Journal Article

A World History of Design and the History of the World

Victor Margolin

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 18, issue 3, pages 235-243
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epi043
A World History of Design and the History of the World

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World history, as an institutional enterprise with a community of scholars, a journal, and a professional association, is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Although comprehensive world histories continue to appear, design historians are only gradually confronting the question of how a world history of design might be written. A major problem is the limited definition of design that has, for many scholars, confined its study to industrialized regions of the world. We need to understand how different cultures have provided for their respective material needs, as well as how larger forces of politics and economics have shaped the conditions for material production in those cultures. Design is an integral component of modern production and a world history of design should argue for its vital role in economic development. Other issues include the rise of nationalism and the question of race. Looking at the history of design from a world perspective enables us to see that people of all ethnic backgrounds have been active designers within their own communities, even if they have largely worked outside the orbit of advanced industrialization. Writing a world history of design with an emphasis on how empires, nations, and other political entities have used it to advance their political and economic agendas links design to the larger problems of the world.

Keywords: comparative history; design history; graphic design; history of decorative arts; industrial design; modernism

Journal Article.  6375 words. 

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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