Ronald B. Kemnitzer, FIDSA, Professor, School of Architecture & Design | Virginia Tech
As our world rushes headlong into the embrace of globalization, it may appear to many that aesthetic diversity and visual richness of product design is in decline. For decades, U.S. designers sought to emulate the refined, understated visual style of western Europeans. Now that we have climbed to that plateau of accomplishment, other cultures are emulating us, principally countries in the Far East. In our rush to develop a visual language that is universal in appeal, it may be that it is more universally bland rather than richly proclaiming its culture of origin.
Of the 130 winners of the 2004 IDEA/Business Week design competition, 33 were from 14 countries outside the U.S.—Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Taiwan. While the designs are visually refined and certainly highly functional, there is virtually no way to visually relate the designs to their culture of origination with very few exceptions. The most notable of those is the Chevrolet Super Sport Roadster (SSR) that conjures memories of cruising the strip, rock and roll music, and a time in which the future was viewed far more optimistically than we allow ourselves in this era. This design is so unique and powerful because it celebrates its’ culture of origination rather than emulating a homogenized global design aesthetic.