Throughout the world, design practices are influenced by a variety of factors, including local context. As local context varies across regions, cities and countries, different design practices can be observed as individuals adapt to their personal environments. These design practices can develop varying design outcomes, which can be observed when comparing design practices in areas of Indonesia, to cities in Australia.
Undertaking the subject Interdisciplinary lab B in Indonesia provided a variety of insights into the influence of local context on design. Personal interaction with designers and artists reveled the varying nature of material availability and resources according to personal income. In Yogyakarta, the mimimum wage is 1,108,249Rp (Approx. $112Au) per month (WageIndicator Foundation 2016). Low-income levels in parts of Indonesia and the influence of tradition, therefore, contribute towards an alternative mindset within everyday design, which can differ from Western societies.
One example is the prevalence of traditional handicrafts across areas of Indonesia. Woven bamboo baskets, for example, are still made and used in local villages from readily available materials. Traditional designs such as the woven basket play an important role in the function of everyday objects, using design methods past down through generations (Nabila 2013). The construction of woven bamboo baskets, along with other Indonesian handicrafts such as batik, requires skilled craftsmanship in order to produce a design. In turn, the inexpensive cost of materials, low minimum wage and availability of craftsmen mean items such as the bamboo basket can be cheap to produce and sell. In contrast, the affordability of offshore manufacturing has contributed to the availability of cheaper mass produced products in Australia. In this sense, a hand made product in Australia would be more expensive than a mass-produced item, as the nature of craftsmanship and time adds value to product.
Further, as the world becomes increasingly globalised, traditional handicrafts may become less valued as countries develop. In 2014, for example, 10 billion plastic bags were used annually in Indonesia (Schonhardt 2016), due to their mass availability. Unlike traditional carrying methods such as bamboo baskets, plastic bags cannot actively breakdown in the environment and return to the earth once disposed (Rujnic-Sokele & Baric 2014). Woven bamboo baskets are still an environmentally sustainable carrying option; yet the increasing globalisation of Indonesia may in future years, render them obsolete. The continued education and use of traditional design, therefore, is critical for the preservation of cultural heritage and traditions, and in the case of the bamboo basket, ensuring a decreased environmental impact.
Rujnic-Sokele, M. & Baric, G. 2014, ‘LIFE CYCLE OF POLYETHYLENE BAG’, Annals of the Faculty of Engineering Hunedoara, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 41-8.
Nabila, A. 2013, Exploring Craftsmanship: Bamboo Weaving, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 9 April 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVlLvNRXxIs&ebc=ANyPxKryUnocUOkZpuPxKezn5bHJ_tlv5AOcJAkD3so3XBEUgz8rVJVp0GIhsToAGXfaWaaTq28cpqfsgjwvM5friYgs4QOLBw>.
Schonhardt, S. 2016, ‘Indonesia’s Solution for Pollution Is in the Bag; Southeast Asian nation is second-largest source of plastic trash in world’s oceans’, Wall Street Journal (Online), Feb 23, 2016, pp. n/a .
WageIndicator Foundation 2016, Minimum Wages in Indonesia with effect from 01-01-2016 to 31-12-2016, viewed 10 April 2016, <http://www.wageindicator.org/main/salary/minimum-wage/indonesia>.
Images used in this blog post were taken by the author.