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).
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, <https://leboye.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/a-z-of-archipelago/>
Satria, A. 2011, A-Z of Archipelago, Jakarta, viewed 1 February 2018, <http://cargocollective.com/agrasatria/A-Z-of-Archipelago>
LeBoYe Design. 2010, A-Z Archipelago, Agra Satria, viewed 1 February 2018, <http://cargocollective.com/agrasatria/A-Z-of-Archipelago>
Zhuang, J. 2016, Saving Indonesia’s Graphic Design History Before It’s Lost Forever, AIGA Eye On Design, New York, viewed 1 February 2018, <https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/saving-indonesias-graphic-design-history-before-its-lost-forever/>
One thought on “Post A: A Deeper Insight into Design”
So much meaning and history layered into the type design! Great to get an insight into Indonesian typography and how they navigate the influences of local Indonesian culture with the global.
Particularly fascinating as there weren’t many refined examples when we did the studio in Banjarmasin.