Post A: Banjarmasin’s Taksi Kuning

‘As different groups give different meanings to space, it becomes a multilayered place, reflecting the way places are socially constructed’ – (Knox, 1995). Design change by context and space will begin to form its own meaning and notions; creating its own signature style. The original concept and idea of a design from the designer can often be interchangeable. However, it does not mean the product itself has been misused incorrectly but merely given a new meaning and purpose. An example of this would be Banjarmasin’s public transport ‘Taksi Kuning’ (Yellow Taxi) design and its service.

Taksi Kuning are usually yellow coloured mini-bus with altered back seats to accommodate people travelling short distances. This public transport from the 80s is quite popular transport choice and is cheap allowing for regular use by the locals to travel around the city. Instead of the usual car seats, the back has been replaced with two long seats facing each other. Taksi Kuning does not have seatbelts. The door of Taksi Kuning are always open for easy access. The setup of Taksi Kuning itself reflects the idea of short distance travel due to the unique design of the car.  During the Banjarmasin trip, we used this service to travel from our hotel to Menara Pandang.

taksi kuning.jpg(banjarmasinpost 2017)

(Tjeng 2018)

In comparison to Australia, mini buses are usually used as hired transportation services such as car rentals to travel long distances or private use. The difference in service provided between Australian and Indonesian mini buses and its inner vehicular layout reflects on the context of these buses themselves.


(Altoff 2017)

According to the Stanford University of Physical Activity Research, Indonesia was lacking physical activity, especially in the walking department with 3513 steps per day (Althoff et al). This could be a direct result of the existence of many forms of public transport such as Taksi Kuning on the streets of Indonesia which prevents Indonesians to walk and prefer to use public transport that enables them to arrive to their desired location conveniently. Hairulsyah 2013 mentioned ‘The sustainability of urban public transportation which has involved public participation, as it has been mentioned above, such as economic, social, and environmental sustainability, should be maintained. Even though Taksi Kuning has their own travel route, it can freely stop at any time. Hence not a very sustainable transport for the public.

Due to these findings, context do change the meaning of a design. In this case, Banjarmasin’s public transport system and service is comparatively different than Australia’s due to the differing culture and custom of the people living in each country.



Althoff, T., Sosič R., Hicks L, J., King, A. C.,  Delp, S, L., Leskovec, J. 2017, ‘Large-scale Physical activity data reveal worldwide activity inequality.’, Nature, vol. 547

Hairulsyah 2013, ‘The Influence of Public Participation on Sustainable Transportation and Regional Development in Medan’, The Indonesian Journal of Geography, vol. 45, no. 1

Madanipour, A. 1999, ‘Why are the design and development of public spaces significant for cities?’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 1999, vol. 26. 2017, Taksi Kuning terus tergerus: Puluhan Trayek Tak Lagi Beroperasi, kalimantanpost, viewed on 6 February 2018, <;

Post A: Design of the built environment as a reflection of culture

The design of the built environment undeniably reflects the culture of the area it is situated in as society’s attitudes and behaviours impact the function and appearance of the structures they interact with on a day to day basis. This idea that ‘society produces its buildings, and the buildings, although not producing society, help to maintain many of its social forms’ (Ghinita 2016) can be reinforced with the understanding obtained whilst staying in the city of Banjarmasin and comparing it to the environment in Sydney.

One of the unique aspects of Banjarmasin that distinctly stood out to me while I was there was the expressive nature of building exteriors, particularly the vibrant colourful paintwork. This evoked a contrast in my mind with the desired minimalistic appearance of buildings back in Sydney which provides a uniform and modern essence to the area. When considering that ‘architecture itself is a cultural subject, so it has become a significant cultural expression’ (Vasilski 2015), it becomes apparent that the vivid presence mirrors the city’s spirited society. This is also evident in the ‘rainbow bridge’ which runs across the river, the heart of the city, along with many structures made using a variety of materials or decorated with intricate patterns.

IMG_8240[532]Rainbow bridge (Song 2018)

Upon discussion with several locals, I found that they all favoured rich colourful designs which paralleled their lively and carefree characters, all which is reflected in their surroundings. Again, this sparks a comparison with Sydney, where things are more routine and bound within limitations and this is further explored in the statement: ‘Architecture is a manifestation of the cultural context in which it resides. The form and relationships of buildings and spaces act as a kind of “cultural marker” that can be read…to describe the way of life and social status of its inhabitants’ (Stephen 1994).

IMG_8237[530]Brightly coloured houses along the river (Song 2018)

Often, restaurants were designed with open dining spaces and unlike Sydney, many shopping malls weren’t enclosed within doors, providing it with an inviting quality and acting as communal areas. This mirrors the city’s close and welcoming community and demonstrates how ‘the reciprocal relationship between people and their environments are part of a system of agreements and interactions that constitute the culture of a society’ (Sevtsuk 2012).

Conclusively, the observations made while staying in Banjarmasin along with the knowledge gained from experiencing the culture within the city established the significant impact that social principles have on the design of built environment.

Reference list

Sevtsuk, A. 2012, ‘How we shape our cities, and then they shape us’, MAJA: the Estonian Architectural Review, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 10-15.

Stephen, K. 1994, ‘Cultural influences on Architecture’, M Architecture. thesis, Texas Tech University, Texas.

Ghinita, A. 2016, ‘How buildings influence society and how society is influenced by buildings – an introduction’, PhD thesis, University of Trento, Italy.

Vasilski, D. 2015, ‘Minimalism in Architecture as a Cultural Symbol of the Times’, PhD thesis, University Union.

Post A: Local Context’s Role in Shaping Boat Design

Human psychology is similar across most people, regardless of where they come from. Good designers are able to understand, and use to their design’s benefit, how particular physical elements affect ones’ emotions. This can occur through the use of elements such as colours, sounds, and shapes. If a design is received with positive emotion, it becomes a successful design among its intended audience. A person’s cultural experience influences this psychology, making culture an extremely important factor to consider when designing within a particular context (Komninos 2017). Design, therefore, is shaped by local context; whether that be social, political or environmental. Consequently, it is the very reason why different countries all over the world look and feel different from each other.

Most of the inhabitants of Banjarmasin, “the city of a thousand rivers,” live in close proximity to bodies of water. As a result of this geographical set-up, boats play a large role in the daily lives of Banjarese. The klotok, for instance, is a traditional form of river boat that can be seen and heard on many rivers throughout the city. The boats are primarily used for transporting people and goods, and are often found in floating markets, national parks, and fishing areas. Blues, greens and reds are the main colours used in and on the outside of the boats – a colour pallet that ties in seamlessly with the city around it. Klotoks are made from wood and designed with shallow draft and propeller to allow the boats for travel through the shallow waters, which is an essential feature of the boats, allowing its users to make full use of the rivers in the area. Many of the klotok boats have a roof which forms an upper deck for tourist use, but the boats remain compact in order to fit under the many low-lying bridges which cross the rivers.


Klotok Boat (Albrecht, 2017)

In contrast to Banjarmasin’s rivers is Sydney’s harbor, where the commonly seen ferry boats are used as an essential part of the public transport system. While the Indonesian klotok’s design is focused more on fulfilling basic necessities and practicality, the design of the Sydney ferries explores more avenues facilitating greater comfort for passengers – e.g. ergonomic seating, enclosed cabin space, reduced noise, and air-conditioning. These differences can be attributed to the different socio-economic cultures and needs of Sydney and Banjarmasin. Sydney harbor is very deep, and its large wharves allow for the boats to have deep draft, which gives the boats a smoother ride if and when the water gets rough. The ferries are constructed from more durable material (steel) than the klotok boats, and are painted Australia’s national colours – green and gold.

Syd Ferry

A designer who designs in a foreign area faces many challenges. They are not able to purely rely on previous understandings or knowledge; rather, they must learn and adapt to the local context and culture. During my time designing in Banjarmasin I used many design techniques to evolve my thinking and understanding to suit the local area. Through undertaking a Dérive of the city and immersing myself in Banjarmasin’s culture by interacting with the locals, I was able to become empathetic to the local needs and peculiarities. Collaborating with Vital Strategies, who had personal experience designing in the area, greatly assisted in this process towards understanding how to produce successful designs in the context of Banjarmasin. My team and I designed boat banners for an event, which followed design cues from the city and seamlessly fit into the local context – this was achieved through the use of specific colours, shapes and patterns in our design. By acknowledging the local context, we created a successful design that had meaning to, and an impact on, its viewers.


Boat banners (Albrecht, 2017)



Komninos, A. 2017, Creating Emotional Connections, The Interaction Design Foundation, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Service Innovation Labs, 2015, Design to Allign to Different Cultural Contexts, viewed 1 February 2018, <;

Post A: Being a Creative Chameleon

An unfamiliar location is an undoubtedly challenging work environment, and requires designers to be flexible, open-minded and logical. Instead of the designer being in complete control and “starting from scratch”, the context should shape the design. Utilising social, economic, environmental and political influences ensure that it will seamlessly blend with the context. According to Keinonen, recognizing the point of view of an insider and ‘enabling people to create meaningful solutions for themselves’ [2009] is a key factor in successful design. So perhaps it is less about giving people what they want or think they need, and more about paving the path for them to discover it by engaging with their own environment or community.

Designers often form restrictive thought patterns of imagining themselves as end users, which overlooks ‘demographic, educational and socio-cultural differences’ [Oygur and Nancy 2010]. In fact, there are a variety of different methods to engage with user groups outside of their experience which can significantly benefit the design process. In my time in Banjarmasin, I found it crucial to properly orientate myself with the city, taking initiative to go on a many exploratory ventures as possible and attempt to communicate with the locals. This environment was starkly different to what I was used to, so I made it my goal to research and fully understand how locals went about their everyday life. This was out of my comfort zone, so I found myself needing to constantly reevaluate and acquire more information.

Interdiscinplinary thinking is fundamental for successful design in different contexts, as it allows for broader scope and more thorough investigation. The ‘inherent complexity of nature and society’ is one of the four powerful drivers of this kind of thinking, as proposed by Bammer [2013]. A desire to explore unfamiliar cultural phenomena is an essential tool, as was discovered during the derives and map-making exercises. Having three different disciplines within our group gave us an advantage, as we were able to use business thinking and the logic of product design to combine with aesthetic knowledge. We needed to apply our skills and lateral thinking to create effective solutions for a new client in a vastly different city.

(Australian Curriculum, 2017)

It is no surprise that ‘situational factors can exert a strong effect on human behavior’ [Morgeson, Dierdorff and Hmurovic 2010], which can shape, enable, or constrain the form of a work. In this way, it is imperative for a designer to preserve their values and ethics, even when in challenging circumstances. In Banjarmasin, we helped create an event that allowed the community to interact and play a small part in a bigger societal change. This was a step towards becoming a creative chameleon with globally applicable values and cultural intellect.

IMG_0896 2
The final product (Montesin, 2018)


Morgeson, F., Dierdorff, E. and Hmurovic, J. 2010, Work designin situ: Understanding the role of occupational and organizational context, Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol 31, no 2-3, pp.351-360,.

Oygur, I. and Blossom, N. 2010, Design and the User Experience: The Turkish Context, Design Issues, vol 26, no 4, pp.72-84,.

Keinonen, T. 2009, Immediate and Remote Design of Complex Environments, Design Issues, vol 25, no 2, pp.62-74,.

Bammer, G. 2013, Disciplining Interdisciplinarity, ANU Press, pp. 3-13.

Boat, P. 2018, Designing With the User’s Context in Mind, Shopify. viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Bowles, C. 2013, Designing with context, Cennydd Bowles. viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Australian Curriculum 2017, Concepts of interdisciplinary thinking, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.


Context plays a significant role in how a design is received and shaped. This is due to the nature of a design for when it is realised into the larger world, the designer loses any ability to influence it in the finite and controlled manner that they have interdicted to be accustomed to. In this light the design’s new identity encapsulates its context defined by the adaptations to its original form. As an example of this continuing product design journey, we can examine the pervasive and vivacious part that the motorcycle plays in Indonesian culture.

Due to a rapid increase in purchasing power of the average Indonesian within the last 20 years, motorcycle use is experiencing a boom. Currently some 77 million individual motorcycles are registered to drive on Indonesian roads, up from approximately 40 million in 2008. Such a rapid technological take up is seemingly unprecedented in a developing nation such as Indonesia, as it does not seem economically feasible. However, when examined more closely, the issue reveals itself to be more complicated.


Image of the streets of Jakarta in rush hour. (Google image, 2008)

In the last three decades, motorisation and urbanisation have been the trend in many metropolitan areas in developing countries. Lack of job opportunities and public facilities outside major cities has initiated rapid urbanisation in many metropolitan areas.“Such consumer culture is strengthened by the market expansion of industrial products from advanced countries, carried out by the process of globalisation.”( Scriven, 2012) This is indeed the case in Indonesia, as the urban population has significantly increased from 22.3% in 1980 to 42% in 2000, and it is estimated that by year 2020 urban population will reach 50%-60% of the national population. (Jakarilitass, 2008)


The streets of Yogyakarta. (Google image, 2011)

Increased motorcycle use has been attributed to a failing in the public transport system, a political and economic issue. As Indonesia is rapidly propelled from its agrarian labour economy into an urbanised industrial economy, the nexus of its populous becomes a pressing issue. Citizen travelling to work from rural areas are forced to find their own way as the government’s public transport infrastructure fails them, in turn put more strain on the roads connecting economic and urban centres.


The car park at the Watch Tower, Banjarmasin. (Clifton, 2018{My own image})

These implications are outlined in the ABC’s article examining transport in Indonesia. The interviewee Dedy Budisetiono, states that having his own motorcycle is ‘invaluable’ as it is ‘cheaper and a lot faster.” (Budisetiono, 2011)

Furthermore, examining on a more localised scale, many factors become apparent that indicate how the actual design of motorcycles has facilitated their uptake and pervasiveness on such a large scale. Motorcycles are accessible as a technology. Coming from farming implements and predominantly petrol based mechanical equipment, the motorcycle’s engine is easily serviced and maintained. Researchers noted even in the 1930’s, that the “Natives in Java, as elsewhere in the East, have seized on the opportunity given them by the petrol-engine to set up in business on a small scale with taxis and motor-buses.” (Davidson 2007). Building on this, the increasingly popular practice of repurposing 2 and 4 stroke engines into boats and other vehicles has proven the versatility of the technology and ensured its place as a staple artefact in the day to day life of the Indonesian population.

This is a modernisation of the technology that deals with its context. The small size of motorcycle make it an easy way to navigate a cityscape and weave in traffic. Comparing this to the use of motorcycle in Australia where the ratio of motorcycles to people are drastically lower speaks of the differing context. The large size of our cities and population makes cars are more viable choice as the vehicle is required to travel greater distances. As such, this may be an explanation why motorcycles are more considered a luxury or specialised vehicle opposed to the Indonesian’s high consumption of the technology which has seen them become cultural populous

This is expressed in a study of Australian motorbike riders, ride because ‘it provided a sense of adventure, it could free their mind temporarily, it felt like freedom, it was a great hobby, and allowed them to practice and share in social relationships.’

This outlines a different culture value of the design. Moreover, this epitomises a different adaption of the design across culture.

It is clear from this example that the motorcycle has, in the context of Indonesian culture and society, been heavily shaped and altered beyond its original intent. This organic evolution has facilitated its adaptation and growth in popularity, and in turn continued it on the next step of its design journey, affecting both the original design, and the end users who integrated it into their day to day lives. It is thus shaped by its context, mirroring the unique Indonesian culture.

Reference List:

Living in Indonesia 2015, Motorcycles, Jakarta, viewed 28 April 2015 <>

Millsap S 2013, Video: How Do You Get Around Jakarta?, 17 November, Article and Video, viewed 26 April 2015, <>

Davidson J, Henley D 2007, The Revival of Tradition in Indonesian Politics: The Deployment of Adat from Colonialism to Indigenism, Routledge Contemporary South East Asia Series, 12 Mar 2007, pp. 98-99.

Bowles, C, February 16th 2013, ‘Designing With Context’, viewed on 19th April 2015,

Rakun, F, Oct-Dec 2014, ‘Urban Stickers Surfacing In Time’, Inside Indonesia, Edition 118, viewed online on the 19th April 2015,

Setiawan, N, December 12th 2013, 1:54 PM, ‘Remembering City Stickers, Aya-Aya We,

Sparke, P (March 1988), ‘Design in Context’, Book Sales, United States

Google Images. 2018. Motorcycles Indonesia. Viewed on 2 February 2018 .Available at:….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..5.15.2299…0j0i67k1.0.Ys6shxXlkW0.


Google Images. 2018. Motorcycles Indonesia. Viewed on 2 February 2018 .Available at:….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..5.15.2299…0j0i67k1.0.Ys6shxXlkW0.


Post A: Quiet Chairs

Back in high school, one day in English, my class was abnormally restless. Being a public school (and holding little respect for the staff), one bright eyed boy decided to push his chair out of the first floor window whilst the teacher’s back was turned. When she failed to notice, the rest of the class quickly caught on. Whenever she was preoccupied, we would pass along our chairs until they reached the desk of the Ringleader. He would then send it to the gathering mound in the garden below. A few minutes after adding the final chair to our contemporary artwork, the poor teacher noticed the lack of seating first beneath Peter, in the front row, and then quickly the rest of the room too. After muttering an impassioned expletive, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and wandered from the room. It might be poetic to insist, ‘Never to return!’, but, of course, she was back a few minutes later with the vice-principle (under whose interrogation I’m proud to say nobody cracked–the identity of the creative, yet ill-disciplined, boy by the window remained safe. That is until they made the connection between his geography and the significant pile of evidence beneath his window).

Image result for classroom window

But what has this to do with design? Well, tenuous though the connection may be, I believe we, as designers, should be more like Window Boy. No matter the background work, no matter the complexity of our design, it should be intuitive for our audience. That is to say, the user should be oblivious to much of our good design (though if the quality of design were less they might notice, and criticise, immediately). We want our audience as content and unconcerned as my teacher that day, before she noticed our classroom’s newfound minimalism.

Taking a step back, design in the global culture, along with many other industries, is centred around individualism; the objective of discreet design to offer products and services which bolster the individual, offering them greater freedom and comfort [Huntington 1996]. As the intent of so much design in this cultural context, Individualism begins to seem integral to design. Yet when compared with more local contexts, this deception falls away. Indeed, this comparison between contexts requires that the subjectivities in values be discarded in order to discern similarity. The likeness left standing is the measure of good design.

Image result for at&t picturephone

One such likeness, and the example we’ve been discussing, discreetness. In the global cultural context, the success of Apple operating systems stemmed from their philosophies of ’empathy’, ‘focus’ and ‘impute’, inspiring minimalist products of high quality which were not only easy, but intuitive to use [Levy 2000]. Or the AT&T Picturephone of 1970; users were put off by the complexity of use and the product was pulled from the market after only three years [Computer Design Solutions 2006]. The ‘discreetness’ applied (or not) in these designs seem characteristic of the global individualistic culture, yet it is not exclusive to it.

In a local context, the Boomerang, designed tens of thousands of years ago, demonstrates early application of ergonomics [Hess 1975], an example of discreetness in design from a culture utterly disparate from the one in which the Macbook Air was conceived. Similarly, in Jakarta in the 1980’s traffic congestion was increasing, but road closures and expansions would create too great an interference to be viable for the developing city. As a solution, Tjokorda Raka Sukawati designed a road development method (Sosrobahu) which allowed flyovers to be constructed with minimal disruption to existing roadways [Construction Asia Online 2017]. Rather than a simple user interface or a comfortable grip, Sukawati achieved discreetness by lessening the impact of development on his city.

Image result for boomerang

Culture may affect the execution of our design, and the philosophies motivating it, but it does not altogether revise the characteristics of quality design. A textile may differ drastically across cultures, or the need for a particular product, yet as we seek to design empathetically for our stakeholders, we apply universal processes which better connect us with those we seek to serve.

So we need not discard all of our knowledge and experience in order to design for a new context. We (and here’s the kicker) can draw to mind the wisdom of Window Boy (in order to recall the value discreet design) without (necessarily) neglecting those for which we design! Regardless, I, for one, will sleep easier knowing that design everywhere is inspiring the sweet innocence of an oblivious year eleven English teacher.



Computer Design Solutions 2006, Working AT&T PicturePhone System, viewed 2 February 2018, <;

Construction Asia Online 2017, Sosrobahu, World-Class Construction Technology from Indonesia, viewed 2 February 2018,< project/sosrobahu-world-class-construction-technology-indonesia>

Hess, F. 1975, Boomerangs, Aerodynamics and Motion, University of Groningen Press, Groningen.

Huntington, S. P. 1996, ‘The West Unique, Not Universal’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 75, no. 6, pp. 28-46.

Levy, S. 2000, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of MacIntosh, the Computer That Changed Everything, Penguin USA, New York.

Post A: The Process of Design In Different Contexts

An elusive phantonym, design is a word that means different things to different people, but at its core, is a framework for solving problems thoughtfully and thoroughly. As such, people who believe that can contribute positively to their surroundings replicate it throughout different contexts, both knowingly and unknowingly. It is developing a deep understanding of an issue, the context it exists in and the people who it affects, before creating outcomes to these issue that satisfies these multiple stakeholders. But that is where the universality ends – each individual design problem has its own unique properties that are defined by its own social, economic and geographic context.

Problem definition is the first port of call in the design process, and is happens differently in different contexts. With aviation experts at a loss to why Korean Air had multiple crashes in the 1980’s, journalist Malcolm Gladwell defined the problem as being cultural. In a strict hierarchical structure, the co-pilot would obliquely suggest there was a problem in the cockpit that the lead pilot would not appreciate the severity of and overrule (Malcolm Gladwell, 2007).

The next step problem exploration becomes more difficult in a global context because of language and cultural barriers. In our group’s experience, Banjarmasin was a relatively transparent place and young people spoke English well, so we could still rely heavily on conversation as a means of understanding youth smoking but had to still supplement it with observation and secondary research.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-19 at 19.05.10(1).jpeg
A clear message, even in Bahasa Indonesia.

Ideation thrives in some contexts more than others. Creativity flourishes in diverse environments that facilitate the high volume of creative output but the way a society functions can often inhibit this flow of ideas. Communities and organisations like Google and IBM whose leaders (be it CEO, parents, or government) accept failure open the gate to more creative ideas (Amabile & Khaire 2008).

Design solutions are the most noticeable example of how design changes in different contexts influences design. Beautifully, perspectives change from person to person, city to city and country to country. As designers from Australia, designing banners to fit the context of Banjarmasin was difficult. We had to use an unconventionally bright colour palette in order overcome visibility challenges imposed by the inclement weather. These colours, although unconventional and unaesthetic in a global context, were frequently paired throughout the city of Banjarmasin.

High visibility through vibrant colours.

Finally, feedback is one of the most important parts of the design process and differs in different contexts. In the medical profession, there is a feedback problem where doctors are reluctant to provide deep feedback to trainees because of time constraints and the desire to develop a positive relationship with the trainees. This leads to under-qualified graduates, with 55% of medical supervisors reporting having passed trainees who could have benefited from additional training (Sultan & Khan 2017).

So while design is relatively rigid framework, the intricacies of different cultures and contexts mean that design process on a different form each time it is engaged with.



Amabile, T., Khaire, M. 2008, ‘Creativity and the role of the leader’, Harvard Business Review, viewed 29 January 2018, <;.

Gladwell, M. 2008, Outliers: The Story of Success, Little, Brown and Company, New York.

Sultan, A. & Khan, M. 2017, ‘Feedback in a clinical setting: A way forward to enhance a students learning through constructive feedback’, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, vol. 76, pp. 1078.

POST A: Indonesian And Australian Design – What To Consider

Local context should always be considered when designing because it is “seen as a mirror and agent of change.” (Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006.) This varies a lot between countries or even between different groups within the same society. Context also has a “big influence on what people regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design.” (BBC UK. 2014.) For example, in South Africa red is the colour of mourning. However, in China red symbolises good fortune. Trying to sell the same red product in those two countries would produce a very different response. Furthermore, any design for a society that has not considered their cultural beliefs as well as social and political practices has the potential to be pointless because it may lack meaning for them. Therefore, to be sure that a design will have an impact and serve the needs of the target market, it has to be created whilst considering their local mores. The only way you can do this is by understanding their social, technological, economic, environmental and political context. (Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000.) I realised this whilst immersing myself in the Indonesian culture, conducting research and undertaking an anti-smoking campaign with Vital Strategies, where my group and I designed a billboard to discourage smoking.

Walking around the colourful streets of Banjarmasin and talking to Indonesians allowed me to understand and respond to the unique social context of this engagement. For example, when developing our billboard design, we quickly noticed how popular it was amongst the Indonesian youth to take pictures using their smart phones. We also observed that unlike Australia where the predominant messaging application used is iMessage, in Indonesia, this was WhatsApp. As our billboard needed to be relevant to the audience we were targeting, this was an important piece of information we gathered to ensure the success of our design. In addition, we also learned through discussion with the Indonesian youth and Vital Strategies that our assumption of iPhones being as popular in Indonesia as they are in Australia was wrong. In fact, 88.37% of the Indonesian market in December 2017 (Statista. 2017.), used Android phones. As such we had to modify our design to reflect the social context in order to achieve greater local relevance and trigger an emotional response from the audience.

My group’s first iteration of the billboard started out in our presumed most popular format: iPhone. Our design had to change when we learned that Android phones were more popular in Indonesia. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)
Our final design using the Android format was more relevant to an Indonesian context. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)

Furthermore, during my time in Banjarmasin I noticed some key cultural and regulatory differences between Australia and Indonesia exist. This makes the task of reducing the prevalence of smoking in Indonesia significantly more difficult. Such differences should be acknowledged and taken into consideration during any anti-smoking design initiative for Indonesia. Firstly, as a Muslim country, drinking is not a wide-spread recreational pastime and as such cigarettes are arguably of greater importance as a source of relaxation and social interaction.

Research into Indonesian cigarette advertisements. (Image: Lepew, P. 2011.)

Secondly, Indonesia is the “only country in the South-East Asia region that still allows cigarette advertisements to be aired on TV and radio, and ads are also printed in newspapers, magazines, and on billboards” (Anshari, D. 2017.), with only minor restrictions that the Tobacco Industry must adhere to. For example, this L.A. lights billboard to the left literally says “DON’T QUIT”. (Morris, P. 2011.) Conversely, Australia’s political context does not allow for any tobacco advertisements at all with the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992. (The Department of Health. 2017.)


Walking the streets of Banjarmasin, it became apparent that cigarette advertising was far more prevalent than it is when I stroll the streets of Sydney. This difference needs to be acknowledged when designing for Indonesia or Australia. (Images above: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

Lastly, packaging laws in Indonesia allow for 60% of the packet to focus on branding and glamourising the product, with the remaining 40% to be on health warnings. (Anshari, D. 2017.) By contrast, Australian law prevents all branding and provides no opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves. Cigarette packaging must focus on the health warnings as a result of smoking alone under the recent Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. (The Department of Health. 2017.)

indonesian cigarette packaging
At a street market in Banjarmasin, the health warnings on the cigarette packets were mostly covered up by a red sticker. This would be illegal in Australia. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)
The uniform plain packaging of cigarette packets in Australia. (Image: Scott, L. 2017.)

Given these positive influences that actually promote smoking in Indonesia, I realised a design campaign there might focus not only on why smoking is bad for you like it is in Australia’s context, but could also consider ways to dismiss or negate positive attitudes towards smoking in order to successfully design for their context.

In addition, I have come to discover that an Indonesian anti-smoking campaign focussed on fears should not necessarily assume that culturally Indonesian people fear the same things as Australians. In Australia for example, design campaigns such as the plain packaging shown previously are very much focussed on premature death and the risk of dying. However, when I conducted an interview with youth leader Gading, he told me that Indonesians do not care about confronting pictures of disease because they know they will die anyway, so they may as well die smoking. (Fajar, G. 2018.) The prevalence of strong Muslim beliefs in Indonesia might mean that the fear of dying is less relevant and powerful. Arguments and designs that show smoking is somehow inconsistent with the values and beliefs of their religion may be far more likely to succeed in an anti-smoking design campaign.

Subsequently, design must always consider the social, political and cultural context.  Without acknowledging the importance of these local contexts, designers risk delivering messages that do not influence the target audience and risk failing to achieve their fundamental design objectives.


Reference List:

Anshari, D. 2017, ‘Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning Labels for Indonesia’s Cigarette Packages’, Doctoral Dissertation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 20, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

BBC UK. 2014, Cultural Influences on Design, GCSE Bitesize, viewed 30 January 2018 <;

Fajar, G. 2018, Interview, 19 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Final Design, 17 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Iteration One, 12 January 2018

Lepew, P. 2011, Indonesia Tobacco Giant’s Shameful Billboard Says “DON’T QUIT”, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006, ‘Culture-driven Product Innovation’, Proceedings 9th International Design Conference, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 573-578, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Morris, P. 2011, L.A. Lights ‘Don’t Quit’ Billboard, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Nicholl, A. 2018, Banjarmasin Cigarette Advertising, 08 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Glamourised Cigarette Packaging, 08 January 2018

Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000, ‘Urban Design In The Planning System: Towards Better Practice’, BETR Environmental Transport Regions, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-99, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Scott, L. 2017, Australia Wins Landmark WTO Tobacco Packaging Case, Acosh, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Statista. 2017, Market Share of Mobile Operating Systems in Indonesia from January 2012 to December 2017, The Statistics Portal, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Introduction of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Tobacco Advertising, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

Post D: Masjid in Context

By Catherine Nguyen

A local mosque spotted on my travels to Banjarmasin (Nguyen, C. 2018)

Architecture is a reflection of our values, ideologies and lifestyles- and although fixed concretely at a certain space and time, its foundation allows for it to continue to live on and tell stories for the years, decades and possibly centuries to come. It seeks to challenge the ways of working, thinking and relating (Turpin, E. (ed.) 2013) in accordance with context; and it is also through this context that informs the structure and constitutes for the style and materials used in the first place.

Travelling to Indonesia and learning more about this beautiful country allowed me to realise how diverse their culture was, and how this was mirrored in their different styles of architecture. As an archipelago consisting of thousands of islands with seas and straits creating barriers between cities (Sadali, A. 1979), it was to no surprise that this diversity would have made its way to even the smallest of cities such as Banjarmasin. There was a unique juxtaposition of contemporary, high rise buildings against the traditional stilt houses by the waters- and even the places they prayed at, the masjid (or mosques), were designed with variation.

One may have easily recognized the difference in character between a mosque in Turkey and one in India, as they would have belonged to a specific architectural style influenced by their respective contexts (Sadali, A. 1979). But what about a mosque in Banjarmasin in comparison to a mosque in say, Jakarta? Or Bandung? Although they share the same country that is Indonesia, each city are their own individual entities; differing in lifestyles, beliefs and traditions. Hence, the architectural style of their homes, buildings and mosques would be decisions reflective of their own local tastes.

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Great Mosque of Banten on the left (Kharisman, I. 2012) and the Javanese Joglo on the right (MacMhathain, D.)

As the most populous Muslim nation in the world with the Islamic religion reportedly embraced by nearly 90% of their population (Indonesia Investments, n.d.), the abundance of mosques within Indonesia are significant in their portrayal of their different communities; their designs a depiction of their contexts. Whilst the Great Mosque of Banten prides itself on their ‘stacked roofs’, a design deriving from the traditional Javanese dwellings (Sadali, A. 1979), other mosques in Banjarmasin and other areas are inspired by sources beyond Indonesia. The ‘onion’ dome, arched windows and doorways found in the Masjid Jami Banjarmasin are architectural decisions influenced by Byzantine models (Pringle, R. 2010) and representative of the desire of Indonesian rules to emulate their observations during their overseas travels (Sadali, A. 1979).

Aside from traditional models, contemporary styles have also surfaced in Indonesia, where architects have sought to challenge the pre-existing beliefs of the definitive characteristics of a mosque. The ‘Salman’ mosque complex on the campus of the Institute of Technology in Bandung presents an evident case of how ‘modern thoughts and sentiments are being amalgated with Islamic concepts’ (Sadali, A. 1979). Despite lacking the stacked roofs and arched windows, the building still holds the same ideologies as any other mosque; serving as a place to unite, pray and worship.

The inclusivity of the Islamic religion has also realised the need to represent minority communities in Indonesia through architectural design as well. Islamic Chinese Indonesians, whom have previously been viewed as a ‘redundant legacy of history’ (Jacobsen, M. 2005), have recently begun to enjoy their ‘newfound freedom to express their culture’ within the last decade, the Reformasi era (Dickson, A. 2008). The Muhammad Cheng Hoo mosque in Surabaya was built in appreciation for this minority, and hence is the first mosque in Indonesia with Chinese inspired architecture. With an appearance seemingly reminiscent of a Chinese pagoda, there are features which correlate to Arabic and Javanese influences (Wonderful Indonesia, 2017)- highlighting the beauty and compatibility of Islamic and Chinese culture.

Throughout the Islamic world there is unity amongst diversity (Sadali, A. 1979); despite the diversity in ethnic backgrounds or distinctions in the architectural design depending on various contexts, their beliefs are practiced in unison. Architecture, although an old design profession, continues to reflect these similarities and differences physically- and though their styles may become outdated, the history, culture, values and beliefs captured in these works of art stay timeless.



Dickson, A. 2008, ‘A Chinese Indonesian Mosque’s Outreach in the Reformasi Era’, 17th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Melbourne, pp. 1-11.

Indonesia Investments n.d., Religion in Indonesia, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Jacobsen, M. 2005, ‘Islam and Processes of Minorisation among Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia: Oscillating between Faith and Political Economic Expediency’, Asian Ethnicity, vol. 6, no. 2, pp 71-87.

Kharisman, I. 2012, Masjid Banten, Flickr, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

MacMhathain, D. 2016, Javanese Joglos: Aristocratic Houses, Flickr, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Pringle, R. 2010, Understanding Islam in Indonesia: Politics and Diversity, Editions Didier Millet PTE LTD, Singapore, pp. 190.

Sadali, A. 1979, ‘In Search of an Islam-Initiated Architectural Identity in Indonesia’, Architecture as Symbol and Self Identity, pp. 87-90.

Turpin, E. (ed.) 2013, Architecture in the Anthropocene, vol. 1, Open Humanities Press.

Wonderful Indonesia, 2017, 10 Most Unique Mosques in Indonesia, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.


Post A: The importance of local context in design

Design is aimed to be impactful and transformational; a key determinant to our quality of living (Hewkett 2005). This momentous goal is achieved through the designer considering further than just the aesthetic and functional qualities of a design, but rather relishing in the importance of understanding who the design is for and how it relates to the user. The profound understanding of users is only attained through exploring and analsying the social, political and environmental aspects of the user. These spectrums all fall into the user’s local context, thus making an intrinsic link between design and local context.

When comparing the fashion design market between the city of Sydney, Australia and Banjarmasin, Indonesia, it is explicit of how different local contexts produce varying designs based on the user. With the city of Banjarmasin majoring with 96% identifying as Muslim, this has significantly directed the fashion market, and what people choose to wear. The religious and environmental context for the people of Banjarmasin, has guided the fashion market within this location.

For the women of Banjarmasin conservative wear is paramount, with the majority of the women choosing to wear traditional items such as the kurung (traditional scarf) or the jilbab (traditional veil). The women also combine these traditional garments with typically full length trousers and skirts, and full sleeved shirts. Additionally, due to Banjarmasin being a tropical destination, the weather is constantly warm throughout the year, consequently also effecting the fashion market. This heat has led the majority of the clothing in Banjarmasin to be made from cotton due to its breathability properties. Through illuminating the religious and environmental spectrums of this city, it is notable of how understanding local context is necessary for design.

A local Banjarmasin woman wearing the kurung (Raviraj 2018)

However, with the city of Sydney, Australia there is a significant shift in the fashion market when compared to Banjarmasin due to the varying local context. Sydney fashion, though broad with its numerous influences from America and Europe, is described to be practical, informal and casual (Craik 2015). For the people of Sydney, the aesthetic, economical, environmental and functional attributes depict their clothing of choice. The fashion market within Sydney comprises of a range of styles but all within the constraints of shirts, pants, dresses and outerwear. The weather in Sydney, unlike Banjarmasin, ranges through out the year, which has significantly impacted what users choose to wear, thus directing the market to correlate with weather seasons (Craik 2015).

Through comparing the fashion market between Sydney and Banjarmasin, it is explicit of how local context significantly impacts a design. In order for a design to be successful, it is necessary for the designer to analyse the local context for which the design is to be situated in, as it will greatly influence how the design is received by the user and how it is used.


Craik, J. 2009, ‘Is Asutralian Fashion and Dress Distinctively Australian?’, Fashion Theory, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 409-441

Heskett, J. 2005, Design: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, England.

Jones, C. 2007, ‘Fashion and Faith in Urban Indonesia’, Fashion Theory, vol. 11, no. 2, pp.211-231