A critical analysis of local and global cultural factors in graphic wayfinding design: a case study of Beijing
2016-11-21T16:03:50Z (GMT) by
The main intentions of this thesis are to analyse and explain changes in the function and graphic components of Beijing s wayfinding systems and to explain how the systems construct multiple cultural and political identities at different historical periods and in changing local/global contexts. In the thesis, the oversimplified one-way theory of the global-local dichotomy, in which the global power of the West is overwhelming and constantly dominant, and the local system of non-Western countries is passive and fragile, is challenged. Instead, this thesis seeks to examine the interactivity and correlation of the local and the global from two perspectives: mobility and reversibility. Looking at mobility is to consider the local and global and their nexus as different interconnections and networks that are constantly and unevenly changing. Reversibility, with which this thesis is most concerned, deals primarily with the reversible relationship of the local and global, namely, that either the local or the global can be dominant. This point is well illustrated by the evolution of Beijing s graphic wayfinding systems function and appearance. Beijing, as the capital of China, has undergone a radical transformation from the fall of the last Empire Qing (1912) to the establishment of the People s Republic of China (1949). The meaning of Beijing varies in accordance with the changes in its political and social structures. There have been five phases in Beijing s development: a well-planned imperial city; a capital city with a republican spirit; a totally industrialised but relatively isolated capital of a socialist country; an open and modernised Chinese-style socialist city; and a cosmopolitan city. In the course of this metamorphosis, what took place was a series of collisions, exchanges, fusions, and re-collisions between local power and global power. Along with the immense changes in Beijing, the role and appearance of the graphic wayfinding systems have also changed, especially those of road signs and doorplates, whose roles have been transformed from that of initial household register to orientation reference, to effective propaganda tool, and then on to the regeneration of a city. Finally, Beijing s graphic wayfinding design within its urban development has been reconfirmed as a useful instrument to support the new forms of visual narratives and consolidate the city brand of Beijing in the 21st century. This study probes into the political and cultural significances behind the changes of the graphic wayfinding systems of Beijing, as well as the interaction between the local and the global as reflected in the formation of these findings. The mutable and reversible relationship between the local and the global is illustrated and clarified through analysis and comparison of various functions and visual elements between Beijing s present graphic wayfinding systems and its early wayfinding signs, as well as decoding the different mainstream political or cultural ideologies that have deeply affected the function and design of Beijing graphic wayfinding systems at different periods.