Karina Bhattacharya, S/IDSA
Graduate Student, Georgia Institute of Technology
Karina Bhattacharya is an industrial design graduate student and researcher with experience studying design history and theory. At the University of Houston, Karina majored in industrial design and minored in political theory. In 2021, she combined her academic disciplines into an undergraduate honors thesis on Cold War consumer politics, successfully accomplished her thesis defense, and was recognized with the
Outstanding Honors Thesis award upon her graduation in May 2022. Karina is currently pursuing a Master of Industrial Design degree at Georgia Tech with a concentration in design education, where she hopes to expand her expertise in interdisciplinary design studies.
The Politics of Design and Capitalism
Rapid Fire Group D
August 25, 2023
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
The United States and the Soviet Union were political rivals in a battle between U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism known as the Cold War. While the Cold War can be understood as an armament and space race, it can also be studied as a battle of cultural conflict and contrasting ideologies. Industrial designers were commissioned by the U.S. government to depict a positive image of capitalism and were granted creative freedom in choosing how to represent the U.S. abroad. Industrial designers played a pivotal role in
Cold War politics; they represented U.S. culture by showing physical artifacts and consumer technologies at international exhibitions. As a research method, this paper examines three exhibitions: the Marshall Plan exhibits in Berlin, the Brussels World’s Fair, and the American National Exhibition in Moscow, to argue that industrial designers possessed the ability to influence Cold War politics during a time when cultural diplomacy across nations was essential. Cross-cultural communication is still vital in the contemporary era, where digital information influences people’s understanding of politics and other cultures. Could current designers have a similar impact by demonstrating the importance of cultural understanding and political cooperation, especially in today’s digitally connected world? Designers still assume roles as visual communicators and have the potential to play a role in democracy. Therefore, the designer’s role is open to being assessed and evaluated regarding how design can be used to communicate political ideals in the present era.