International Employment

“The world has been flattened… Global collaboration and competition… has been made cheaper, easier, more friction-free, and more productive for more people from more corners of the earth than at any time in the history of the world.”
Thomas Friedman

In the national economy it is no secret that jobs are hard to come by. The United States faces the harsh reality of job outsourcing and as a country we must rely on our solid base of office and service commercial industries, as well as several stalwart production industries, in order to compete in the global economy. More and more American jobs are being assumed by foreign workers who are able to do the same jobs that Americans do, but at far lower prices.

So what is the solution to this national economic issue? We can either embrace the coming change and accept our role as a “creativity economy” or we can take a stand, much as the National Romantics and Arts & Crafts designers of Europe and America did in the late 1800s and early 1900s following the industrial revolution, and we can demand higher quality local services from ourselves instead of cheaper outsourced goods and products. This means we will have to give up such “necessities” as Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.com, and turn to local producers who produce at a generally higher quality and retail price.

But truthfully, are Americans ready to make this shift? I think not. The typical American is too afraid to life a life without commercial securities. As a nation, we have become attached to large corporations and we would flounder hopelessly in a nation of mom-and-pop retail stores. There must be some happy medium.

What does this mean to design students? Any American design student that wishes to find a place in the global economy must recognize this trend towards domestic reliance on international supply and the role of a designer to take products that would otherwise be viewed as foreign and we must make them appear (or even be) local, relatable, and vernacular.

In the end, a job overseas may not be out of the question for design students wishing to take advantage of architectural development in other countries. Only time will tell, but as Thomas Friedman emphasizes, “There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.” Outsourced design and fabrication can only go so far. Where that limit lies is anyone’s guess, but as the world flattens the possibilities for international trade, manufacturing, and yes, even design, expand into new frontiers every day.

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