Context is an undeniable force impressing cultural, social, political and environmental values into any given medium. Specifically for design, the role context plays globally has allowed for an extremely diverse, interactive and expanding industry to flourish within specific cultures. It can be seen therefore that design and context have a symbiotic relationship whereby context can be shaped by design, and design be dictated by context.
An example of this symbiotic relationship between design and context can be observed in Indonesia’s ‘stiker kota’ or city stickers. These small, individually designed stickers have become a means to both circulate topical political, cultural, religious and social conversations as well as to act as a medium to communicate free speech and public opinion. Farid Rakun reveals that Indonesian designers, although tending to remain anonymous, have the power to ‘mediate public opinion’ and surface tensions within the community (Rakun, 2014). It is evident in this case, that the changing political climate of Indonesia has shaped both the designers content and purpose for creation. Design in this context has become a tool for grass root level communication between the public and the government.
It is also important to note the specific context to which these ‘stiker kota’ emerged. Originally printed by AMP in 1977 (Adi Mas Putra – little brother, big brother and son), founder Kusandi essentially created a company to which birthed modern day urbanisation in Indonesia (Rakun, 2014). With the company spreading, villages were able to link their communication systems and thus the gradual urbanisation of broader Indonesia. Without this linkage, the product diversification of AMP would not have expanded, resulting in the ‘image-crazed society’ of Indonesia that fostered a demand for local design production (Rakun, 2014). It can be seen here of how design was directly dictated by an urban context.
Through an observation of the ‘stiker kota’ movement in Indonesia, it is clear that design, in this specific context, is a means for political and social communication. These stiker kota designs, therefore, have a much deeper meaning beyond surface appearance. Given the social context of urbanisation and an expanding need for cross – political conversations between the government and their people, design has become a means of mass communication and public expression. It is necessary for the designer to adopt these expressions and produce based on the reception of each design and the popularity it gains. Consequently, it can be seen on this micro level, of how design can serve a different function, purpose and role depending on the given context.
Bowles, C, February 16th 2013, ‘Designing With Context’, viewed on 19th April 2015, http://www.cennydd.com/blog/designing-with-context
Rakun, F, Oct-Dec 2014, ‘Urban Stickers Surfacing In Time’, Inside Indonesia, Edition 118, viewed online on the 19th April 2015, http://www.insideindonesia.org/urban-stickers-surfacing-in-time
Setiawan, N, December 12th 2013, 1:54 PM, ‘Remembering City Stickers, Aya-Aya We, http://aqipulsa.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/mengenang-stiker-kota.html
Sparke, P (March 1988), ‘Design in Context’, Book Sales, United States