BLOG A: The challenges of human-centered design

The public’s perception often outlines design as ‘a plan or drawing’ which ‘shows the look and function… of a building, garment, or other object’ (Google Dictionary 2019). They may also refer to it as the act of ‘conceiving a plan of something before it is made’ (English Oxford Dictionary 2019), commonly associating it with “glossy magazines, elaborate advertising campaigns, or fancy book covers” (Shea 2011). These definitions however only merely scratch the surface, both design and the designers themselves holding the ability to influence and initiate social change (Shea 2011). This act of human-centered design, or design activism, while able to combat various complex social challenges (Shea 2011), recurrently faces social, political, behavioural and industry barriers. Complicated by companies’ destructive advertising objectives, paired with designers who uphold unethical approaches, design activism proves difficult. Both Indonesia’s tobacco and Australia’s alcohol industries are pertinent to this.

The Indonesian tobacco industry demonstrates how a group may implement barriers, abuse and thrive from design. Indonesia, “the only country in Asia that has not signed…the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control” is undeniably suffocating from toxic tobacco culture (Tjandra 2018). Both political and economic elements appear as the two “driving forces” behind this addiction (Stories 2015), their relaxed regulations accompanied with aggressive industry advertising allowing for cigarette-smoking to become socially acceptable (Hui-Peng & Tze-li 2009). As a result, culture and behaviours are influenced, Indonesia’s leniency ultimately allowing the industry to target a younger audience (as seen in the video below).

Tobacco advertisement intended for a younger audience. This is evident through the young actors, music integrated, and activities portrayed (e.g., street dancing, mo-peds, guitar/rock scene).

Individuals are exposed continuously through “billboards, stalls, events,… [the] internet, [and] advertise[ments]” (Tjandra 2018), all of which are designed with consideration and purpose. Adding to these roadblocks, the tobacco industry boasts the extensive amount of jobs it provides Indonesia, whilst companies such as Sampoerna and Djarum have charmingly developed “educational pathway[s]…which distributes scholarships [and] supports underprivileged schools” (Tjandra 2018), or have “established sports academies for young talents” (Tjandra 2018). These high-volume challenges band together, ultimately intervening with and making human-centered design extremely problematic. Not only specific to Indonesia, this abuse of advertising and the various barriers put forward prove similar within Australia’s alcohol industry.

While design has been used positively with regards to tobacco within Australia (refer to the anti-smoking video below), the stance has not followed suit for alcohol consumption.

Australian tobacco advertisement intended to shock, educate and encourage people to quit (or refrain from taking up smoking).

Alcohol is known “to be the cause of significant physical, emotional and social harm” (Jones & Gregory 2007), and continues to be encouraged and often “designed deliberately to appeal to those under… age” (Jones & Gregory 2007). It seems political and economic barriers (as seen in Indonesia), are too perhaps to blame. US expert on alcohol policy, David Jernigan, states: “the Australian government is failing to… regulate the alcohol industry to stop its advertisements reaching children” (Davey 2017). Proof of this became evident when a report revealed the 2018 NRL grand final exposed children “to more than three cases of alcohol advertising every minute,” while AFL promoted alcohol once a minute (SBS News 2018). Equal to Indonesia’s tobacco industry, destructive barriers are evident. The lax laws, advertising, and their design yet again play a negative role contributing to and complicating the practice of human-centered design.

Research demonstrates the difficulties of design activism, its barriers and how design is used for darker motives. Those designers whom do uphold ethical values are too often presented with various complex and intricate challenges, which dominate and complicate their practice and/or working environments. Although confronted with these issues, the ability to initiate social change is still very much attainable. To gain greater insight into this uplifting realm and the successes of human-centered design, the following post (B) will explore and investigate an effective design initiative of tobacco control.


Shea, A 2011, Designing for Social Change : Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design, Princeton Architectural Press, New York. 

Google Dictionary 2019, Design definition, unknown, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

English Oxford Dictionary 2019, Design definition, United Kingdom, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

Tjandra, N. 2018, Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation get hooked, Jakarta, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

Stories 2015, How Indonesia’s Kids Are Getting Hooked On Cigarettes, video recording, YouTube, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

StopSmoking4Life 2007, Graphic Australian Anti-Smoking Ad, tv advertisement, YouTube, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

Iklanesia 2017, Iklan A Mild Go Ahead – Nanti Lo Juga Paham, advertisement, YouTube, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.

Hui-Peng, L. & Tze-li, H. 2009, ‘Smoking and Health in Indonesia’, Asian Population Studies, Vol. 5, no. 2, pp 189-209. 

Jones, S. & Gregory, P. 2007, ‘What does alcohol advertising tell young people about drinking?’ University of Wollongong, Australia. 

Davey, M. 2017, Australia failing to stop alcohol ads reaching children, experts say, Australia, viewed 6 January 2019, <>

SBS News 2018, Australian athletes call for a ban on ‘harmful’ alcohol ads in sport, Australia, viewed 6 January 2019, <>.



Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the USA (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). In 2012, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the ‘Tips From Former Smokers Campaign’ (Tips) which utilised fear, graphic imagery and real stories to create anti-tobacco advertisements. According to Emery, the campaign reached every media market in the US through television, radio, websites, billboards and print (Emery, 2014).

The key message of Tips is that ‘smoking causes immediate damage to your body and long-term health problems’ (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). Video 1 features this message with a throat cancer patient and damages to her teeth, hair and voice. All advertisements follow the same graphic and emotional formula to examine various diseases, disabilities and life-threatening episodes.


Success in Tips is measured by three key points: user engagement with their services, growing partnerships and government funding. In 2012, the CDC reported a 132% increase in their Quitline calls and a 482% increase in website visits (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). As Biener supports, a graphic and emotional approach to anti-tobacco advertising is associated with higher recall than humorous and non-emotive ads (Biener et. al., p. 263). While this data paints a celebratory narrative, scholars have raised ethical concerns about using fear in campaigns. According to Gass and Seiter, the use of threats to evoke psychological distress is unethical and unfair to audiences (Gass & Seiter 2011, p. 21). This may be argued in Video 2, where the threat of sickness and death may trigger anxiety or grief for some viewers. Consequently, critics argue that alternatives such as guilt or positive reinforcement should be further researched (Emery, 2014).

The second indicator of success is expanding partnerships with health practitioners, military services, public housing residences and faith-based organisations. Through widespread collaboration, the CDC extends their public reach by sharing information, resources, posters, brochures and website badges with their partners (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018). While Tips has built a strong public presence, Figure 3 reveals a lack of variation in quit smoking statistics. According to Davis, this is due to averaging results between 2012-2015 which only analyse the television component of the campaign (Murphy-Hoefer 2018, p. 4). Consequently, the data surrounding Tips should remain open to scrutiny for more accurate information. Finally, success is indicated by increases in government funding from $54 million in 2012 to $216 million in 2016.

Overall, the Tips campaign represents a positive beginning in attitudinal behaviour change towards tobacco in the USA. However, it is important to avoid an overly utopian view by remaining critical towards issues of ethics and data collection.

Figure 1

(Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2012)

Figure 2

(Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2014)

Figure 3

(Murphy-Hoefer, 2018)


Biener, L., Ji, M., Gilpin, E. A.,  Albers, A. B. 2004, ‘The Impact of Emotional Tone, Message and Broadcast Parameters in Youth Anti-Smoking Advertisements’, Journal of Health Communication, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 259-274.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2012, CDC: Tips From Former Smokers – Terrie’s Tip Ad, Video, Youtube, viewed 03 January 2018, <>.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2014, CDC: Tips From Former Smokers – Terrie Surgeon General Ad, Video, Youtube, viewed 03 January 2018, <;.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018, About the Campaign, Atlanta, viewed 03 January 2018, <>.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2018, Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States, Atlanta, viewed 03 January 2018, <;.

Emery, S.L., Szczypka, G., Abril, E.P., Yoonsang, K., Vera, L. 2014, ‘Are You Scared Yet? Evaluating Fear Appeal Messages in Tweets About the Tips Campaign’, Journal of Communication, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 278 – 295.

Gass, R.H., Seiter, J.S. 2011, Persuasion Social Influence and Compliance Gaining, 4th edn, Pearson, London.

Murphy-Hoefer, R., Davis, K.C., Beistle, D. King, B.A., Duke, J. Rhodes, R. Graffunder, C. 2018, ‘Impact of the Tips From Former Smokers Campaign on Population-Level Smoking Cessation 2012-2015, Preventing Chronic Disease, vol. 15, pp. 1-4.

Blog B: International Case Study of Design for Tobacco Control

Smoking is the leading cause for preventable diseases and staggering mortality rates worldwide (Manuel C. Pietsche, 2018) while many countries are attempting to reduce the mortality rate, Indonesia is one of the few countries that has the highest number of smokers globally. With a population of around 260 million at least 214,000 people die each year, 19% of which are males and 7% are females (, 2017) 

Looking at how some organisations are trying to combat these issues in other countries the question is: are these initiatives proving successful? According to G.T Fong “It is not possible to conduct randomised experimental studies to evaluate the effects of tobacco control policies because governments, not researchers, control policy implementation”. A well known example in Australia is the cigarette packaging featuring graphic images of what may result from prolonged tobacco use which came into place thanks to the Department of Health by December 2012. However a recent study released by The Cancer Council of Victoria found that plain packaging in Australia has failed. “Smoking rates in Australia have increased by 21,000 smokers from 2013 (one year after the new cigarette packaging was implemented) to 2016. This is marked the first time in decades that there hasn’t been a reduction in smoking rates.”(Sarah Ray, 2018)

Probing into recent initiatives, based in the U.S aims to prevent young adults from early addiction to tobacco, cigarette smoking usually begins at an early age especially in lower economic countries and regions (Saadiyah Rao, 2014). One of many of their initiatives is ‘Kick Butts Day’ dedicated to encourage youths to “stand out, speak up and seize control” (  KBD now organises events globally and hopes to reach more countries, the campaign aims to achieve a smoke-free future with the following:

fig.1 KBD logo

  • Promote policies reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws enforced in public spaces, funded tobacco prevention programs.
  • Expose and counter tobacco industry efforts to market to children and mislead the public.
  • Uniting organisations to join the fight against tobacco.
  • Empower a tobacco-free generation by fostering youth leadership and activism.
  • Inform the public, policy makers and the media about tobacco’s devastating consequences and the effectiveness of the policies we support.

KBD offers wide a range of activities aimed at students from elementary school to college, extensive support and resources that would have a prolonged effect for children and young adults in the future. Rather than aiming their campaigns at adult smokers they are educating students before they feel the pressure of having to smoke. 


The conceptual framework of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project

 G.T Fong, K.M Cummings, R Borland, G Hastings, A Hyland, G.A Giovino, D Hammond, M.E Thompson

Next-generation tobacco and nicotine products: Substantiating harm reduction and supporting tobacco regulatory science 

Manuel C Peitsch, Riccardo Polosa, Christopher Proctor, Thord Hassler, Marianna Gaca, Erin Hill, Julia Hoeng, and 

A Wallace Hayes

Anti-smoking initiatives and current smoking among 19,643 adolescents in South Asia: findings from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey
Saadiyah Rao, Syeda Kanwal Aslam, Sidra Zaheer and Kashif Shafique


The Department of Health, Tobacco: Health Warnings, April 2018

<> Viewed 8/1/19

The Toll of Tobacco In Indonesia

<> Viewed 7/1/19

Plain Packaging a graphic study in Failure, Spectator Australia, Sarah Ray, July 2018

<> Viewed 9/1/19

Kick Butts Day, For Youth Advocates

<> Viewed 8/1/19

fig 1. Kick Butts Day Logo, Illustrator Unknown