POST A: The expressive typography of Banjarmasin

Walking down the streets in Banjarmasin is much like many other cities across the globe, as letters push their way into your eyesight, informing you of street names, food on sales and characteristic of Indonesia, cigarettes being sold. Due to the restrictions placed on imagery allowed on cigarette advertising in Indonesia, (Kharisma Rasa Indonesia, 2007) many rely heavily on eye-catching typography to communicate their message with display fonts and bold colours that scream their masculine ideals of a smoker to their audience (refer to figure 1). The many manifestations of type across Banjarmasin, from the colourful and hastily hand-made signs that adorn street vendors’ carts to the large-format digital prints above stores, type and design exemplify the “ubiquitous consumerism” of Banjarmasin and by extension Indonesia (Crosby, 2016).


Figure 1. San, W, 2018

Moreover, type serves to denote the different purposes of areas in the city, as residential streets feature an archway at their entrances with the street name, each one individual and full of character (refer to figure 2). Elements such as these serve to exemplify the vibrant and chaotic character of Banjarmasin, with pops of colour and the nature of both type and design within the city, contrasting the often sterile and corporate focused design present in other larger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Sydney. In this manner, the expressive and hand-generated nature of type in Banjarmasin reflects the context in which it was made, on the semi-isolated island of Borneo, with both different and more limited resources.


Figure 2. Nguyen, C, 2018

Observing the nature of type in Banjarmasin, it is revealed as acting not only as a means of communication but also informing the relationship between the city and the celebrated river that flows through it. Various examples of type are found along the riverside, primarily with a focus on celebrating Banjarmasin and its unique identity. The way in which type integrates with both the river and the public spaces constructed around it (refer to Figure 3), such as Menara Pendang serve to reflect Sheppard and Lynn’s analysis of cities and how the combination of the artificial and natural elements of a city occur together in a state of “uneasy coexistence” (Sheppard, Lynn, ).


Figure 3. Nguyen, C, 2018

Conclusively, typography in Banjarmasin is a complex mixture of purpose, materiality and character that reflects not only the context of the city but also contributes to the larger discourse between design and public space and identity.


Crosby, A, 2016. Designing Futures in Indonesia, UTS ePress, Vol. 13, No. 2, July 2016. Viewed 1 February 2018,

Kharisma Rasa Indonesia 2007, That Charismatic Indonesian Feeling’: Cigarette Billboard advertising in the city of Yogyakarta

Sheppard, E, Lynn, W.S, 2004, Patterned ground: entanglements of nature and culture. Reakton Press, London.

Tariq, Q, 2015, Indonesian veteran artist AD Pirous’ work shines at his first Kuala Lumpur exhibition in 12 years. The Star, viewed 1 February 2018,

Cover Image: Nguyen, C, 2018

3 thoughts on “POST A: The expressive typography of Banjarmasin

  1. This is an interesting perspective on the topic of design in local contexts as type and signage are often overlooked when engaging in local spaces. To describe Banjarmasin’s typography as masculine to appeal to the male population is a key observation for understanding why the tobacco advertisements predominantly used more bold colours. In comparing the type we see in Sydney to that of Banjarmasin, there is clearly a contrast and thus as you have indicated, it changes the nature of design within the local context.

  2. I love that you have expanded your knowledge on the context of typography in Banjarmasin after designing the signage for Vital Strategies’ event. Pulling your knowledge after completing this task as well as your own secondary research has made for an interesting read! I did not realise that in the residential areas, the archway at the start of the street was in fact the street name. I had just thought it was some expressive street art because each archway was different and hand-made. I had wondered how the post man knew what street was what! I guess me thinking the street names was art is reflective of the context I have grown up in. The machine made street signs in Sydney, where in every suburb, each sign is exactly the same is very different the the unique, locally produced street signs of Banjarmasin. In comparing the street name signage we see in Sydney and Banjarmasin, you have clearly shown how each one differs to suit the local context.

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