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, <;.

3 thoughts on “POST A: What does design mean in different contexts?

  1. In using your experiences in other areas of Indonesia collectively, a unique perspective on ‘Indonesian design scene’ was developed which I really enjoyed reading. Initially when I was conducting researching and attempting to define what ‘Indonesian design’ was, I found it difficult to pinpoint a particular style. However, after reading your post, I am able to relate to your observations that a DIY/handmade approach as emerged in the art scene and is unique to that of Indonesia. It differs greatly to the design styles that dominate the Australian design industry.

  2. Janey I really appreciated your exploration of history and culture in more urbanised areas like Jakarta or Bandung where punk and underground subcultures have had a more noticeable impact on modern design. It’s marvellous to consider how DIY punk sensibilities marry traditional craft techniques with a resistance movement, I’d be very interested to see how this evolves over time.

  3. This was such as interesting read! It is clear that you have developed an understanding of the culture, time and place that captures the essence of Indonesia. Your research on DIY/ handmade design and art was very insightful. It was interesting to learn about influences in music and fashion and how these all inform the design process. The ideas of self exploration and having the freedom of expression through design, made your write very engaging to read. Great Work!

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