The presentation will focus on the Southern Cone, including examples from three South American countries that have worked on Design initiatives and projects intended to gradually turn Design into part of their national cultures and economies. To provide a global perspective or platform, a comparison model will be used to present the local cases and design experiences, which includes nineteen countries selected by reason of their geographic location, level of development, technological capacity, etc.

1. Regional context

Latin America’s adequate development and integration into an increasingly globalised society and economy is strongly dependent on higher education in all fields and realms. Due to the major changes in world economy over the last two decades, the quality of educational patterns has become a paramount factor in the economic development and competitiveness of the nations. Participating in world economy, by itself, does not entail expanding productivity and competitiveness levels.

In our countries, the higher education system encompasses more than 7.5 million students, and according to the current growth rates, this figure is expected to considerably increase in the coming years. By way of reference, undergraduate Design students represent three per cent of the total number of higher education students in Chile. Projecting these figures in the Region – with the due caution and applying all necessary adjustments, the current universe of the students being educated in Design can be estimated around two hundred thousand.

Considering such a number, or even half the people being trained or educated in the different areas of Design, could be though – at least from a quantitative standpoint – that enough professionals will soon be available to support improvements and development in the countries composing the region.  Latin America and the Caribbean represent a bit more than 8.6 per cent of worldwide population, that is, around 525 million people distributed in the region, and within these, the Latin American countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The general Latin American background, it should be noted that, figures, data and studies available from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and other sources, indicate that because of the slow growth pace in the region, it would take us approximately an entire century to reach a growth rate equivalent to that of developed countries. According to the IDB, in the last decade of the twentieth century, the Latin American economy grew barely 3.3 per cent per annum, notwithstanding a relatively favourable worldwide trend and the good prospects for an economic upturn in most countries.

The modest growth achieved in the nineties permitted an increase of the average Latin American per capita income by 1.5 percent per annum, while developed countries increased it by 2%, and some Asian countries reached approximately 3.5% per annum.

Furthermore, Latin America is not a homogeneous region, and the gaps between countries in the region are widening as well. In the nineties, while the eight countries with the highest GNP increased it by about two per cent, the nations with the lowest GDP barely augmented it by 0.7%. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report –one of the best ranked indicators worldwide, includes the Latin American economies, where competitiveness is judged on the basis of factors such as the quality of the macroeconomic environment, innovation, human resources and training (education), technological capacity, etc.  According to this indicator, most Latin American economies occupy very low positions in the international scenario. Chile and other few countries are above the median, and seven out of the eleven lowest positions are occupied by Latin American countries.  According to international experience, a nation’s positioning within this competitiveness index tends to reflect its degree of development.

In the last decade, various governments and private sector organizations in the Region have established different economic, educational, productive, corporate, and technological strategies to help resolve the competitiveness issue. However, our educational advancement is growing more slowly than in other regions, such as Asia.

Similarly, the results of higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean show an imbalance between the nations in this region. The average educational performance is deficient in several senses; it is lower than in most of the other regions, and poor for the level of investment involved and their consequent development or results.

In this context, Design education is not exempt from responsibility, and especially considering the enormous number of professionals trained and educated, since the systematic design education in the region began in the early 60’s, and that to date have been unable to effectively respond to the needs of the industry and society, and help a significant number of Latin American economies to gradually conquer positions above the median established by competitiveness indexes like the Global Competitiveness Report and others.  This presents us, advantages and challenges, if we consider of some of the pillars of the development is the education:

  • Advantages, because perhaps this scenario is an opportunity for defining and implementing development patters based on each country’s particular reality, with innovative actions and initiatives for making Design cease to be an “academic curiosity,” and thereby help it become a part of each country’s culture; make Design become a part of the region’s social, productive and economic structure.
  • And challenges not to lose competitiveness, considering the high quality standards prevalent in the international market, and the fact that the bottom line should be not only an increase in economic and productive efficiency, but also an improvement in life quality and well-being in our region.

2. Comparison model

To properly locate each country’s relative position with respect to the world or other economies, a comparison group (based on J. J. Brunner’s model, Chile, 2001) will be used, which includes nineteen countries selected by reason of their geographic location, level of development, technological capacity, etc. , the comparison model will be used as platform to present the local cases and experiences.  This group encompasses:

  • Two countries belonging to the first and second generations of quickly industrialized nations in Southeast Asia: Korea and Malaysia, respectively;
  • Two Central Europe economies in a state of transition, similar to Chile in size and income per capita: Hungary and the Czech Republic;
  • The four most recently industrialized countries in West Europe: Spain, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, and
  • Three highly developed small countries, two of which -Finland and Holland- are leaders in innovation, while the third one -New Zealand- is a technological transfer or “follower” country.
  • Three important countries in the world stage, United States, Germany and Japan.
  • Two countries with large population and economic growth rates over 6% annual, China and India.
  • Three largest Latin American nations, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.

3. Local cases and design experiences

Within this regional context, the presentation will focus on the Southern Cone, including examples from three South American countries that have worked on Design initiatives and projects intended to gradually turn Design into part of their national cultures and economies.

These countries are Argentina and Brazil, the two largest nations in our region, and Chile, the most competitive one according to international standards. The former on the Atlantic, and the latter on the Pacific side of the continent.

Examples include the Centro Metropolitano de Diseño CMD (Metropolitan Design Center) a unit of the Undersecretariat of Cultural Industries of the Ministry of Production of the City of Buenos Aires. Design and other industries from this sphere (such as, publishing and print press, audiovisual, cinema, theater, radio, television, etc.) are under the authority of the Undersecretariat of Cultural Industries. These areas of activity are defined as cultural industries because, in addition to building ethical values and identity, they present a relevant economic dimension in terms of generation of employment, wealth and resources for the city and the country.

Despite the low visibility as a production sector in it’s own right, cultural industries are aligned or equated with the food and beverage industries, are five times the size of the automotive industry, and perhaps surprisingly seven times the size of the textile industry.

The population of Buenos Aires and it’s outskirts is more than ten million inhabitants, a fact that makes this city one of the ten most populated urban centers in the world, and an interesting leader when compared in size to the population of it’s neighbor Chile. As a reference point, in Great Britain, this sector of the economy, which is characterized as “creative industries,” generates more than 5%of their GDP, with Design contributing 2.8% (for example, software 1.6%, advertising 0.9%, etc.) and giving employment to 1.2 million people out of a total population of 55 million.

In Buenos Aires, statistical data show that cultural activities (publishing and print press, audiovisual, cinema, theater, radio, television, etc.) contribute 6% to total production and 4% to employment. These figures are twice as much as in the remainder of Argentina. The articulation of cultural activities with Tourism and Design notoriously enhances the above-mentioned figures, reaching more than 10%of GDP and 8% of employment. Another significant piece of information is that these kinds of economic activities are carried out by small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and micro-sized companies (Micro SMEs). Since 2003, Design, jointly with Tourism, Publishing, and the Audiovisual arena are the sectors, which make the largest economic contributions.

In case of Brazil, in the presentation will show the activities of the largest Brazilian Design Student’s conference, which began in 1991, and for Chile, it consider to present the outcomes of a Regional Design Contest organized by a Chilean company; the activities of the Chilean Design Firm Association; the results of a medium-sized manufacturing company; the 2 Icsid Interdesign carried out in Chile and Argentina in 2003 and 2006 respectively and other cases or relevant design experiences.

4. International case, FTA (Free Trade Agreement) China – Chile and opportunities for the design industry

China is becoming the main center of the manufacturing industry, with Southern China playing a vital role in this phenomenon. The government‚s active guidance, innovation, and creation have been key elements in the continuous, rapid development of the Chinese manufacturing industry. Undoubtedly, China is becoming the world‚s largest market for design demand. In the near future, this country will be one of the world‚s design centers, a fact that acquires particular relevance with the FTA recently ratified by Chilean Congress.

In Chile, during the past decade, Design gradually started being considered a discipline rather than an “academic curio” with an experimental educational approach and detached from the country ’s economic, productive, and entrepreneurial reality, and slowly began being seen and employed as a “strategic tool” for businesses and the country as a whole. In this scenario, all areas of application of Design might experience significant growth and development, by virtue of the recognition of both the added value the discipline contributes as a differentiating element for products and services, and the better opportunities it provides when it comes to competing in the domestic and international markets. The foregoing acquires special relevance where small- and medium-sized companies are concerned.

In China, on the other hand, Design is being fitted into business strategies and management, where “design is seen or used as a vehicle for innovation,” and it is settling as a key piece in the country’s regionalization and internationalization process with an attractive supply of competitive, robust products, in addition to participating in worldwide networks where the Design -Innovation dyad is at the core of business models. The foregoing is unquestionably relevant, considering that according to the World Economic Forum, China currently is the world‚s fourth largest economy and the third destination for our exports, that is, a significant trade partner.

During September, two important events will take place in this Asian country – the China Business Summit 2006 (Beijing, September 10-11), which will address the subject of “Sustainable Growth through Innovation: Chinas Creative Imperative;” and the 2006 World Industrial Design Fair WIDF (Ningbo, south of Shanghai, September 23-25), with the Innovation and Intellectual Property as central themes, both of which are critical in becoming a key player in Design at the global level.

Around Ningbo, Eastern China holds more than 1,000,000 manufacturers with customers throughout the world, including Chile. Design is “deriving from the industry, serving the industry and promoting the industry”.  The goal of the exhibition is to link Design to manufacturing and promote worldwide dissemination of the scopes of this discipline, and the impact it has on the development of nations, and particularly on Chinese economy.

It is highly relevant to our understanding of the direction the world is taking – from that part of the planet – to have a presence or actually participate in these kinds of initiatives, in order to define and implement medium- and long-term strategies to gradually turn Design into one of the exchange and complementarity areas associated to the China-Chile FTA, particularly in sensitive areas where Design plays a concrete role.

On our part, it is critical to resolve the weak connection of Design education and the requirements of the production market and society at large. Having in place statistical information on the growth of the Design industry and the contribution it makes to GDP would make it possible to have a significant indicator of the value that Chilean consumers and producers assign to Design, and the contribution of Design to the development of our country. Furthermore, it would enable us to both have a global view and a better understanding of our regional context and of our relative position in the world and with regard to other economies, such as China’s.

In this scenario, Icsid, as a global organization, can offer the best platform, by contributing to the creation of bridges and networks for individuals, communities, organizations, and regions all over the world.

Contribution by Prof. Carlos Hinrichsen (School of Design DuocUC, Chile)

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