POST A: Design Activism

Design plays a significant role in any matter, as it constructs the perceptions held by the public. In Indonesia, design is utilised as a tool to further tobacco consumerism, manifesting in advertisements. Due to the lack of regulations enforced by the Indonesian government, tobacco advertising is consequently extremely effective (Nichter et al. 2009). As tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful within the country, bringing large sources of government revenue, the Indonesian government is therefore reluctant to place restrictions upon the tobacco industry (Nichter et al. 2009). The government’s support for tobacco can therefore be seen by their refusal to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), making Indonesia the only country in South East Asia which has not signed the treaty (Prabandari et al. 2015).

For the global studio in Ambon, we as designers had the difficult task of raising awareness of tobacco’s detrimental effects through design activism. My group produced a mural which requested audience participation for its completion, spreading awareness and encouraging support for the establishment of a smoke-free environment. For our design project, the involvement of Vital Strategies was essential to executing our plan, an organisation who partners with the government to create and implement public health initiatives (Vital Strategies 2018).

Figure 1: mural promoting a smoke-free environment

Furthermore, as the government supports tobacco industries, much of the health promotion against tobacco activity in Indonesia is carried out instead by non-government organisations, including public health and medical associations (Barraclough 1999). This is exemplified by the willingness of the local Puskesmas to cooperate with us to spread anti-tobacco awareness.

Resembling Indonesia’s large market for tobacco, Australia’s billion-dollar alcohol industry similarly poses as a major issue that invites design activism (Ditchburn 2018). The founders of the start-up Sparkke sought to challenge the direction of the Australian alcohol industry which they found too “male, pale and stale” with what they perceived as “downright misogynistic ads” (Ditchburn 2018). Instead, Sparkke seeks to push boundaries and spark conversations about prevalent social issues. To do this, Sparkke created a range of 6 canned drinks, consisting of slogans that bring awareness to important social issues, such as sexual consent, asylum seekers and the date of Australia or Invasion Day (Blandford 2018). Sparkke also donates 10% of direct sales to social causes (Ditchburn 2018). Although Sparkke’s love of pushing boundaries and the company’s social activism attracts its natural market of the millennials (Ditchburn 2018), the company still faces many challenges including the inevitable backlash it received from such strong messages (Blandford 2018).

Figure 2: Sparkke canned beverage (Verity 2018)



Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.

Blandford, M. 2018, Sparkke beer and wine company shakes up the local alcohol industry with its provocative labels, Good Food, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.

Ditchburn, E. 2018, How Female-led Startup Sparkke Advocates Social Change with Booze, Collective Hub, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.

Prabandari Y., Nichter M., Nichter M., Padmawathi R. & Muramoto M. 2015, ‘Laying the groundwork for Tobacco Cessation Education in medical colleges in Indonesia’, Education for Health, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 169.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 98-107.

Vital Strategies 2018, About Us, USA, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.


Verity 2018, Sparkke Change Beverage Co., viewed 31st January 2019, <;.


One thought on “POST A: Design Activism

  1. Love how the ‘Sparkke’ example shows that even companies contributing to the alcohol consumption in Australia can use the prevalence of their products to provoke positive social change!

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