The Myth of Global Design History

The concept of ‘glocal’ has been pervading through media, the food we eat, the shows we watch, our education system and so on. As an Indian living in a bustling metropolitan city like Bangalore I had the choice of eating in a Japanese/ Vietnamese / Italian restaurant, have my fill of British/American television shows on Netflix and closely engage with the United States’ Presidential election. As a designer, the soft wares I used for my work, the people I whose work I drew inspiration from on Instagram were not restricted to my country or my ethnic background. Even before I was physically in a different continent I felt like I was a global citizen – simply because of the exposure I was privileged to have in my lifetime, through the rise of technology and the phenomenon of globalization.

In the article ‘what is global history now?’ the author Jeremy Adelman talks about the concept of Westerners and Resterners. His point of view is that the progress or decline of the West is closely linked to the economic/political/social changes happening in the rest of the world. This is interesting as we see the West as almost a yardstick for the rest of the ‘Rest’. Who has created this subtle yet poignant yardstick that pervades most of our decisions, lifestyle choices today?

This era of globalization has also ushered in a new but confusing question of the changing face of individual identity and how the labels we often impose on people based on their race, nation state might be misconstrued. The country I come from, definitely helps someone gauge and demographically understand my physical appearance but does it really define me? The cross cultural identities that are now present around the world represent the current state of moving away from rigid boxed cultural narratives. As easily we accept technological advances originating in the ‘West’ we are still generations behind on accepting and exploring the complexities of cultural histories and identities. Hi tech products developed in a software company in the West might be the brainchild of an émigré designer -the novelty of a new innovation could be rooted in the cultural view point of an individual. I am not completely opposed to the idea of a singular global design history. However, I feel like it must be layered, with metaphorical chapters that show how with design, the ideas, expression, values of people have evolved; try to build a framework for a complex cultural design history to prevent the rise of monoculture.


Fry, T., 1989. A Geography of Power: Design History and Marginality. Design Issues,

6(1), pp.15–30.