Post A: From Designer to Society

Design targeted at our community, and as a reaction to our changing social needs can significantly influence and change our beliefs, actions and perceptions. As we experience and move through daily life, our senses are bombarded by the surrounding factors, many of which shape and trigger emotions.

Designers have always used this to their advantage in their work, across all mediums. This comes into play with Indonesia’s heavily Tobacco influenced  society through sponsored events, design imagery and societal mindset surrounding smoking culture. Tobacco culture has a long and evolved history in Indonesia with rich cultural symbolism and indigenous appeal (REYNOLDS 1999). What can’t be ignored are the design elements of this total immersion of tobacco marketing across the populace; designers play a significant role in the marketing and organisation of such events including tobacco based sponsors. Designers in Indonesia are the methods the tobacco company use to enforce the social culture and response. 

The less regulated Indonesian laws affecting advertising, consumption and the sponsorship of local and international events has led to the pervasive tobacco culture in that country.  In 2010, concern was raised with the Gudang Garang Java Rockin’Land 2010 concert; described as the biggest rock festival in Southeast Asia, being heavily produced and sponsored by cigarette company Gudang Gurang. With student discounts and targeted campaigns the company did not pretence their intentions “Through this grand event, Gudang Garam International attempts to create a closer proximity for the genre’s younger crowds to their idols” (SEATCA 2010). This is a significant and common issue with designers creating influence over products and associated messaging of tobacco companies.  Where other countries have implemented laws to restrict tobacco advertising and endorsement,  Indonesia is still years behind; with economic, social and political factors creating a harder environment for design activist implementation.

Just as the tobacco industry is a designed element of Indonesian culture, so too can design activism be used in changing this mindset. Design activism in Indonesia is aimed at generating projects which envision a different value system; attempting to change how the society perceive and respond to tobacco products. Design activism implies “change and transformation […] providing visibility to the larger public” (BOHEMIA 2017). This can be implemented in Indonesia through the intended disassociation of culture and tobacco; combined with the highlighted value of more creative endeavours for designers. The more designers disconnect from the tobacco industry and help present activistic values, the more conscious and subconscious factors in everyday life will leave positive outcomes for Indonesians.


ASEAN, 2010, International artists performing at Indonesian tobacco-sponsored rock festival despite protests, SEATCA, Thailand, viewed 18th December 2019, <>.

Bohemia, E. Predeville, S. 2017, ‘Exploring articulations of design activism’, Design Management Academy, vol. 4, pp. 843-864.

Medicine Man, How does design affect our lives?, marketing agency, London, viewed 18th December 2019, <>.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ’Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: the defining characteristics for success’, BMJ, vol. 8, pp. 85-88.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s