Do we need a Global History of Design ?

History is written by the winners ; but what about the history of those who lost ? Since our primary education, we’ve been thought a perspective of history, claimed as the one and only Truth. So how can this truth be different from one another ? in another region, country or continent ? History is fascinating in the sense that is made of lot of histories, with their contradictions. As individuals, we all see the world through our own eyes, influenced by our own background which makes us all different.

good_design_1951_01_00When I started my design education, I realised how universal history of design was, having a common perspective shared in the whole world, or should i say “The Western world”. Looking back at one of the main turning point of Design History “Good Design Exhibition” at the MOMA of New York, 1951. This exhibition sets the beginning of new industrial design principals, bringing rationalised concepts, refined aesthetics and mass production. But what is “Good” ? For who ? Why is it supposed to be better than anything else ?

Raised in the western world society, I am fully aware of the economic and business ambitions all these products used to fit into. The accuracy of the design of these products where complimented according to criteria defined by the hegemony of the Anglo Saxon business markets and economic growth ambitions. Another example would be to look at the “International style” in architecture where norms and standardisation became the main principal, facilitating production with rationalised design. But all the story that we define as THE history of Design is in fact only the western world perspective of the bigger picture.


So how can we talk about the ambition to create a Global History of Design, when we are looking at history from our biased point of view, putting us as the center of the discipline. Design does not belong to anyone, because it is embedded in all of us no matter where we are coming from.

Instead of looking for the hegemony or dominance in History of Design, we should clame for diversity and listen to what others have to say about their history. Every countries, cultures has their own story to tell, not only western ones. This is why beyond the language barriers and cultural differences, we should build all together our common histories and make sure that they are heard at the same level.

History is a legacy that we build not only for ourselves, but also for our future. We should not let our history be written by someone else, but grab the tools to write it by ourselves.



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