Global | Local

Global or Local? Make it Both

“When a product becomes a global success, available everywhere to everyone, can it still be truly special to anyone? … The fact is, people like being part of a global community. Yet they also value variety and uniqueness. They like products that go “beyond the call of duty,” offering something more than their basic function. That’s why local markets with particular needs often spawn the “next big thing” globally.”

2005. Global or Local? Make it Both, Bloomberg Buiness [Online]. 21 August [Accessed 6 Ocotber 2015]. Available from

Can a global product be truly unique? Or is tradition and local craft what make an item extraordinary?

Alvaro Catalán de cón Home/Office.

A local tattoo applied onto a universal design.

Alvar Catalan de Ocon - Home Office
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Alvaro Catalán de Ocón took a well know global product (the Aluminum Chair by Charles and Ray Eames designed in 1958) and used local artisans to make it irreplaceable. Each chair is hand stitched with a one off deign.The addition of localised hand labor makes us consider the worth of an otherwise, fairly generical, global product.

“The ornamentation of the chair is done stitch by stitch, completely by hand by a professional artisan, challenging our preconceptions and accentuating our impression of just how much hand labour and how much industry is really applied to what we understand as an industrial object.
The Aluminum Chair is a global product, sold worldwide with minimum variations. The HOME/OFFICE project offers the possibility of transforming the Aluminum Chair into a local product by local artisans.”

Alvaro Catalán de Ocón . Home/Office. [Online]. [Accessed 13 October 2015]. Available from:

David Trubridge

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David Turbridge operates from a workshop in a remote area of New Zealand. As an environmentally conscious designer he chooses to use sustainable materials, as well as flat packing his products in order to reduce freight costs and packaging used. This idea has allowed him to develop a locally produced item which can be shipped internationally, causing minimal impact to the environment. Consumers or retailers assemble their products upon arrival, this interaction allows them to create a more emotional connection with their item.

“From a design point of view, the products use only the minimal amount of materials and are generated with a focus on longevity, rather than mimicking quick-moving trends. Shipping and freight is often reduced by the introduction of the Seed System. These come flat packed and ready for the customer to assemble. Larger, more complex kitsets are also shipped as flat packs, with distributors constructing them in preparation for the market.”

David Trubridge. About Us. [Online]. [Accessed 12 October 2015]. Availablle from:

Bernhardt Design and Danerka

Global Edition

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Danerka are Danish furniture designers/manufacturers who choose to only produce their pieces in Denmark. This means they can guarantee the sustainability of materials used and ensure the emissions created are kept to a minimum. They believe that outsourcing manufacture  to low-wage countries results in valuable skills and knowledge of traditional craftsmen being lost. Not only would this result in lower quality finished pieces, but these cheaper items would also be created at the expense of environment.

By teaming up with American furniture company Bernhardt Designs in the ‘Global Edition’ project, they give international designers the opportunity to present their pieces to an European market without compromising the the quality of production.

“Bernhardt Design and Danerka are pleased to announce their partnership in the global market with manufacturing and distribution throughout Europe. For several decades, Bernhardt Design has crossed cultural boundaries by working with European designers to design product for the American market. The recent collaboration with Danerka provides an opportunity for these inventive designs to have an extended reach into Europe.”

Fairs, M. 2008. Global Edition by Bernhardt Design and Danerka. Dezeen [Online]. 9 March. [Accessed on 13 October 2015] Available from:

Does the use of the internet allow designers to now sell their products to an international market as we create a global support network?

Unto This Last

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Unto This Last is a modern workshop in London who design, manufacture and sell their items from the one place. This enables them to offer the convenience of a local tradesman at mass production prices. They manufacture their furniture using digital cutting machines.

“Local is Logical

We believe that manufacturing at the point of sale makes business sense.

Our streamlined process allows us to produce with no transport or warehousing costs, and without the risk of overstocking. With direct delivery to our clients (in London only) we also do away with packaging costs. This is what enables us to compete on price, in spite of our small scale. ”

Unto This Last. Our Project. [Online]. [Accessed 12 October 2015]. Available from:

This strategy of local design and digital production helps to drive down the prices as they streamline the supply chain. They don’t ship products or outsource to retailers, customers need to purchase directly from the workshop, so they are buying into the story of item. This also adds integrity to their pieces.


Design For Download

Droog - Design for Download
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In 2011 Droog launched their ‘Design for Download’ project. This allows customers to make design decisions, and instantly download a blueprint for their chosen piece of furniture. These blueprints can then be taken to a local manufacturer for construction.

“Taking design to the digital realm opens many possibilities. Not only does it have consequence on transport and storage efficiencies, it also calls for new design approaches, innovative digital design tools and online shopping experiences, and innovative business models for all actors along the distribution chain,”

Ramakers, R. Design for Download. Studio Droog [Online]. [Accessed 13 October 2015]. Available from:

The ability to buy a design online and manufacture a piece locally not only creates a global audience for a product, but also supports local manufacturers. It also assists in reducing costs as transport, packaging and storage costs are eliminated. This concept lets consumers become curators of their own furniture.

Open Desk

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In a similar way to Droog, Open Desk operates online, selling templates for office furniture. As well as giving designers the ability to sell their designs globally, this approach means furniture is affordable and sustainable as carriage costs are eradicated and waste is reduced.

“When designing the Opendesk system, we had two goals. We wanted anyone, anywhere in the world, to be able to download designs for local making and we wanted to reward designers financially when their designs were used commercially.”

Open Desk. 2015. Non Commercial Use [Online]. [Accessed 13 October 2015]. Available from:

Although I appreciate this method of design and manufacture, the designs tend to be unsophisticated in order for them to produced in a large number of workshops. Without knowing the narrative surrounding these product they don’t feel unique as they lack strong aesthetic qualities.


Stratigraphic Manufactury

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Unfold also adopt this manufacturing process for their Stratigraphic Porcelain
project. However, unlike other companies selling designs online each piece of 3D pottery produced can be as unique as a handmade vessel, as the materials or machinery used in production vary. Although designs are sold globally Unfold embrace local production and the variation and cultural influence that can have on their pots.

In launching this project they sent out the digital plans to 7 different manufacturers. They were asked to produce the pieces using materials and machinery of their choice. Their only specification was keep the digital data the same. The final results varied drastically.

“ Stratigraphic Manufactury is a new model for the distribution and digital manufacturing of porcelain, which includes local small manufacturing units that are globally connected. One that embraces local production variations and influences.”

Unfold. Stratigraphic Manufactury. [Online]. [Accessed 13 October 2015]. Available from:

Dave Hakkens

Precious Plastics

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Dave Hakken’s Precious Plastics project was his response to the fact only 10% of plastic waste is recycled. Rather than create a product, he has designed a set of machines, including a shredder, extruder, injection moulder and rotation moulder which can create bespoke products from recycled plastic. His tools allows manufacturers to recycle plastic locally, he has published blueprints so people can build these machines and create items they choose. Although some of his products appear crude, these are simply suggestions to demonstrate the capabilities of the machines.

“The idea is that you can make whatever moulds you want for it – so I made this, but I prefer that everybody can just use them and make whatever they want and start setting up their production…People can just make [the machines] on the other side of the world, and maybe send some feedback and say ‘maybe you can do this better.’“

Etherington, R. 2013. Precious Plastic by Dave Hakkens, Dezeen [Online]. 21 October [Accessed 6 Ocotber 2015]. Available from:

It seems to me that Global/Local design is predominantly effected by production methods and transportation. The introduction of digital technology allows consumers to have their desired products manufactured locally massively reducing transport and storage costs. This way designers can offer competitive prices while the local production and craft can assist in adding value to a product.

In addition this method of working can contribute to a cleaner environment as freight emissions are lowered and sustainable materials and production techniques are adopted. I also like that it results in the creation of global network of designers and craftsmen.

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