"Emerging economics" sounds like something a finance major would study and designers would never have to worry about. It's a loosely used word; "emerging economies," "emerging markets," and "rapid-growth economies" are all synonymous newer terms for what were once known bluntly as "less economically developed countries." This encompasses 80% of the world's population - any developing economy with low to middle per capita income. China, one of the world's economic giants, smaller, poorer countries such as Tunisia, and many others are alllumped into this category. With such a wide scope, making generalizations is difficult. Overall, though, the view of graphic design in these countries is much different than it is in the United States.
From a social perspective, it's easiest to understand this when we see that as Americans, we are not classified as an emerging economy. The prevailing mindset among designers seems to be the "benevolent development-helper." Designers can help bring the magic of prosperity and technology to those unfortunate lesser countries! Surely their world will be better if we make it like ours, right? We can adapt our cell phone designs to themso they have flashlights for their unlit streets and dust-resistant covers, as Nokia did. I don't want to say our passion for globalization is bad, because there are definite good things that come out of increased technology and development for emerging economies. It just often turns out that we have big plans to help the world, but they either remain plans or just force the world to become like us.
Sometimes I wonder what can be done for larger causes as a designer. Helping developing economies continue to grow is a large cause, and designers will likely be the ones asked to help bring our consumerist culture in. We can choose to work for awareness of larger issues, but it still raises the concern voiced in John Thackara's blog:
Eighty percent of other design professionals are in the representation business. But designing a poster about an issue, or launching a media campaign about it, is not the same as helping real people, in real places, change a material aspect of their everyday reality. Development is not primarily about products, let alone posters.
That's a harsh critique. I think raising awareness and bringing attention to issues and work that can be done to help develop other countries is something important, too. It might not be face-to-face with the people we are trying to connect to, but when communicating with a large audience, mass media is necessary. It's behind-the-scenes work, but it might be making more of a difference than we realize.
Thackara, John. "We are all emerging economies now." Observatory: Design observer. 06052008. Web. 6 Oct 2010.
Heakal, Reem. "What is an emerging market economy?." Investopedia. Web.
Jusko, Jill. "Design for emerging markets." Industry Week, 08012007. Web. 6 Oct 2010.