Post A: Art, Craft, Design

Through participating in Festival Mata Air 2016, undertaking different workshops and communicating with the local Indonesian design students from UKSW, I’ve come to understand that different cultures interpret design in different ways, and that in each local context design may play a different role. One of the main differences I’ve noticed is that in the context of Salatiga and Yogyakarta, design and art seem to overlap and are very fluid identities; this relationship has been debated for decades and still seems to be ongoing (Cortes 2007). When I explored the exhibited works of UKSW visual communication students, I thought to myself that this seemed more like a visual arts exhibition than a design exhibition. It was then I realised, as put by Cooper (1999), that design is influenced by the context and the culture that it exists in, and at the same time the design influences the culture.

As a visual communications student with not much exposure to other culture’s designs, I feel as if there is a very specific aesthetic or style to current trending Australian design, as seen from popular graphic design publications and the like. Therefore, all of the designed work at Festival Mata Air, from the bamboo-structured water floats to the hand-painted clay pots and social-political banners would be considered art from this point of view. But as stated by Leveque (2013), a designer seeks to convey a particular idea or message which is meant to be direct. In this sense, the idea of ‘design’ could be applied to the motive of spreading awareness on social and political issues in Indonesia, reinforcing this fluid identity of design.

Posters carrying a political, social or environmental message. Photograph: Christine Ye

In another example, during our stay at the Kelingan eco-village, we were introduced to the idea of food as design. Singgih Kartono shared his perspective that food is a form of design that is essential to life; we shape ourselves through the food we consume, and that the act of putting together ingredients, even the recipe itself is a form of design. I explored this idea through further research, however received a different outlook on food as design. As of 2010, food design could lean towards the more traditionally-viewed ‘art’ side, or it could incorporate science of advanced manufacturing techniques, or even making furniture out of food in a form of modern industrial design (Fairs 2010).

A traditional drink which is seen as design within its local context. Photograph: Christine Ye

At the end of the day, no matter how much we try to define the notion of design and its form or specific style, the meaning will be affected by its context. And more importantly, I’ve learnt during the two week experience in Central Java that design that is situated in a specific local contexts needs to be thoroughly researched and understood.

Reference List

Cooper, R. 1999, ‘Design Contexts’, The Design Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, p. 1.

Cortes, Y. 2007, ‘Design and art’, Choice Reviews Online, vol. 45, no. 3, p. 456.

Fairs, F. 2010, ‘Food and Design: a report by Dezeen for Scholtès’, Dezeen, 22 November, viewed 4 April 2016, <>.

Leveque, E. 2013, ‘ART VS. GRAPHIC DESIGN: THE DEBATE RAGES ON’, The Deep End, 3 July, viewed 4 April 2016, <>.

*All photos were taken by the author, unless stated otherwise.

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