The world entered 2012 primed for change. The Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and other populist uprisings in 2011, fueled by the global expansion of mobile technology and social media channels, engendered a sense of hope that the world could look very different by the end of 2012, especially with a number of countries — including the U.S., Russia and France — holding national elections or, in the case of China, undergoing regime change. A year later, however, the world looks much the same as it did a year ago. Most of the same players (or someone like them) are still in place. The economic crisis in Europe has neither improved nor worsened, and the same can be said for the U.S. economy. The wars in Syria and Afghanistan, along with the Israel-Palestine conflict, and perpetual unrest in Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East, drag on with no resolution in sight. Repression and restrictive fundamentalist ideologies have rebounded as nervous governments seek to quell unrest or stem the spread of populist technologies and foreign cultural influences.
A 2012 study conducted by the Pew Research Center concludes that the economic mood is exceedingly glum around much of the world. In the wake of four years of global economic turmoil and political upheaval in a number of nations, very few people are satisfied with the way things are going in their country. The public mood is quite volatile in many societies, exacerbated by high unemployment, shortages and austerity initiatives.
At present, no breakthrough is apparent or anticipated by the forecasters. Economists predict only modest improvement in 2013, with the U.S., China and some developing nations — such as India, Brazil and Mexico — experiencing the most growth. For the U.S. interior design industry, the brightest light at the moment appears to be the reviving domestic housing market. Overall, designers can expect 2013 to be better than 2012, but modestly so for most.