Design Globalization: Part 1

by Luke Wroblewski December 10, 2006

A conversation about the impact of large scale global changes, outsourcing, and international design training/firms on design and designers. What do designers and design firms need to focus on and be aware of to be successful in this changing hyper-global market? Let's discuss...

Niti Bhan New Markets Strategist Author, Numerous


Dirk Knemeyer Principal, Involution Studios Author, Numerous


Joseph O'Sullivan Senior Design Director, Design Methods, Yahoo! Inc.


Luke Wroblewski Principal Designer, Social Media, Yahoo! Inc. Founder/Principal, LukeW Interface Designs Author, Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability


Design Globalization: Part 1

Dirk Knemeyer The original Design Futures conversation touched on a lot of different things, but one of the points that really deserves the most attention is globalization. While the offshoring of jobs from the U.S. continues to get most of the press, the reality and impact of globalization is so much more nuanced and complex. At the most basic level, globalization is:

  • Creating a dramatically larger knowledge workforce
  • Creating a culturally and geographically diverse knowledge workforce
  • Creating new, emerging consumer markets
  • Extending the capitalist paradigm into heretofore "underdeveloped" cultures
  • Creating new cross-culture complexity (and opportunities) for expansion-minded companies and products
  • Creating myriad new companies, originating in new cultures and with different mindsets, vision and strategies

And this is just for starters. But what I hope this list clearly communicates is the real breadth and impact of globalization: for designers, business, culture, governments - everyone in the developed or developing world.

I know that each of you have some really thoughtful and well-formed insights on globalization; Niti, thinking about the future of design in the context of globalization, why don't you kick off our conversation?

Niti Bhan Dirk, you bring up some good points here in your articulation of what globalization 'is' and cover the majority of the aspects of the shifts we're all seeing, online and off. However, contentious little soul that I am, I'd like to take your thoughts one step further into the abstraction layer. Every point that you make adds complexity to the "flux", since it seems to me that we are at an inflexion point here. And this inflexion point is one that covers the overlap of not just of business and design but an overlap of design, business, culture, government, and people. I go back to what I wrote in the Fall of 2005, with reference to the "flux":

I think that if we take business, technology and society (people) as three inter-dependant spheres, they, too, are in such a state of "knife-edge equilibrium" or precarious balance. At any given time, one changes - new products emerge, new technology is invented, new ways of relating/communicating - they usher in changes in the other spheres by their very inter - relatedness.

And in my opinion, the very nature of globalization is what is emerging from this "flux". That is to say, that whereas earlier the 'three spheres' were geographically bound, within the context of the state of the art in global communications, today, these spheres of influence are on a global scale. Look at us creating this document across miles, collaboratively.

Now, to bring it back to thinking about the future of design, I believe that designers are in a particularly unique position, only because of their ability to recognize patterns, an inherent quality of the profession. To quote my post once more,

That is, it could be said, that the interstitial spaces between these three areas are always in limnos. I also believe that it is in these liminal spaces that innovation occurs, naturally, as limnos, is always the threshold or the in between and to innovate, means to create something new. You could use the way a kaleidoscope works as a metaphor.

And, metaphors are part and parcel of the visual designer's craft. What do you think?

There's more...

Continue reading part two of Design Globalization right here on Functioning Form.