POST A: Indonesia & Design

Design is contextually shaped when various aspects are considered, such as the environment and the user. The Indonesian culture moulds the design context of the local designers which is evident through their design processes and solutions. The traditional art of decorating cloth called Batik and Pak Singgih Kartono, a local designer best exemplifies this notion as they are both majorly inspired and influenced by their culture.

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Batik prints by A. Higgins, R. O’Sullivan and C. Villanueva

During the studio, we were able to experience printing Batik and witness the manual intricate print process it undergoes prior the final product. Batik is a Javanese printmaking technique that utilises wax and dye to produce decorated clothing materials. This practice is part of Indonesia’s ancient tradition; therefore becoming a dominant part in their design making. In Architect Amos Rapoport‘s disseration Culture, Architecture and Design he states that “design needs to respond to culture” thus supporting the significance of culture to design; in order for a design to be effective, it has to suit the users and their environment. The interaction between the people and its environment is a pivotal aspect of designing in a culturally abundant location.

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Kandangan (EcoVillage), Central Java

Rapoport establishes that cultural variables play a significant role in design; this notion is practiced by Singgih Kartono – a local designer, specifically in his village. Pak Singgih’s design philosophy is to sensitise us with nature with which he practices through his products. Traditional farming was the economic backbone of Kandangan; the government’s attempt to ‘improve’ their farming through unsuitable ‘modern’ ways severely damaged the community therefore impacting the villagers and their income. This resulted to the exploitation of Kandangan’s forest and nature, this action became an acquired behaviour therefore becoming part of their culture. The environment in this village has contextually shaped Singgih’s design practice where he developed a belief in creating a relationship between his products and the user through the materials he utilises. Due to the lack of cultural connection of the villagers to their natural resources, Singgih used this opportunity to reinforce the importance of valuing the environment and its uses. He believes that the relationship between his products and their user, reflected through the villagers and the mishandling of their natural resource,  could be more humanised through using a combination of natural materials to deeply involve the user to his products.

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Singgih Kartono, Magno workshop

Indonesia is a creatively abundant country that was heavily influenced and inspired by their local culture and traditions. Both Batik printing and Singgih Kartono exemplifies the effect of local context in shaping the design, designers and their practice.


Kartono, S. 2000. Magno Design. [ONLINE] Available at:

Photos taken by C.Villanueva

Rapoport, A, 2003. Culture, Architecture and Design. 1st ed. US: Locke Publishing Company Inc.

Rapoport, A, 2016. Amos Rapoport. [ONLINE] Available at:


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