Post A: Design activism in different cultures

Designers have the choice to be an ethical influence based on their own personal values and beliefs.  When they choose to challenge societal and cultural norms, they become an agent of change. In the context of Indonesia, cultural norms and expectations surrounding tobacco culture makes it a difficult environment for designers to be an agent of change. It is evident that Indonesia has some of the highest smoking rates and houses the second largest tobacco industry in the world (Indonesia Investments 2016). The majority of the Indonesian market being controlled by tobacco companies (Tjandra 2018). It’s a two-way street where the industry fosters design through advertising and production of packaged cigarettes and in turn designers design material that send a romanticised message about tobacco consumption. The industry essentially provides not only for jobs for designers but many employees across the country. The tobacco industry contributes approximately 10% of all Indonesian tax revenue and employs some 2.5m workers in farming and manufacturing (Tjandra 2018). Tobacco industry generates a large amount of revenue and employment in the country with the sourcing and production of material being done locally (Indonesia Investments 2016). Furthermore, lack of support from government and enforcement of tobacco advertising and control policies inhibits a designer’s ethical reach.

An advertisement for tobacco designed to associate masculinity with smoking.

Similarly, in Australia the culture of drinking is widely accepted and associated with social occasions and bringing people together. Designers contribute through advertising of alcohol in general and sponsorship in sporting to send a certain message. The alcohol industry in Australia also generates economic development. The alcohol beverage industry in Australia makes a substantial contribution to Australia’s employment and economy providing jobs for more than 404,000 Australians and injects more than $19.7 billion every year into the Australian economy (Alcoholic Beverages Australia 2018). Although a widely accepted, there are also negative associations with alcohol such as binge drinking, drink driving and addiction. The difference with Indonesia is that the Australian government actively polices are enforced and carried out through advertising restrictions, lock out laws, drinking restrictions, public intoxication laws and visibility of bottles in public.

Advertisement designed for a popular Australian beer brand to show the celebration and bringing together of people through alcohol.


Industry Contribution, Alcoholic Beverages Australia, viewed 31st January 2019 <;

Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia, Indonesia Investments, viewed 31st January 2019 <>

Tjandra, N. 2018, Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, The Jakarta Post, viewed 15th January 2019 <;


XXXX Gold Campaign 2016, Mumbrella, viewed 31st January 2019, <>

Zhang, A. 2018, Tobacco Advertisement in Ambon, Photograph

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