viviana Narotzky noted in her Barcelona paper: intellectual production becomes a subsidiary condition when it is dened just by reference to the centre.14 Then, as many local and peripheral historians have suggested, in line with the views expressed above, the chronological delay in cultural experiences becomes the core of the situation in peripheral countries and, thus, the factor that gives its peculiar character and identity. But how might we justify the equal consideration of regions in a world such as the current one, driven as it is by the forces of capitalism? The answer is perhaps to be found in the concept of geography of culture, already developed in various elds once the idea of postmodernism had developed beyond its earlier stylistic denition to become considered as a transitional moment in history. It falls within that general approach which takes complexity as the key element of contemporary times. From this point of view, the cultural map, and in consequence the geographical outlook of history, is based on a

multiplicity of different experiences placed in a shared and globalized landscape. Each then acquires its own image and may be easily perceived, and in doing so, it is possible to retrieve the polycentric character of development.15 Following this trend, Victor Margolin proposed a method to discover the many centres of spreading design cultures. He suggested that grouping design literature per countries provides some sense of National differences in Design thinking and pinpoints those geographical centres where it has been most intense (1989: 265). Previously, Edgar Morin, when he was dealing with the concept of complexity to grasp the character of the new epistemology, had introduced polycentrism to explain how complex organizations, either biological or social, perform and operate. From his point of view, a complex nature depends on its capability to combine different kinds of centres to take decisions at the same time, from the anarchic spontaneous interactions which are a primary source of creative initiatives, through to the strict obedience to decisions arriving from a strong centre.16 He provides a very useful instrument to think about the structural articulation of the map. In fact, with a polycentric approach such as this, the map reects the coexistence of parallel, not alternate, histories interacting with one another, gathering together the particular histories of countries and nations and gradually embodying modernity. Thus, the geography of design becomes a crossroads, a puzzle of relationships and exchanges existing in the design world which is made up of the growing knowledge about the evolution of design in all those different countries. The improvement of knowledge about regional realities is thus seen as enriching and adding complexity to the debate. To do so, as Michel Butor has suggested, what is really important are the elements which are comparable. According to him, through contrasting and confronting we can build up and achieve more dynamic outcomes for Design History.17 This was the aim proposed by Oscar Salinas in his statement for another Istanbul contribution: the construction of regional history facing the transformation of the International society as a whole.

On the mapbut whereabouts and in what colour?

Although it seems promising, to get into history from the peripheral standpoint is not always easy and is not


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straightforward. A rst problem is whether new data coming from local and peripheral realities can add genuinely new information to what is already known and covered by global history. To offer an example close to my own experience, Jonathan Woodhams last book on twentieth-century design18 showed clearly the range of countries in which the arrival of Design practice and the spread of Design culture happened in a similar way; through the building up of institutions such as Design Councils similar to the British one, and professional societies. It is the same story of design professionalization described previously by Gui Bonsiepe in relation to the countries of the Southern Hemisphere. As remarked by Guy Julier, at a most straightforward level this pattern is applicable to all capitalist or proto-capitalist countries and provides a useful starting point for design historians.19 Spain was not mentioned by Woodham in his overall portrait, and thus, although the process was very similar to that described by Woodham and Julier, we can conclude that it was not been considered an experience signicant enough to be included in a global narrative, despite being well known to the authors. Nevertheless, I wonder if a new case such as the Spanish one, quite similar in spirit and process to all those related, will add more information to the argument. If it does not, as I suspect, then it will never be interesting enough to be mentioned, except in a footnote as statistical data to support the general argument. In cases such as this, the duty of a local historian is to explain to foreign colleagues what has been different, specic or original about a local process, so as to conrm, or otherwise, that the foreign colleague is right about his appreciation of the universality of the process. On the other hand, the Spanish experience could have an interest in its own right if the focus, instead of being placed on the process of arrival, is turned towards the development of the concept of design once it had arrived by the mid 1950s and was diffused through the setting up of an institutional system which was similar to the best known and most successful foreign examples. Thus in 1960, formation of ADI FAD; in 1961, ADI FAD became a member of ICSID, and a society of Graphic Designers was founded; 1962, ADG FAD became a member of ICOGRADA; 1973, foundation of the BCD, the Catalan Design Council, and so on until the foundation of DDI, the Spanish promotional entity belong-

ing to the Spanish government around 1987. This beginning gives personality to the design made in Spain afterwards and to the paths adopted throughout its evolution until its international recognition by the mid 1980s and beyond. It is worth mentioning here that Spanish is one of the few European languages which possesses a specic word to name the profession and the activity as adopted during the debates in the early 1960s about the concept and nature of design. But as we have said before, what is really interesting, because it is different, is what was then understood by the word design and therefore what sort of design profession was set up. It could add information about the particular character of Catalan design since then, such as its constant drive for cultural regeneration. I suspect a similar approach can be used to begin an inquiry on design evolution elsewhere, and might equally t regions besides Spain or, more specically, Catalonia. Then, the story must surely go on to identify those specic features that provide a national or regional character. If I take my local situation, there are others aspects of the relationship between national histories and the global one that, in practice, are not devoid of problems and difculties. For example, the way in which ideas accepted worldwide, or patterns of interpretation shared globally are adapted and became signicant in the understanding of a very local reality. Among those ideas, the most controversial is everything related to the Modern and its derived words Modernism, Modernity and Modernization. Very often, the history of design in developing nations focuses on the adoption of modern ways of living as the normal context for the arrival of design as a professionally acknowledged practice, and the consequent spreading of a design culture. Thus, the identication of modern habits and manners, dened by comparison with what is going on in the developed centre, has usually been considered symptomatic of the emergence of Design. This has been the starting point for many local and national narratives. Confronting that explanatory pattern, which is so broadly shared by national design histories, there have been many reactions which deserve to be considered more closely. Modernism, Modernity and Modernization are still sacred concepts for Design History, and arguably they are still potent instruments when researching a local reality, but we must also accept that they can


Local, Regional, National, Global and Feedback

change their meaning completely, depending on where and by whom they are used. In my own country, for instance, the word Modernism refers to the will to reach modernization through cultural improvement and up-to-date performance, an ideal articulated by intellectuals and artists from the 1870s until the 1910s. Therefore, Modernism in Spanish refers to that specic movement generally known abroad as Art Nouveau. It was a cultural and artistic movement before what we call the Modern Movement, that is to say, the movement of rationalist and functionalist architecture and design usually identied as modernism internationally, mainly in the English-speaking countries. In fact, the Modern Movement started in Spain around 1927 and was further shaped during the 1930s through GATCPAC activities.20 When looking at the context of my neighbours, other meanings and uses of the word modern and its derivatives arise everywhere, allowing these concepts to continue to play an important role in research. Lucila Fernndez introduced new elements to the debate when, at the Barcelona Conference, she showed how far modernity was just a theoretical ideal which arrived in Cuba through imported and imposed modernizations concentrated in very precise stages of the islands history. Modernization means to her those sudden transformations of society and their lifestyle, including habits and values systems, adopted at a stroke without having experienced a period of acclimatization to the new reality, that is to say, without living through a necessary process of transculturation.21 She continued the argument in her Istanbul paper by following up the analysis of contemporary Cuba and its historical roots by anthropological writers. From her point of view, the design idea which emerged in Cuba was an imported phenomenon that arrived through inuences coming from different centres and design cultures, initially from Western Europe, then from East Germany and the socialist countries. From her point of view, if modernization is something different to the Western pattern of modernity, as the social history of Cuba shows and Lucila Fernndez has remarked, both concepts could became important tools to analyse how a change of mentality can take place without having any inuence at all in the current production system; moreover, without bringing about the economic system where design culture grows naturally such as the industrial system arising after an industrial revolution.

Something similar can be seen if the word in question is Design. Just as modernity changes meaning and actual performance moving around the world, so does design as seen in relation to Spain and to Cuba. A necessary and urgent step for the Geography of design is to inquire into the different meanings the word design has taken on when arriving in a particular regional situation. Extending the thought, it is possible to assume, or to propose as a hypothesis, that the arrival of the idea of design in many geographical areas around the 1950s or 1960s22 is not related to industrial production but simply to the wish for economic development and, thus, to a culturally changing society which adopts design models as a way to reinforce its changing aspirations in the social area. Thus, if the notion of Design has traditionally been determined by its origin in industrialized production, the experience of peripheral countries can help us to see design as the outcome of a change in mentality, as the word modernization suggests. A hypothesis such as this could help to explain why some products and visual languages have been so rapidly accepted all over the world. To cite only the examples given by Jonathan Woodham, the Sony walkman, IBM computers, the Internet, Phillips cassette and Alessis masterpieces (Woodham 1997: 160). We can also include the acceptance of Far East textiles in the east coast of Africa where they look perfectly African (as in Somalia and Ethiopian markets such as that of Harar). One might assume, intuitively at least, that to analyse modernization as a civilizing process offers a good alternative to the broadly accepted idea, according to which designs history, if it has not been imported, is the natural outcome of the evolution precipitated by the industrial system of production and the technical division of labour. On the other hand, people from Latin America and Asia often point out that they understand modernity as the Western lifestyle and values system, and thus the word has connotations of imperialism, or even colonialism, importing the cosmopolitan values it had in its modernist past.23 I do not regard these two cases as identical historically mainly because westernization has been (and I am still playing the role of a foreign historian) a constant and positive element of the Criolla, this is to say, the Creole culture24 all over Latin America before, during and after the modernist period. In the case of Asia, it is still necessary to


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explore the effects in countries such as Turkey or Japan which have a strong and potent craft tradition and a well structured culture in their historic background.25 Concerning Latin America, a rst step on the road to a Geography of Design History is to take very seriously the peculiarities of Creole performance, not only because this can help us to understand its historical background and dene an identity for so wide a region, but mainly because this embodies multiculturalism as its essential character; and this has been the case at least from the beginning of the colonization ve centuries ago. In fact, everything Creole shows an early and ancient operation of transculturation related to cultural modes where many standards are coming from Old Western Europe, others from Africa and others from Native Americans as well. When modernity is understood and explained in terms of westernization and, consequently is only seen as a negative factor because it was imported to suit economic and geopolitical interestswhich is completely true in most casesmany doors are closed to the understanding of local realities and the complexity and originality of their Design experiences. What is really lost there is the potential of Design to play a role in criticism, renewal and transformation of society that it had when it arrived in a peripheral or undeveloped country, even if built after a Western pattern. This is something to realize when trying to answer the question of why Design arrived in a given nation: why did its inhabitants import an idea such as this? When did it become an ideal and not merely a profession? Was it only an expression and a means to reach development according to geopolitical and economic interests, or did it express the ideal of improving the ways of living of ordinary people? Among Western scholars there is a prick of regretful conscience that deeply affects the idea of design available for local historians. From a peripheral condition of awareness, Design is too often presented as an achievement belonging exclusively to Western culture and so its theory and explanatory concepts are rejected because it seems they are able only to describe the historical process lived by developed countries after industrial revolution and during the span of modernity as dened either by philosophy or architecture. Then Design is dened as part of a specic process of mass production to use Margolins words in Istanbul. From that point of view, the meaning of design seems too narrow because, in that case, it could

only be applied to a range of means and productive systems existing in times and places that are historically and geographically limited. The consequence is to see design itself as exclusive, unable to catch realities outside the Western way of life and economic values. Thus, objections are addressed to the ofcial denition of Design made by a group of designers coordinated by Maldonado and spread by ICSID since then, and so a new concept of design is claimed. The ICSID denition is nonetheless still useful to help us understand non-Western and peripheral experiences. It helps us to grasp the reasons of unequal development existing between different regions and the resulting map of developed Western countries. On the other hand, outside the West, it sets out the idea of design actually imported, and by comparison, it allows us to think about what has been in each case the originality of the translation, and the way it was adapted locally to work in its new situation. In this way we come to a new phenomenon of transculturation in which one of the ingredients is Design itself. This question deserves careful consideration. Following Margolins elaboration of Maldonados denition and his stress on industrial basis and background, the existence of Design has only been possible in particular places and times. This is certainly true, but its consequences are not so restricted as it is implicit in Margolins argument. Yet this narrow definition of Design might play an important role in world design history thanks to its simplicity. In fact, through Maldonados concept, Design becomes a phenomenon clearly delimited in history. It locates design both as a cultural and productive system that suits a historical stage, the main features of which are clear. It is, of course, the process of the industrial revolution as it happened, rst, in North Europe and North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and mass production later, during the twentieth century, once a true mass culture was underway. In that sense, the mere existence of a community of designers struggling to be recognized as such in a certain country far away from the core, becomes for historians a symptom that a deep historical change is going on in that country. Moreover, from the period paradigm standing,26 the rise of design and its conceptualization in the everyday language and culture of a certain society could be perfectly interpreted as the starting point of a


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transformation process experimented by this society and thus its embarking on a new age in its history. Before the eighteenth century in Europe, for example, the theoretical dichotomy craft/design has been an important criterion to select among the productive reality of the time that was signicant for design history, but it has also been a powerful tool to understand how different were two historical situations existing side by side in a transitional period. From this point of view, design also acquires a sense of rupture which hints that a change is going on in history and thus, it becomes a historic concept as well. For this reason it is arguably not helpful that design history includes craft history inside its boundaries, as Simon Jervis once upheld.27 In that way, it could happen that peripheral regions, or even nations with a strong craft tradition, lose the opportunity to explain their recent history and the transformations lived everywhere that modernization is carried out by design practice and discourse. On the contrary, craft and design are two different ways of conception and planning of material and visual culture which t different historical epochs and represent different stages of the whole evolution of the productive systems everywhere. Craft and design histories have to be constructed taking care of and dealing with those elements which better provide the specicity of respective historical contexts and periods. If it is accepted that design and the items produced through designing are the outcomes naturally obtained when industry and mechanization are introduced according to what happened in the capitalist core, then the concept conveys a sense of historical disjunction that historians should not reject. While keeping unchanged the old concept of design related to mass production through industry, it could be easier to understand unexpected events such as what was hinted above; that in many regions all over the world not yet incorporated to industrialization, or still being in a backward stageas proves the lack of a workingclass movement in the Maghreb and Far East areas, an idea of Design arrived which was mostly a cultural achievement, soon becoming an ideal of progress, the visible symbol of economic development.28 In those cases, design has been imported because it was seen as an agent for driving industrial development and so it becomes a reliable factor to stimulate the economy even if transformation does not t the historic and well known pattern of British industrial revolution.

Modernization could also arrive through design items and debates instead of growing from production processes.29 This is what we said in Havana: There is a subtle link between modernisation processes experimented by a society through its desire of modernity, and the arrival of Design idea since its early promotion and diffusion until its setting up and reaching of a popular familiarity.30 Nevertheless, the fact that professional design could exist without being a consequence of changes attained by labour processes and traditions does not imply that industrial systems and mass production are not embedded in the design concept itself. We might conclude that concepts such as modernization, modernity and modernism, emptied of their historical and stylistic reference to Modern Movement items, could help us to understand cultural evolution in different regions. Underlying this line of thought there is the question of local identities and their social and cultural basis. As a historian, I feel nervous whenever the idea of identity is proposed as an argument to prove the need of preserving traditions. There are several traditions that should be set aside throughout the world, even if the price of doing so is that less structured cultures result, as some anthropologists have warned. It is relevant to mention the Spanish experience which, with its pronounced Romantic avour for foreigners and its background in dictatorship for many inhabitants, serves as a telling example of what it is not necessary to preserve. On the other hand it must be acknowledged that, to oblige other cultures to preserve their identity because it makes sense for us spectators and foreigners who feel bored when faced with the loss of diversity in the world is also a sort of cruel imperialism. In Barcelona, for example, the modern image of the town based on the 1992 Olympic Games has in many points contradicted its Spanishness. These days, local identities or regional characters may not function outside the tourism and souvenir industries. Besides, in Western design history, the question of local identities is a very old one. We recall the Deutsches Werkbund and its efforts to define a German form. Traditionally, identity has been an argument made by governments whenever they face the need to export industrial or home-made products. Francois Lyotard might have been the rst author to point out the extent to which local identities and cultural differences are exploited economically as


Anna Calvera

merchandise by the global market since the Second World War.31 Some years later, Andrea Branzi devised what could be considered the most searching criticism of the quest for local identities and the will to preserve regional cultures because, he argued, they bring about ethnic confrontations and enmities. On the other side, however, it must also be recognized that not to respect cultural identities at all, if it is a political imposition, could bring similar results. According to Branzi, international culture is made up by the wide system of failures, of questions never answered that local cultures leave open.32 In that sense, when cosmopolitanism was still an ideal of progress, even Braudel, in his writings on the history of civilizations, often warned against those nostalgic discourses recalling a lost identity when faced by the uniformity brought about by globalization. In short, although an ideological issue, it is still interesting to understand the transformative force the Design idea has had when it emerges in many countries around the world. The next step is to analyse how craft traditions and cultural background have inuenced the idea of Design, making up a new synthesis and, arguably, a new and different modernity.

The nature of the global and the need for a larger narrative
When we deal with a global narrative, whatever its character, we necessarily deal with some very different, overlapping, and often confusing concepts. We might ask, do Global History, World History and General History mean the same thing methodologically? Until now many design history teachers have organized their own personal general history narrative in order to provide their design students with a broad knowledge of what they need to be able to perform as design practitioners, not to have to reinvent garlic soup, or the wheel, and to become professionals able to move around the world as informed designers. The outcome has been a kind of Ideal History, which Renato de Fusco once called Transcendental History, because it rests on local situations, and is therefore a general history quite similar in spirit to that old Modern Narrative. Objections have often been raised since postmodernism, and even before that, by the critics of the Pop movement. Do we, as

local or national historians, need a general or ideal history such as that proposed by De Fusco in order to start our work? It depends on the character of this larger narrative; however, we might assume that some sort of larger narrative would still be a very useful instrument to have. It is clear that if the larger narrative is simply the story of legitimation of different events as part of that history, then it will not be at all useful since we do not yet claim to know what should be legitimated. In that sense, an Ideal or General History is simply a new expression of the idea of history proposed by philosophers from Vico and Hegel to Croce and thus represents a backwards step. Yet de Fuscos explanation, while inherited from the debate about Croces thinking, includes a very interesting situation of feedback between local and general. He said The eternal ideal history is transcendental with regard to the particular histories of single nations but it doesnt exclude a relationship between them: one implies the others like the relationship that exists between the real and the ideal, between what ought to be and what is, between the norm and that which could develop and become a norm.33 Very often we have compared what happened locally and what happened abroad, using a sort of general-ideal history like this as a model to which to refer. It has also been used as a tool to measure the real worth of local contributions, to demonstrate the degree of modernization, or the level of current awareness achieved locally. I know that epistemologically, I am using a very idealistic concept of history which can only be justied by reference to the philosophy of history, but this is not the right place to develop an argument such as this. For the time being, it is preferable to focus on the very practical problems constantly faced by a local historian. The need for a general history takes on a different meaning when we are dealing with inuences. For a local or national historian, there is a more complex task to do than to register inuences because there is a process of adaptation of the ideas and aesthetic references, or technological innovation, coming from abroad and, through feedback, results become subtly different. Seen in this new light even those regions which adopt and develop foreign influences are achieving a synthesis of their own, and thus it is never too late to propose their own story to build the general, largest narrative. To place national, regional or


Local, Regional, National, Global and Feedback

metropolitan experiences in the international context is an important job for all historians, and it will always help to introduce corrective elements to the main stream of History. Fernand Braudel invariably asked national historians to consider their near and distant neighbours in order to capture the extent to which local reality depends on global and general actions. If history were to be organized geographically, the larger narrative could emerge through the comparison of particular situations placed on a map drawn up as a network. For the time being the comparative method is revealing itself as an important instrument to deal with different histories placed on an allembracing map. When discussing Pierre Vilars book on Catalan history, Braudel quoted Marc Blochs words in favour of a comparative history: comparer pour svader des cadres particuliers, ceux du temps comme ceux de lespace.34
Anna Calvera University of Barcelona

1 See Balcioglu, Tevk, On the priorities of regional design historiography. La Havana: 2a. Reunin Internacional de Historiadores y Estudiosos del Diseo, 2000. www. 2 See Calvera, Anna, Historia e historias del diseo: la emergencia de las historias regionales. La Habana: 2a. Reunin Internacional de Historiadores y Estudiosos del Diseo, 2000. www.; see also Calvera, Anna: Design in Barcelona: Its history and its future in the globalised scene. The Design Journal, Vol. 4, Issue 2, pp. 413. See also Alpay Er: Development Industrial Design in the Third World. Journal of Design History, vol. 10 no. 3, pp. 293307. 3 Woodham, Jonathan M, Recent trends in Design Historical Research in Britain. Calvera & Mallol: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference in Design History, Barcelona: Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 2001: 8597. See also Julier, Guy: Towards a Third way in Design History, bid, pp. 112116; and Narotzky, Viviana: Consumir diseo: de lo privado a lo pblico, bid, pp. 155159. See also Doordan, Dennis P. (ed), Design History. Chicago: The MIT Press: 1995 and his references to Kruger & Mariani: Remaking History, 1989. They are the authors of the term alternate histories to refer to all those nowadays acknowledged marginalized or neglected groups inside western and developed tradition. 4 The Barcelona Conference had two titles not exactly meaning the same due to translation: in Spanish: Doing History from the Peripheral Standpoint: History and Histories of Design while in English the title was Design History Seen from Abroad: History and Histories of Design. When the pun was discovered, an interesting debate concerning how to evaluate and describe different regions came to the stage together with a need to nd


11 12

13 14


the equivalent words. Peripheral seemed soon a very victimist and ideological word to English-speaking people while Marginal countries proposed by them following Tony Fry, had the same or even worse connotations to Spanish speaking people. The debate was explained in La Havana together with the proposal of thinking about the Geography of Design in a way that overcomes the dependent relationship implicit in the geopolitical discourse, and to enjoy an egalitarian horizon at least at the starting point of the research. In Istanbul, it was the subject of a strand devoted to analysing what Westernization means in countries such as Japan and Turkey, which have a strong craft tradition and cultural heritage behind them. Concerning the quotation by Margolin, see Epilogue Post War Design Literature in Design Discourse, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989, p. 285, no. 19. Guy Julier, Re-Drawing the Geography of European Design: The Case of Transitional Countries. Stockholm, 2nd EAD Conference, 1997: The paper examines the interactions between core and periphery in design entrepreneurial terms; he followed the argument at his 2001 Annual Conference of the Design History Society held in London, not yet printed. See also Braudel: En guise de conclusion (1977) Les crits de Fernand Braudel. Lhistoire au quotidien. Paris, Editions de Fallois, 2001, p. 248: Le schema ne vaut pas seulement pour la vie conomique. Cest une machine explique lhistoire entire des hommes, les socits, les cultures, les tats, toutes les formes de vie. See H. Alpay Er, many papers on Turkish design reality and experience presented recently at Conferences and international meetings (Milan 2001 Designing Researches; 4th European Academy of Design Conference, Aveiro 2001); see also Ozlem Er Newly Industrialized Countries in The Design Journal, vol. 0, no. 1, 1997, pp. 3040; Design Issues vol. 19, no. 2; Spring 2003, pp. 1728. See also Dijon de Moraess paper in the 4EAD Proceedings, Aveiro 2001. H. Alpay Er, The Advantage or Disadvantage of Delay? Peculiar Characteristics of Industrial Design Education in Peripheral Countries. Luisa Collina & Giuliano Simonelli (eds), Designing Designers: Training strategies for the Third Milennium. Milano: Politecnico di Milano, 2001, pp. 27128. Tony Fry, A Geography of Power: Design History and Marginality Design Issues 1989. Margolin & Buchanan (eds.), The Idea of Design. Chicago: The MIT Press, 1995, pp. 204218. Ibid. As an example, see Gyrgy Haimans article on Hungarian Design and Matthew Turners Early Modern Design in Hong Kong both in Dennis P. Doordan (ed.), Design History. Chicago: The MIT Press, 1995, p. 52 and 200, respectively. Arthur C. Danto, Despus del n del arte. El arte contemporneo y el linde de la historia (1997). Barcelona: Paids, 1999, p. 48. See Viviana Narotzky: Consumir diseo: de lo privado a lo pblico. Calvera & Mallol, Proceedings of the 1st International Conference in Design History, Barcelona: Publications de la Universitat de Barcelona, 2001, pp. 1559. For a denition of geography with those similar words, see Giuseppe Barbieri: Storia e geograa della cultura in Barbieri & Vidali, La ragione possibile. Per una geograa della cultura. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1988, p. 116: recuperare un policentrismo dello sviluppo. According to him, la geograa mostra con immagini, fa vedere, distribuisce i fenomeni che osserva in un paesaggio.


Anna Calvera
The argument was proposed as the main subject for a conference held in 1985 n Italy: in una pluralit di modi, forme, strategie di ragione appare nel panoraman culturale contemporaneo la possibilit di una geograa che rimanda allesistenza di un paesaggio, il paesaggio composito e alterno in cui luomo contemporaneo sta disponendo i materiali e i progetti del proprio sapere e delle sue trasformazioni (1988: 8) The polycentric awareness has been also defended many time ago in Design Issues vol. 8, no. 1 (1991) pp. 7477 Letter from Munich: articial world follows () polycentric and extremely differential logic. 16 Morin, Edgar: Le vie della complessit in Gianluca Bocchi e Mauro Ceruti: La sda della complessit (1985). Milan: Feltrinelli, 1991/6th: 51: un primo livello di complessit organizzazionale. Ma al livello delle organizzazioni biologiche e sociali abbiamo anche un tipo di complessit che relativo alle questioni del centro e del policentrismo. Le organizzazioni sociali sono organizzazioni complesse perch sono in uno stesso tempo acentrate (funzionano cio in maniera anarchica, attraverso interazioni spontanee), policentriche (caratterizzate da numerosi centri di controllo, or dorganizzazioni) e centrate (dispongono cio nello stesso tempo, di un centro di decisione). Cos le nostre societ contemporanee si autorganizzano a partire, nello stesso tempo, da un centro di comando e di decisione (lo stato, il governo), da molteplici centri di organizzazioni (le autorit regionali, le autorit comunali, le imprese, i partiti politici, etc.) e anche da interazioni spontanee fra gruppi e fra individui. 17 Butor, Michel, Geograa della cultura. Barbieri & Vidali 1985, pp. 224237. Ci che conta per noi sono gli elementi di comparazioni e ogni elemento diventa assolutamente prezioso; a partire della nozione di confronto che possiamo costruire delle conseguenze dinamiche e arrivare a delle previsioni molto pi sosticate di quelle in uso ancora allinizio del secolo (XX). 18 Woodham, Jonathan, Twentieth Century Design. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 19 Guy Julier, Re-Drawing the Geography of European Design: The Case of Transitional Countries. Stockholm, 2nd EAD Conference, 1997: 20 GATCPAC means Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture. It was a group of several architects whose internationally better known member is Josep Llus Sert, a close disciple of Le Corbusier. The group was formed in 1931 and dissolved in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. He worked in a very modern style and introduced modern architecture to Barcelona in 1927, when a rst exhibition took place. For many reasons the group has often been considered as belonging to the second generation of the Modern Movement. After the war, Sert went to the United States while other members went either to Chile or Argentina. Merc Vidal has been researching those journeys due to exile as the paths through which inuence travels around and establishes links among distant cultures. See, for example, her paper read at the Barcelona conference on Antonio Bonets work in Buenos Aires: Diseo contemporneo y recepcin museolgica. Un caso concreto: la silla BKF Barcelona Proceedings, 2001, pp. 294303; the La Havana paper relates Rodrguez Arias experience in Chile and the setting up of Muebles Sur, 21 Fernndez, Lucila: Modernidad y posmodernidad en Cuba. Calvera & Mallol (eds.), Historiar desde la periferia: historia e historias del diseo. Barcelona: Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 2001, pp. 7184. See mainly p. 71: en pases sin una industrializacin orgnica, el diseo naci al calor de inuencias exteriores, por lo que es urgente comenzar a deslindar lo propio y especco o la manera en que se reinterpretan estas inuencias () En Cuba, al igual que en otros pases fuera del escenario europeo, no se puede hablar de modernidad sino de sucesivas modernizaciones que, de manera importada, han sido introducidas por diferentes acontecimientos a lo largo de la historia. Modernizaciones son transformaciones bruscas sin tiempo de adaptarse y aclimatarse a nuestras realidades, es decir, sin la adecuada transculturacin. The statement that design spread internationally around the 1950s and 1960s outside the Western industrialized core is supported mainly by the activities developed by ICSID and ICOGRADA since its foundation in order to embody societies from different countries all around the world. Latin American countries are good representatives of that process and Spain and Turkey as well. Other centres spreading design inuences around the world during that time were the HfG Ulm and the Basel Graphic Design School. Drawing the map of the arriving of Design in all these peripheral countries could be done by searching ICSID membership and its conference attendees. See for example the outcomes of a working group devoted to globalization in the 17th ICSID and ICOGRADA joint Conference held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in October 1997. A report is available in tipoGrca, 38. Buenos Aires, March 1999, pp. 47. Criollo corresponds to the English word Creole. The word is also used to designate everything which is specic of Latin America and its culture. What is really interesting is that it is also the rst identication of a continuation on an old cultural synthesis, an aspect which is not usually remembered by Latin Americans themselves as an important heritage of their own culture since the spreading after romanticism of the indigenist myth. As did the strand Facing the West in the Near, Middle and Far East coordinated by Haruhiko Fujita in the Istanbul Conference dealing with Westernization and Near, Middle and Far Eastern Cultures. Regarding the period paradigm, see Franco Cardini: Grandezza e miseria del paradigma epocale. Barbieri & Vidali 1985, pp. 289305. See Simon Jervis, Dictionary of Design and Designers. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. For a general overview and most common approaches to the question among British historians, see John Walker Design History and the History of Design. London: Pluto Press, 1989; chapter 3 Craft and Design. It is also worth a reminder that a denition of design so clearly limited historically encloses many problems when looking to the future. As Margolin himself pointed out in his Istanbul address, it is necessary to take into account the changing role of the designer in relation to the evolving methods of production in postmodern or an after-postmodern age which I presume is just beginning now. Guy Julier pointed at this phenomenon from its more sad aspect when dealing with post-communist Hungarian society and the popular success experienced by the strongest symbols of late capitalism such as MacDonalds. See Julier 1997: 2 of 10. Calvera, Anna Conferencia de Anna Calvera: Historia e historias del diseo: la emergencia de las historias regionales. Lucila Fernndez (ed.), Memorias de la 2nd Reunin Cientca Internacional de Historiadores y Estudiosos del Diseo, La emergencia de las historias regionales. La Habana, junio de 2000. www. See Franois Lyotard: La posmodernidad explicada a los nios (1986) Barcelona: Gedisa, 1987: 46/47.












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32 See Andrea Branzi: Introduzione al design italiano. Una modernit incompleta. Milano: Baldini & Castoldi, 1999, p. 175 Tutti coloro che hanno che contro il mercato planetario potessero ancora valere le alternative locali e le culture regionali, hanno costatato che da queste ipotesi non sono emerse che guerre etniche, conitti religiosi e separatismi devastanti; anche possiamo dire che se c una costante presente oggi nel mondo attuale, essa costituita del fallimento puntuale di tutte le culture locali, rese al suolo dalle communicazioni di masse, dai mercati globali appiattite dal consumismo che ne ha distrutto gli improponibili modelli () La Cultura internazionale costituita dal vasto sistema di fallimenti, dalle domande senza risposta che le culture locali hanno lasciato aperte. Paradossalmente, dumque essa non si basa pi nel sistema delle certezze da proporre al mondo, ma su un sistema problematico aperto. 33 De Fusco, Renato: Artici per la storia dellarchitettura. Naples, Rome and Milan: Edizioni Scientiche Italiane, 1998, p. 86: La storia ideale eterna trascendente rispetto alla storia particolare delle singole nazioni ma non esclude la relazione fra le due: la implica come la relazione tra ideale e reale, tra il dover essere e lessere, tra la norma e ci che a la norma pu elevarsi. 34 See Fernand Braudel La Catalogne, plus lEspagne de Pierre Vilar. Annales, (April 1968) in Lhistoire au quotidien. Vol III. Paris: Fallois, 2001, p. 493.