Beyond ‘Made In’ – Product Design and the Global Fragmentation of Production

Hodson, E. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


In 2011 President Obama asked Steve Jobs what was preventing Apple from manufacturing in the US. The CEO’s reply, that “those jobs aren’t coming back,” pointed to a debate about the value of offshore factories and the resources they offer, including labour that is not only cheaper but also more skilled, and an infrastructure for manufacturing that would be difficult to recreate in North America (Duhigg and Bradsher, New York Times, 2012). ‘Made in’ labels belie the complexity of global production. To address this, the World Trade Organization’s ‘Made in the World Initiative’ traces value added in global commodity chains to determine the diverse origins of inputs like raw materials and labour, and now services and innovation (WTO, 2011). Globalized trade may be taken for granted today, but economists observe that the global fragmentation of production is only just beginning (Gasiorek and Lopez-Gonzalez, 2013). Where does this leave the creative labour of design? Can product design authorship be traced to one country, brand or person? Through the study of one object -- boots advertised as designed and made in Canada -- this paper examines the influence of international trade and immigration policy on the design of everyday, mass-produced consumer goods. It looks at the global sourcing of components, materials, labour and expertise and how this mode of assembly affects the design process and final product. The case study further examines how governments facilitate and manufacturers exploit global trade at the same time that global networks are concealed through the fetishism of national and local production and creativity.
Period29 Nov 2019
Event titleMaking and Shaping Things in Creative Economies : From History to Present Day
Event typeConference
LocationKaunas, Lithuania
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • design history
  • Manufacturing
  • globalization
  • design practice
  • labour
  • immigration
  • trade
  • production