Thesis Info

Thesis Title
A postcolonial critique of industrial design: A critical evaluation of the relationship of culture and hegemony to design practice and education since the late 20th century.
Taslima Begum
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages
University of Plymouth
Thesis Supervisor
Prof. Dr. Michael Punt
Supervisor e-mail
Michael.punt AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Prof. Robert Pepperell, Prof. David Smith
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Arts and Humanities, Design Philosophy
Languages Familiar to Author
Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic
URL where full thesis can be found
Industrial design, technology, postcolonial studies, culture and hegemony, design history, theory, practice and education, trans-cultural, inclusivity, globalisation
Abstract: 200-500 words
This thesis specifically focuses on the professional practices and training of Western industrial designers using postcolonial theory to inform working practices in a complex global ecology. It investigates the culturally hegemonic construction of design solutions in man-made products. By adopting key ideas from postcolonial and cultural studies as a lens to evaluate fields of industrial design discourse, practice and pedagogy, the work proceeds from the starting point that design is not intrinsic to a product but the result of a myriad different forces and factors acting on it externally including hegemonic potencies. By reinterpreting technological formations in light of research emerging from post-colonial studies, it attempts to broaden our intellectual understanding of how product design in theory, practice and education can often rely upon western [hegemonic] aesthetic and deep cultural archetypes. The purpose of this enquiry is to highlight the potentials that exist to explore a synergy between east and west in industrial design with a prospective vision for global, trans-cultural design. The research claims that current design practice often leads to culturally determined - rather than universal - conceptions in design and it attempts to re-conceptualise design as practice within a necessarily hegemonic culture. This hegemony needs to be redressed via increased awareness and changes to design discourse, practice and education. This is therefore an epistemological project to identify knowledge within this subject area and as an epistemological investigation it attempts to: • Further understand the trajectory of hegemony and globalisation in relation to design and technology. • Critically engage with cross- and trans-cultural, global and social design implications. • Address the discrepancies between designers’ culture and users’ culture, to indicate the need for a more culturally-aware design practice and educational provision. The research was initiated by identifying a number of potential questions that designers and users may consciously or subconsciously confront when faced with products that problematise the imagined universal values of designed products in terms of gender and culture. It explores how certain design solutions produced and developed in the west and their diffusion into global, international markets and foreign cultures could affect those cultures by asking in what ways the usability, aesthetic and symbolic qualities of these artefacts often unwittingly contribute to the privilege or marginalisation of people from particular socio-cultural backgrounds. The thesis intervention is that product designers are not explicitly trained to comprehend nor surmount their respective cultural constraints and design education both nationally and internationally is not sufficiently equipped with the tools to acknowledge and confront this. The key arguments presented in this thesis are: 1. Products can be deconstructed to identify cultural connotations or omissions in their design. 2. Global, a-cultural design and universal usability are fallacies that often deny the existence of an underlying cultural hegemony at play. 3. Mass-produced products can gradually homogenise and eradicate cultural diversity contributing to the negative elements of colonialist attitudes or/and globalisation. 4. Both academia and educational institutions have the potential to extend awareness in this subject to inform and train future designers and graduates to better understand their responsibilities in global, trans-cultural, cross-cultural and multicultural contexts.