Since the industrial revolution, large-scale production became possible. Trade and transportation, too, have been developed, so products could be distributed worldwide. Through these developments high quality products are now available for many people. When you look at different countries in Europe, the Americas, or Asia these days, people use the same mobile phones, wear the same clothes, and drive the same cars. Internationally acting firms produce goods using popular design and distribute them with deliberate marketing systems. But the reverse side is that this tendency has ruined numerous small manufacturers and has wiped out regional characteristics whose importance people are realizing by now.
In Japan large-scale production mostly started after World War II. Many Japanese companies, such as Toyota, Sony, Panasonic, and Shiseido, acted successfully on international markets. Designers of the post-war period mostly pursued a career in the department of product design of a large-scale company. The reason why Japanese products are popular in foreign countries is not only high-tech but also high quality design.
But there is a local industry since early times in Japan that is strongly related to traditional and regional craftsmanship, like lacquerwork, carpentry, woodwork, ceramics, or smithery. The craftsmen of these local companies created their products in a traditional way, without cooperating with any designers. So these days their products sometimes have a slightly old-fashioned or less attractive aura.
It is only about a decade ago that cooperation between traditional craftsmen and young designers startet to develop. The new generation of designers is turning away from large-scale industrial design and is “rediscovering” the traditional arts and crafts with their high quality of production and their reliable techniques. At the same time local companies are “rediscovering” the importance of good design to creating fashionable goods and competing successfully on the market. Therefore, young designers and traditional craftsmen start to cooperate in order to find inspiration and create new designs for vernacular crafts. In Europe there are similar tendencies to be seen.
During the symposium we will discuss this “new regionalism” in Japan and Europe with designers and academics. In which direction will industrial design go, despite developing globalization? How will industrial design balance between seemingly opposite elements such as urban and local, high-tech and low-tech, and industries and crafts? How can local, regional, and vernacular elements stimulate industrial design?