POST A: How Design is Shaped by Social and Ecological Contexts

Over the years, people have become increasingly aware of how society has changed and continue to do so through design methods and initiative. Developing knowledge, around Indonesia’s social and ecological context, plays a key role in shaping design. New processes may be developed in order to address these social, political and environmental statements. Kandangan-based product designer, Singgih Kartono utilized these social and environmental context to design vintage, hand crafted radios. The Magno Radios are fabricated from local sustainable wood like rosewood, East Indian pine wood and Mahogany. In designing this radio, “Kartono envisioned the project as a way of boosting both forest and community regeneration in the region” (Josephmark, n.d.). In saying this, Kartono’s company, Magno Design, focuses on involving local residences in the crafting of these unique, hand-made items, while at the same time they focus on the long-term ecological goals. And it is because of this that only 80 trees are used, but in turn 10,000 more are planted in its place. Keeping this in mind, Kartono emphasizes his belief that “less wood, more work; cut less, plant more” (Design with Benefits, 2015), and with that it would boost the surrounding villages, socially and ecologically.

Youths planting trees to replace those that where used by Magno Design (Design with Benefits, 2015).

In social context, Magno Design provides a level of craftsmanship to the workers, allowing them to utilize this knowledge and continue with their daily lives in their home village, while at the same time continue to sustain their community. Many countries, like Australia and America, mass-produce electronics constructed out of metal and plastic, but Magno Design strives to steer clear of this and instead introduce a refreshing response to design through social and ecological context. It was due to this response that Kartono is able to use a low-tech material like wood to construct a “relatively high-tech” functioning radio, which relays sound (Dunn, 2014).

One of Singgih’s Magno Radios (Singgih, n.d.)

Wood is considered cheap, yet precious and demonstrates authentic use of natural, ecological material. Magno ensures that the wood is left unvarnished, but wood oil is applied to bring out the highlights of the wood grains, yet at the same time display its natural colours (Dunn, 2014). This ensures the wood remains in its natural state, thus presenting the handicraft in its natural form or context. The uniqueness of Kartono’s handcrafted designs is shaped by local context. Through the use of local and native materials, Magno Design ensures that both social and ecological contexts are taken into consideration when each item is being crafted. In saying this, this allows for social and economic stability, as it provides numerous jobs for local farmers, while at the same time provides workers with useful skills and knowledge in handicraft works, which they are able to than continue to demonstrate within their community.


Design with Benefits, 2015, Cut Less-Plant More, viewed 22 April 2015, <; Dunn L, J., 2014, Wooden

Radios, Bamboo Bicycles and Human Cocoons, Inside Indonesia, viewed 23 April 2015,<;

JosephMark, n.d., Magno Wooden Radio, Design of the World, viewed 22 April 2015, <;

Kartono, S., Magno Design, viewed 23 April 2015, <;

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