POST A: How does local context and cultural sensitive shape design?

Design is shaped by the needs, desires, cultural customs, religions and ideologies that determine a local context. This was recently brought to my attention when I had to redesign an appropriate method to write text on the forearms of people in Banjarmasin, Indonesia. The design was resolved through the utilisation of hijab arm covers, due the predominantly Muslim population. The design of female clothing in Indonesia must consider these needs and embody religious practices and the liberation, justice and freedom, (The Conversation, 2017) that Indonesian Muslim women recently want to represent in their choice of clothing. Changes in social and political contexts have occurred through the work of organisations such as the Muslim Women’s agency, which represent a vibrant network of intellectual women that are independent and vocal in their ideologies. This has resulted in differing fashion and textiles design and has recently become a rapidly growing industry.

Design is shaped by local context and this is clear when looking at the work of Dian Pelangi, a young Indonesian fashion designer who collections comprise of hijabs, culturally sensitive design and traditional batik patterns. These designs embody the needs, desires, cultural customs, religions and ideologies of the local context. When her designs were showcased at Jakarta Fashion Week people from outside this local context were able to understand how her experiences and surroundings have shapes her design practice. This can also be said for Restu Anggraini, who is a designer “known for her contemporary, modern, clean and modest designs” (A.W. Wibowo, 2017)  according to Indonesia Tatler. In 2016 she represented Indonesia at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. This same event featured contemporary Australian Aboriginal designers, that represent their indigenous culture and conceptualise their local context. The colours and motifs represented the stories of the dreamtime and captured the history and present of Indigenous culture.This one event gave distinctly different designers, from distinctly different local contexts, the opportunity to showcase their needs, desires, cultural customs, religions and ideologies. One of the designers were Cynthia Vogler, whose work features printed skirts created through mixes of her own dyes. Similarly to Restu Anggraini, she utilizes batik dyeing techniques a process, involving using hot wax to block out sections of the fabric before it is embedment into the dye.

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 12.37.11 PM
Restu Anggraini’s designs Indonesia Tatler, 2017, Ramadan Fashion: 8 Indonesian Muslim Fashion Designers In The Spotlight, viewed 25 January 2018,
Cynthia Vogler (right) and her daughter wearing her designs (left) K. Vlasic, 2015, Cairns emerging fashion designer Cynthia Vogler experiments with printing techniques with amazing results, viewed 25 January 2018,

Both of these designers utilize similar manufacturing processes and means of abstracting inspiration for the design of their motifs, however both women are from different local contexts. Across the world design reveals similarity, as we gather inspiration and knowledge from one and other, however design also reveals distinctive contrasts that showcase our differences. It is clear how their personal understandings translate into their designs and how by learning about their backgrounds, we are able to see how design is truly shaped by local context.

Reference List

A.R. Beta, 2014, ‘Hijabers: How young urban muslim women redefine themselves in Indonesia’ International Communication Gazette, Vol.76, iss.4-5, pp.377-389.

E.F. Amrullah, 2008, ‘Indonesian Muslim Fashion Styles & Designs’, ISIM Review, vol. 22, pp 22-23.

Indonesia Tatler, 2017, Ramadan Fashion: 8 Indonesian Muslim Fashion Designers In The Spotlight, viewed 25 January 2018,

N.Hossain, R.Nurbani, V.Utari, W.Suharyo, ‘Social, economic and political context in Indonesia’, Interactions Eldis, viewed 25 January 2018,

The Culture Concept Circle, 2016, Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival- Indigenous Art, viewed 25 January 2018,

The Conversation, 2017, Indonesian Muslim women engage with feminism, viewed 25 January 2018,


POST A: Design in Contexts

Too often design processes are separated from insights into the use of the designed artifact, and even designers themselves may use models and concepts that focus on the artifact without paying attention to the context in which the artifact is used. To address the issue, it’s important to understand the context and use complementary perspectives (Kyng & Mathiassen, 1997) to develop a better perception of the situation and come up with useful solutions.

With the rapid growth of technology, the smartphone has largely fulfilled most people’s needs for telephone, camera, media player, etc., and it has become indispensable in people’s lives. The iOS and Android are considered to be the most popular operating systems globally; together, they have created a duopoly and account for more than 99% (Moon Technolabs, 2017) in smartphone sales. However, Android has a more market share in developing nations like Asia and Africa while iOS leads the market in developed countries like US, Australia, Europe, etc.

Geography Distribution
Geography Distribution of Android and iOS (Moon Technolabs, 2017)

Thus, to build an app for an operating system, the designer needs to consider the context in which it will be used; and identify user needs and preference to deliver ‘native’ (Babentsov, 2017) user experience as users have a fixed understanding of the UX pattern on a particular platform.

The billboard project of ‘The Hidden Voices of Banjarmasin’ created by Group Durian that is designed in WhatsApp’s Android interface. The context of smartphones in Indonesia is dominated by the Android operating system, which shares 88.37% of the market (Statista, 2017). Designing billboard in Android interface would trigger audience’s emotional responses more effectively because people are more familiar with the system.


Billboard Project ‘The Hidden Voices of Banjarmasin’ (Group Durian, 2018)


Contrasty, in the US, Messenger is rated as one of the most popular social media as it conveniently connects with Facebook as well as local contacts. The billboard could be designed in Messenger’s iOS interface as a metaphor to communicate and resonate with audiences.

Design is making sense (of things). It can be read as design is a sense creating activity (Krippendorff, 1989) that is recognisable and understandable. Be aware of the local context, designer can effectively minimise the failures and straightforwardly convince audience. Various approaches and solutions are shaped by contexts to reduce conflicts and enhance user experience.


Babentsov, 2017, ANDROID VS. IOS: UI/UX DIFFERENCES, Luanapps, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

Group Durian, 2018, The Hidden Voices of Banjarmasin, WordPress, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

Krippendorff, 1989, On the Essential Contexts of Artifacts or on the Proposition That “Design Is Making Sense (Of Things)”, JSTOR, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

Kyng, M. & Mathiassen, L. 1997, Computers and Design in Context, GoogleBooks, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

Moon Technolabs, 2017, Apple Vs Android — A comparative study 2017, AndroidPub, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

Statista, 2017, Market share of mobile operating systems in Indonesia from January 2012 to December 2017, viewed 31 Jan 2018,

POST A: What does design mean in different contexts?

Design draws from its surroundings; its function is completely dependent on context which is a complex mix of culture, time and place. Local context is a more direct combination of political and social influences specific to a time and place. Doing the studio in Banjarmasin, and visiting Java and Bali afterwards was a fascinating insight into a country that has so much diversity in religion, culture and ethnic groups. A focal point was understanding how this multiplicity and unity must be negotiated internally and as a collective, especially among Indonesian youth and their socio-political organisations and subcultures.


Music scene in Yogyakarta (Warning Magazine, 2014)

Indonesia is highly urbanised and operates around the cycle of consumerism that has become associated with modern life. This has only really developed in the past 20 years, after the fall of the authoritarian Soeharto regime in 1998. Combined with the flood of changes from globalisation and the internet, the country went through enormous changes and its design culture has been constantly trying to find and reaffirm the characteristics and definition of ‘Indonesian design’. (Luvaas, 2009) Part of this exploration was the DIY movement that grew in reaction to the saturation of mass-market global culture and its products. Indonesian youth culture flourished in the 2000s with this low-fi, punk sensibility across design, art, fashion and music, which has left a major impression on cities such as Bandung and Yogyakarta. (Luvaas, 2009) Reclaiming modes of production by reverting to handmade goods with smaller runs is a common feature of punk and anti-resistance movements the world over, as self-publishing gives one greater freedom of expression. (Moran, 2010)

Though that was an example of a reaction against the changing context, the local and global context we are simultaneously situated in can both be a source of inspiration for design. Architecture and furniture design is being experimented with by many Indonesian designers, such as Alvin Tjitrowirjo, whose contemporary furniture incorporates Indonesian culture through the materials used and is exhibited internationally. (Emond, 2010)

Design’s ability to change the physical, and thus the emotional world makes it uniquely poised to react to and influence the state of affairs, through subversive art, music, fashion, and architecture.



Emond, B., 2010, ‘Feature: Indonesia by design’, McClatchy – Tribune Business News, 11 October, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Luvaas, B. 2009, Generation DIY: Youth, class, and the culture of digital production in digital-age Indonesia, dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

Moran, I. P., 2010, ‘Punk: The do-it-yourself subculture’, Social Sciences Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 58-65.

Warning Magazine, 2014, Yogya crowd, photograph, viewed 1 February 2018, <;.

Post A: A Deeper Insight into Design


(Satria 2010)

It is inevitable that to some extent, design is certainly influenced by its local context in some shape or form. As such, design should always cater to achieve a social, political and cultural understanding of the local context in order to convey a message or meaning. Interestingly, in Gautam and Blessing’s article, they pointed out the difference in culture whereby western cultures view things by “dissecting objects into components” whereas in Asian cultures, they tend to view “objects in holistic terms” (Gautam & Blessings 2007). It’s an important fact to remember as designers, and with Indonesia being such a fascinating subject, it’s no doubt something that has to be considered when designing for them.

Unfortunately, the work of Indonesian graphic designers has often been overlooked, despite their focus on contextual factors “which social and cultural beliefs and attitudes can be seen ‘reflected’ in graphic design” (Barnam 2005). Although now almost lost in history after Indonesia was liberated, various designers have teamed up to create a book called the ‘Desain Grafis Indonesia dalam Pusaran Desain Grafis Dunia (Indonesian Graphic Design in the Whirl of World Graphic Design)’ in an effort to archive all of Indonesia’s graphic design past. (Zhuang 2016)

One particular design that was especially thought-provoking is the ‘A-Z of Archipelago’ typography book designed by five different Indonesian designers through intense research for over ten years. LeBoYe Design won the Indonesian Graphic Design Award in the Typography category for their beautifully crafted book that pays homage to Indonesia’s different areas which are filled with rich history and culture, which is very similar to my experience in what I have seen in Banjarmasin- the celebration of traditional values and their pride in it. Reminiscent of batik designs in the font which I personally experienced myself through the sasirangan printing workshop in Banjarmasin, LeBoYe Design cleverly weaved their experience with Indonesian culture and adapted it into a very modern yet decorative font that is relatable for locals and appeals to foreigners alike. As such, the ‘A-Z of Archipelago’ is a perfect example of how “geographical context may influence the practice and results of design.” (Julier 2006).

LeBoYe Design explains their concept where:

“We can see these symbols applied as exquisite patterning on textile, architectural details and other items of practical use. The specific embellishment are telling us many things including the cultural area, the technical method, the social use and other related meaning. Such as Lokcan pattern from Tuban, East Java, which is ornamented with Chinese phoenix bird as an emblem of beauty; and valuable double-weave Patola silk out of Gujerat is well known as prestigious inter-island trade during Dutch colony. Some patterns even have ceremonial/religious functions, or indicate the power/status of the owner. For example, Aso or dog-dragon head motif of upper Mahakam entitled only to high nobility members. Those glorious traditions to ethnic craft are testimony to cultural diversity of Indonesia and superlative craftsmanship.”

Through this, it is clear that Indonesians are extremely proud of their culture and traditions- with this design piece aiming to respect it in a very intricate and multifaceted manner. Furthermore, in order to appeal and relate to a more modern society, LeBoYe Design used “vivid colors like blazing red, bright turqouise and purple-ish silver, the graphic style direction is to display Indonesian culture in a contemporary way.” (LeBoYe Design 2010).

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(Satria 2010)

Graphic design in Indonesia doesn’t seem to have held a large popularity, yet the designs that are produced there are refreshing and meaningful- paying homage to their own society and culture at the heart through meaningful metaphors and messages. In an effort to keep graphic design alive in Indonesia, DGI’s bureau chief Ismiaji Cahyono says, “The history of Indonesian graphic design is a record of the evolution of ideas and values produced by the nation’s people…Having a knowledge of our profession’s roots projects a sense of pride and identity, a foundation for future development. For an industry often overlooked, we hope that the book is not too late to inform and inspire current and upcoming generation of designers.” (Zhuang 2016)


Barnard, M. 2005, Graphic Design as Communication, Routledge, USA & Canada

Gautam, V. & Blessing, L. 2009, ‘Cultural Influences on the Design Process’, Human Behaviour in Design, Vol, 9, No. 12, pp. 115-122.

Julier, G. 2006, From Visual Culture to Design Culture, Design Issues, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 64-76.

LeBoYe Design. 2009, A-Z of the Archipelago, weblog, WordPress, viewed 1 February 2018, <;

Satria, A. 2011, A-Z of Archipelago, Jakarta, viewed 1 February 2018, <;

LeBoYe Design. 2010, A-Z Archipelago, Agra Satria, viewed 1 February 2018, <;

Zhuang, J. 2016, Saving Indonesia’s Graphic Design History Before It’s Lost Forever, AIGA Eye On Design, New York, viewed 1 February 2018, <;