Human culture is an incredible thing: some would say the objects that we design, make, buy, sell, and share are what set us apart from the animal kingdom. What’s particularly beautiful is that each part of the world has its own culture of objects, some of which baffle the rest of us, and others on which we place our own value and interpretation. So it is that when you see these objects, you immediately get a mental image of the place that they come from and your own idea of their place in that culture.
Take France, for example. Their biggest exports include nearly $60bn in machinery and computers, but also sizeable amounts of food, drink, perfumes and cosmetics. One of the first things you think about when you picture France is a bottle of delicious red wine: exports of beverages and spirits went up by 21.8% in the past year, indicating that that’s what the rest of the world imagines, too! Perfume exports have risen by 14% over the past seven years. It’s no wonder when you look at the lost of famous French perfumers: Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Guerlain, and of course Chanel. Is there any other country that comes so vividly to mind when you think of a bottle of perfume?
Perhaps Japan bucks this trend somewhat: their biggest exports are not always what you’d think. When you imagine motor vehicles, for example, you might imagine the United States or maybe Germany first of all. But in fact, vehicles are Japan’s leading, $141.9 billion export. That’s a lot of Toyotas! Also near the top, though, is computing equipment and technical apparatus. Since the 1980s or even further back, we’ve all associated Japan with technical innovation and fancy new gadgets, so perhaps it’s no surprise. In fact, a lot of Japanese objects and images are so culturally ingrained in Japanese society that while they may conjure up the idea of Japan in the eyes of the world, they don’t necessarily get exported – except as souvenirs. Waving cats, kimonos, geisha fans… even karaoke, that super-successful export, is still nowhere near as ‘normal’ in other countries as it is in Japan!
These four amazing new posters set out to illustrate some of the most delightful, culturally-specific objects that we associate with key cities in France, Japan, Brazil, and the United States. They look so good, you’ll wonder why these objects aren’t available the world over.