POST A: Indonesian And Australian Design – What To Consider

Local context should always be considered when designing because it is “seen as a mirror and agent of change.” (Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006.) This varies a lot between countries or even between different groups within the same society. Context also has a “big influence on what people regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design.” (BBC UK. 2014.) For example, in South Africa red is the colour of mourning. However, in China red symbolises good fortune. Trying to sell the same red product in those two countries would produce a very different response. Furthermore, any design for a society that has not considered their cultural beliefs as well as social and political practices has the potential to be pointless because it may lack meaning for them. Therefore, to be sure that a design will have an impact and serve the needs of the target market, it has to be created whilst considering their local mores. The only way you can do this is by understanding their social, technological, economic, environmental and political context. (Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000.) I realised this whilst immersing myself in the Indonesian culture, conducting research and undertaking an anti-smoking campaign with Vital Strategies, where my group and I designed a billboard to discourage smoking.

Walking around the colourful streets of Banjarmasin and talking to Indonesians allowed me to understand and respond to the unique social context of this engagement. For example, when developing our billboard design, we quickly noticed how popular it was amongst the Indonesian youth to take pictures using their smart phones. We also observed that unlike Australia where the predominant messaging application used is iMessage, in Indonesia, this was WhatsApp. As our billboard needed to be relevant to the audience we were targeting, this was an important piece of information we gathered to ensure the success of our design. In addition, we also learned through discussion with the Indonesian youth and Vital Strategies that our assumption of iPhones being as popular in Indonesia as they are in Australia was wrong. In fact, 88.37% of the Indonesian market in December 2017 (Statista. 2017.), used Android phones. As such we had to modify our design to reflect the social context in order to achieve greater local relevance and trigger an emotional response from the audience.

My group’s first iteration of the billboard started out in our presumed most popular format: iPhone. Our design had to change when we learned that Android phones were more popular in Indonesia. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)
Our final design using the Android format was more relevant to an Indonesian context. (Image: Group Durian. 2018.)

Furthermore, during my time in Banjarmasin I noticed some key cultural and regulatory differences between Australia and Indonesia exist. This makes the task of reducing the prevalence of smoking in Indonesia significantly more difficult. Such differences should be acknowledged and taken into consideration during any anti-smoking design initiative for Indonesia. Firstly, as a Muslim country, drinking is not a wide-spread recreational pastime and as such cigarettes are arguably of greater importance as a source of relaxation and social interaction.

Research into Indonesian cigarette advertisements. (Image: Lepew, P. 2011.)

Secondly, Indonesia is the “only country in the South-East Asia region that still allows cigarette advertisements to be aired on TV and radio, and ads are also printed in newspapers, magazines, and on billboards” (Anshari, D. 2017.), with only minor restrictions that the Tobacco Industry must adhere to. For example, this L.A. lights billboard to the left literally says “DON’T QUIT”. (Morris, P. 2011.) Conversely, Australia’s political context does not allow for any tobacco advertisements at all with the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992. (The Department of Health. 2017.)


Walking the streets of Banjarmasin, it became apparent that cigarette advertising was far more prevalent than it is when I stroll the streets of Sydney. This difference needs to be acknowledged when designing for Indonesia or Australia. (Images above: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

Lastly, packaging laws in Indonesia allow for 60% of the packet to focus on branding and glamourising the product, with the remaining 40% to be on health warnings. (Anshari, D. 2017.) By contrast, Australian law prevents all branding and provides no opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves. Cigarette packaging must focus on the health warnings as a result of smoking alone under the recent Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. (The Department of Health. 2017.)

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At a street market in Banjarmasin, the health warnings on the cigarette packets were mostly covered up by a red sticker. This would be illegal in Australia. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)
The uniform plain packaging of cigarette packets in Australia. (Image: Scott, L. 2017.)

Given these positive influences that actually promote smoking in Indonesia, I realised a design campaign there might focus not only on why smoking is bad for you like it is in Australia’s context, but could also consider ways to dismiss or negate positive attitudes towards smoking in order to successfully design for their context.

In addition, I have come to discover that an Indonesian anti-smoking campaign focussed on fears should not necessarily assume that culturally Indonesian people fear the same things as Australians. In Australia for example, design campaigns such as the plain packaging shown previously are very much focussed on premature death and the risk of dying. However, when I conducted an interview with youth leader Gading, he told me that Indonesians do not care about confronting pictures of disease because they know they will die anyway, so they may as well die smoking. (Fajar, G. 2018.) The prevalence of strong Muslim beliefs in Indonesia might mean that the fear of dying is less relevant and powerful. Arguments and designs that show smoking is somehow inconsistent with the values and beliefs of their religion may be far more likely to succeed in an anti-smoking design campaign.

Subsequently, design must always consider the social, political and cultural context.  Without acknowledging the importance of these local contexts, designers risk delivering messages that do not influence the target audience and risk failing to achieve their fundamental design objectives.


Reference List:

Anshari, D. 2017, ‘Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning Labels for Indonesia’s Cigarette Packages’, Doctoral Dissertation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 20, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

BBC UK. 2014, Cultural Influences on Design, GCSE Bitesize, viewed 30 January 2018 <;

Fajar, G. 2018, Interview, 19 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Final Design, 17 January 2018

Group Durian, 2018. Billboard Iteration One, 12 January 2018

Lepew, P. 2011, Indonesia Tobacco Giant’s Shameful Billboard Says “DON’T QUIT”, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Moalosi, R. Popovic, V. & Hickling-Hudson, A. 2006, ‘Culture-driven Product Innovation’, Proceedings 9th International Design Conference, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 573-578, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Morris, P. 2011, L.A. Lights ‘Don’t Quit’ Billboard, Tobacco Free Kids, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Nicholl, A. 2018, Banjarmasin Cigarette Advertising, 08 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Glamourised Cigarette Packaging, 08 January 2018

Raynsford, N. & Lipton, S. 2000, ‘Urban Design In The Planning System: Towards Better Practice’, BETR Environmental Transport Regions, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-99, viewed 30 January 2018, <;

Scott, L. 2017, Australia Wins Landmark WTO Tobacco Packaging Case, Acosh, viewed 31 January 2018 <;

Statista. 2017, Market Share of Mobile Operating Systems in Indonesia from January 2012 to December 2017, The Statistics Portal, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Introduction of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Tobacco Advertising, Australian Government, viewed 31 January 2018, <;

POST C: The Rise In Youth Smoking? An Interview With Youth Leader Gading Fajar

As one of the top four tobacco consuming countries in the world (Anshari, D. 2017.), Indonesia is lagging behind in terms of control systems. (Schewe, E. 2012.) It wasn’t until I arrived in Banjarmasin that I fully understood the severity of the issue, particularly in the prevalence of youth smokers. As Vital Strategies mentioned in their presentation, the increase in youth smokers in South Kalimantan rose from “25% in 2013 to 48% in 2017”. (Vital Strategies. 2018.)

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Statistic shown during the Vital Strategies presentation about the rise in youth smoking over the last 4 years. It is a major concern that they are working to reduce. (Image: Vital Strategies. 2018.)

During my travels, I noticed that there are many factors that have contributed to this. For example, there were social influences like peer pressure and smoking role models such as parents and teachers. There was also heavy exposure to tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships. Even the opportunities to smoke in Indonesia were easier than Sydney. For example, people could smoke in public places like the hotel lobby.  My collaborative experience in Banjarmasin, working closely with Vital Strategies led me to several opportunities to meet and interview the local community and students. This allowed me to gain insight into where exactly the tobacco issue comes from and why the issue is increasing rather than decreasing.

Gading Fajar, aged 19, is a non-smoker who works in Banjarmasin. He volunteers with a few organisations, including Vital Strategies, that aim to promote health and positive change throughout his city. I decided to interview Gading given the trend for increased smoking amongst the youth. “About 30%” (Fajar, G. 2018.) of Gading’s friends smoke, but he goes against the social norm to do this because he believes that “the new generation can make a good movement to make Banjarmasin a beautiful and healthy city” (Fajar, G.) that is “tobacco free.” (Fajar, G.) Gading would also be able to help me better understand why youth smoking has increased over the last four years in South Kalimantan.

Data from the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2014 shows that the frequency of youth smokers aged 13 to 17 in Indonesia was 35% among boys and 3% among girls. (World Health Organisation. 2014.)

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Data from the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that in Indonesia, it is mostly the men who smoke. (Image: World Health Organisation. 2014.)

Smoking rates may be higher for young boys because “it portrays the image of potency, wisdom and bravery”. (Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. & Öhman, P. 2017.) Similarly, Gading believes that smoking is more popular amongst men in Banjarmasin because “they think if you smoke it can make you more of a gentlemen and women will like you more but if a female is smoking they are seen as a bad girl.” (Fajar, G.) Gading further explained that even though his father smokes, he has never felt pressure from him to do so. However, when he hangs out with his friends who do smoke, he says he often feels “alone” (Fajar, G.) because he is “teased and laughed at.” (Fajar, G.) During our interview, he recalled one “painful” (Fajar, G.) memory of being physically hurt by his friends for choosing not to smoke. “In junior high school when I did not smoke, my friends who were smoking put out their used butt on my arm, leaving a scar”. (Fajar, G.) I believe that if organisations like Vital Strategies want to decrease youth smoking prevalence in South Kalimantan, they need to focus on breaking down the stigma that men should smoke.

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Gading’s scar from when he was purposely burnt by his friends with a used butt for choosing not to smoke. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

One aspect of Banjarmasin I noticed that is different to Sydney is the large amounts of signage promoting tobacco products and street stores selling them. We even saw one right outside a primary school. This moment made me wonder whether these tobacco advertisements have contributed to the rise in the number of youth smokers in South Kalimantan. Gading agreed with me during our interview as he thinks that the youth believe it is “cool to smoke because there are so many tobacco advertisements, information and sponsorships in Banjarmasin.” (Fajar, G.)

Glamourised signage directly above a street market selling cigarettes opposite a primary school. The legal age to purchase cigarettes (18+) is only put in small writing in the top right hand corner. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

I also observed that the youth in Indonesia may be encouraged to smoke as the health concerns related to smoking and second-hand smoking are not emphasised. Although the packs have small health warnings on each side, I noticed it does not appear to be enough to put people off smoking. However, Gading thinks that the health warnings on cigarette packets are strong enough because they made him realise that smoking would make him “sick.” (Fajar, G.) He is of the view that maybe some people do not “care” (Fajar, G.) about the pictures because they think “if I’m not smoking I will die, and if I’m smoking I will still die too, so it is better to smoke to death.” (Fajar, G.)

When analysing cigarette packaging in Banjarmasin, I noticed that the health risks related to smoking are not as obvious compared to the plain packaging I see in Australia (see previous post). (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

As an advocate for many smoke free initiatives, hearing Gading’s experiences of working in Banjarmasin was fascinating as it has confirmed my perspective on what smoking is like for the youth of Banjarmasin. I have understood the necessity for organisations such as Vital Strategies and volunteers like Gading to emphasise not only the positive change a smoke free environment could bring, but to also promote the detrimental effects tobacco smoke has on their surrounding community members and environment, particularly for the youth.


Reference List:

Anshari, D. 2017, ‘Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning Labels for Indonesia’s Cigarette Packages’, Doctoral Dissertation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Fajar, G. 2018, Interview, 19 January 2018

Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. & Öhman, P. 2017, ‘If I Don’t Smoke, I’m Not A Real Man’-Indonesian Teenage Boys’ Views About Smoking’, Health Education Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 794–804, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Nicholl, A. 2018, Cigarettes Advertised and Sold Outside of School, 08 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Gading’s Burn on Arm, 19 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Glamourised Cigarette Packaging, 08 January 2018

Schewe, E. 2012, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Vital Strategies. 2018, ‘Ampihi Mangaramput!’, PowerPoint presentation, viewed 08 January 2018

World Health Organisation. 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Indonesia, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Group Durian – Billboard Project ‘The Hidden Voices of Banjarmasin’

Designing the billboard in partnership with Vital Strategies and the community of Banjarmasin was an exercise of iterating and responding to feedback quickly. This went a long way in completing the final design to our satisfaction, professionally and on time. Our brief was to ‘consider local motifs, styles and language’ as well as communicate a ‘global message’. So, we wanted to promote the positivity of not smoking by mirroring Banjarmasin’s lively social media culture but to also give a voice to youths who choose to not smoke, portraying them as the real heroes.

Concept Development:

The design audit was extremely valuable in gathering observations of attitudes around smoking, cigarette consumption and sales. For example, we learned that cigarette advertising is heavily glamourised but is also banned on the main streets of Banjarmasin and can only be found in small residential areas as shown on our map below.

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Cigarette advertising is heavily glamourised in Banjarmasin and can only be found in smaller residential areas, not the main streets. (Group Durian. 2018.)
Map of observations in Banjarmasin from 8th of January 2018. (Group Durian. 2018.)

The concept of a WhatsApp screen was based on our observations of interacting with the Indonesian youth, who are very connected with each other through messaging and Instagram. There was one point where one of our new friends asked for a WhatsApp number, but sadly none of us actually used WhatsApp. Given that the rise of youth smoking was a large focus of Vital Strategies’ work, we chose to communicate through a familiar, relatable format that would project an oppositional stance against peer pressure and the popularity of smoking in Banjarmasin. In the end, this seemed to work well as when we presented the design, Vital Strategies commented that the concept is easily transferrable across different languages and cultures.

The Design Process:

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Our process started on paper, roughly sketching out how the design would work before we worried about perfecting it on the computer. (Group Durian. 2018.)

A primary research-based approach seemed to serve our group well throughout the whole project as we based the final outcome on interviews with Banjarmasin students and residents, shown in the images below. This constant back-and-forth process of creating mock-ups and receiving feedback from the Banjarmasin youth was very effective in breaking down our assumptions and reinforcing the fact that we were designing for their city. Furthermore, this direct line of communication allowed us to pay close attention to detail so we could refine the wording and learn about cultural differences in Indonesia. For example, we discovered that android is actually more popular over here, so making that change would increase relatability. Similarly, 24 hour time is used more frequently than 12 hour time. This development is shown in our iterations below.

Throughout the design process, we were always confident in our concept early on but the actual design went through many changes as we received feedback from Vital Strategies and accommodated the uncertain billboard dimensions and logos. We had to quickly adapt when Vital Strategies suddenly told us there needed to be multiple logos as we were not sure where to integrate them smoothly. But as a group, this taught us about learning how to successfully adapt to the situation and deliver what the client wants even if we were not sure how it would initially work. Creating a billboard also taught us a lot about designing to a larger scale. As oppose to designing at the actual size like we did initially, we soon discovered that we could design at a smaller scale by using vectors so that it did not pixelate when it was scaled up. Finding vector files was especially difficult for the emojis because they are not our own design.


In the end, this ongoing collaborative process was worthwhile to perfect the outcome and hopefully influence some change among the youth here. This opportunity from Vital Strategies to design a billboard, and contribute on this level in an event of this scale has been exciting, daunting and rewarding. As both designers and global citizens this process has challenged us but as a result we have taken valuable lessons from not only the experience but the people and city of Banjarmasin. It has given us so much more confidence heading into the early stages of our design careers. We would like to say ‘Terima kasih!’ to Vital Strategies for giving us this unique opportunity and we will never forget our first real world clients!

POST B: Plain Packaging – Has This Been A Successful Design Initiative For Tobacco Control?

Growing up in Australia today, the harsh consequences of smoking are regularly advertised. This is completely different to how my parents grew up in the 1970s, a time where the diseases linked to smoking were only just being discovered by scientists and doctors. Studies show that still only a few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, a 2009 survey conducted by the World Health Organisation in China revealed that “only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it causes stroke”. (World Health Organisation 2017.)

As part of an initiative to “make Australia the healthiest country by the year 2020”, (Cancer Council Victoria 2011) and knowing the cigarette pack has become an important means of communicating the risks of smoking, the Australian Government decided to fund a project to introduce what is known as plain packaging. From December 1 2012 all tobacco products were legally required to be in plain packaging, making Australia the first country in the world to introduce this top-down design led initiative. (The Department of Health 2017.) This initiative requires all tobacco products in Australia to be standardised and sold in uniform plain green boxes, typefaces and “contain graphic images of diseased smokers”. (White, V. Williams, T. & Wakefield, M. 2015.) It requires the removal of all branding such as colours, imagery, logos and trademarks. (2015.)

Cigarettes in Australia are sold in identical green packets bearing the same typeface and largely covered with graphic health warnings. (Photo: Hutton, J. 2017.)
I was a young teenager when plain packaging was first implemented in Australia. It surely put me off smoking for good as I never wanted to even try it. (Photo: Hutton, J. 2017.)

These were all done in support of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations Act 2011. (Federal Register of Legislation 2016.) Its objectives were to “improve public health by discouraging people from using tobacco products or starting, increase the number of smokers who quit and reduce exposure to tobacco smoke.” (The Department of Health 2017.)  Increasing the effectiveness of health warnings helps to reduce the ability that previous “glamorised” (2017) retail packaging had on consumers. I believe these improvements in how tobacco products are promoted through packaging are essential to reducing the unacceptable level of death and disability caused by smoking in Australia. This is because people are more likely to understand the side effects through confronting imagery as oppose to text.

Cigarette packaging in Australia was “glamorised” (The Department of Health 2017) in the 1970s, where people were not warned of the diseases smoking would later cause them. (Photo: Sludge, G. 1970.)

Two years after the Act was introduced in 2012, the Australian Government commenced a “Post-Implementation Review” (2017) of tobacco plain packaging to “assess its effectiveness.” (2017.) The results concluded the Act is having a positive impact because in results released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there was a general decrease in the smoking rate, dropping from 15.1% in 2012 to 12.8% in 2014. (2017.) Cancer Council researcher Professor Melanie Wakefield also commented “about 20% of people who smoke made attempts to quit over the course of a month…after plain packaging, that went up to nearly 27% of people who made quit attempts”. (Wakefield, M. 2017.) Furthermore, Doctor Tasneem Chipty, an expert in econometric analysis says from December 2012 to September 2015, “the 2012 packaging changes resulted in 108, 228 fewer smokers”. (Chipty, Dr T. 2017.) It is evident that plain packaging in Australia has been successful when it is compared to countries like Indonesia, where this incentive has not been introduced. While the number of smokers in Australia is decreasing, statistics show that the number of smokers in Indonesia rose over the last year, from 31.8% in 2015 to 34.1% in 2016. (Reddy, K.S. Yadav, A. Arora, M. 2017.)

Although plain packaging has shown positive results in Australia, it also highlights problems. The World Trade Organisation granted Indonesia the right to challenge Australia’s plain packaging laws in 2014. (Moore, S. 2014.) Indonesia’s Trade Ministry director Bachrul Chairi believes Australia “breaches international trade rules and the intellectual property rights of brands.” (Chairi, B. 2014.) Chairi further comments that it removes an available avenue of brand advertising for cigarette companies. (2014.) Since Indonesia is the “sixth biggest tobacco exporter and provides jobs to more than six million people”, (Moore, S. 2014) there is an incentive to promote the tobacco industry. The final ruling is yet to be made.

Indonesian workers hand roll cigarettes at a factory in Surabaya. If there was a decline of smoking in Indonesia, this would result in job loss for these people. (Photo: Chairi, B. 2014.)

On a universal level, the UK has followed Australia in the plain packaging laws as of May 2016, (Bourke, L. 2016) citing the decline in Australia’s smoking rate as proof that it works. In the future, Ireland, France and New Zealand are among several countries committed to following Australia and the UK in introducing plain packaging. (2016.) Consequently, with other countries coming on board, I strongly believe that plain packaging will continue to globally succeed in battling the tobacco epidemic as its graphic imagery showing the diseases smoking causes provides a much more powerful message than words on the old packaging ever will. We just need to convince Indonesia to follow this trend.


Reference List:

Bourke, L. 2016, ‘Australia Made It Easier for UK to Introduce Plain Packaging Says Kevin Rudd’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 13 December 2017, <;

Cancer Council Victoria. 2011, ‘Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products: A Review of the Evidence’, Cancer Control Policy, Position Statements, vol. 1, no. 1, pp 13-16, viewed 10 December 2017.

Chairi, B. 2014, ‘Indonesia Challenges Australia’s Plain Cigarette Packaging Law At WTO’, Jakarta Globe, viewed 12 December 2017, <;

Chipty, Dr T. 2017, Evaluation of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia, Australian Government, viewed 11 December 2017, <;

Federal Register of Legislation. 2016, Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, Australian Government, viewed 11 December 2017, <;

Hutton, J. 2017, ‘Smoking: Australia’s Packing Up, Why Can’t China, Indonesia?’, This Week In Asia, viewed 13 December 2017, <;

Moore, S. 2014, ‘Indonesia To Challenge Australia’s Plain Packaging Tobacco Laws at World Trade Organisation’, ABC News, viewed 12 December 2017, <;

Reddy, K.S. Yadav, A. Arora, M. 2017, ‘Indonesia: Integrating Tobacco Control Into Health and Development Agendas’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 1, pp 24-26, viewed 11 December 2017.

Sludge, G. 1970, ‘The VIrtual Tobacconist – Flip-top UK Cigarette Packets – Brands, c 1970’, Flickr, viewed 11 December 2017, <;

The Department of Health. 2017, Introduction of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia, Australian Government, viewed 11 December 2017, <;

Wakefield, M. 2017, Smoking and Tobacco Control, Cancer Council Australia, viewed 11 December 2017, <;

White, V. Williams, T. & Wakefield, M. 2015, ‘Has the Introduction of Plain Packaging with Larger Graphic Health Warnings Changed Adolescents Perceptions of Cigarette Packs and Brands?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 06-11, viewed 11 December 2017.

World Health Organisation. 2017, ‘WHO Report On The Global Tobacco Epidemic: Monitoring Tobacco Use and Prevention Policies’, Bloomberg Philanthropies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 19-25, viewed 10 December 2017.

POST D: Batik In Indonesia

Batik is an Indonesian heritage from the 19th Century, derived from Javanese words amba, which means “to write” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E. 2011), and titik, “to dot.” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E.) It is a fabric that has been decorated using a “wax resist dyeing method” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E.), where the batik maker applies a pattern of hot wax to a cloth. Once the wax dries, the fabric is either brushed with or dipped into a series of dyes. When the wax is later removed, it preserves the intricate patterns of unstained cloth. (Murinto, P. & Aribowo, E. 2016). As I naively thought, batik is not just a combination of colour and pattern, but are symbolic, with each image and every colour determined by traditions and in turn, imply unique meaning. Each batik is different due to influences by local cultures due to “colonial rule, wartime occupation, trade and other geographical factors.” (Henn, C. 2004). Just like my family has a different patterned Scottish tartan to another, throughout all parts of Asia (not just Indonesia), batik can be defined according to “pattern, colour, or fabric” (UNESCO 2009) and carries great social, cultural and political significance.

Today there are “over 2500 batik motifs patented” (Marini, T. 2016) and the development of batik across Indonesia is still happening along modern and traditional influences, so I will only describe a few. Based on the general pattern and colours, “batik in Java is usually divided into inland, also known as pedalaman batik and coastal, pesisir batik.” (Emeralda, E. 2016). Pedalaman batik, especially from places like Yogyakarta and Surakarta as mapped, it is regarded as the oldest form in Java. The absence of external influences such as religion or culture is demonstrated through the “earthy colours used such as black, indigo, brown and yellow” (Emeralda, E.). Another colour was a brown-yellow known as “sogan” (Emeralda, E.) made from a “native tree dye.” (Emeralda, E.)

Yogyakarta batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)
Surakarta batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)

Conversely, in the northern areas of Java, Cirebon and Madura where trading was historically more prevalent, the batik reflects outside influences with foreign patterns and brighter colours such as light blues and pinks. Furthermore, evidence of trading with China is demonstrated in the patterns of Cirebon batik through the phoenix and dragon. (Emeralda, E.)

Cirebon batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)
Madura batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)

Batik was introduced to Sumatra, Bali and Kalimantan from Javanese influences as demand only increased with local development. (Ernawati, K. 2012). Here, batik known as “benang bintik from central Kalimantan”, (Ernawati, K.) was traditionally only used for weddings or ceremonies, but today is starting to pop up in local designers’ works. Batik from these areas are characterised by “bright vibrant colours,” (Ernawati, K.), usually done by hand as oppose to block printing. Today, flowers are particularly prominent in areas of Sumatra and Bali to support modern day tourism needs.

Sumatra batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)
Bali batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)
Kalimantan batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)

Batik in Indonesia is not just a combination of pattern and colour but a representation of the land in which it originates due to trade relations across Asia. Batik is so unique it is possible to identify its derivation through pattern and colours. I am looking forward to seeing this in different parts of Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan when I visit in January.

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This map visually represents the batik across Indonesia I have discussed, making it easier for you to identify where these places are on a map. (Illustration: Nicholl, A. 2017)

Reference List:

Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E. 2011, ‘Punctuated Equilibria and Indonesian Art’, EcoHealth, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 134-5, viewed 04 December 2017

Emeralda, E. 2016, ‘3 Distinct Types of batik That You Should Know’, Arts and Culture, Indonesia Tatler, viewed 04 December 2017 <;

Ernawati, K. 2012, ‘Types and Variations of Batik Indonesia’, Just You Fashion, viewed 05 December 2017 <;

Google Maps 2017. Indonesia, viewed 06 December 2017 <,105.1698715,6z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x2c4c07d7496404b7:0xe37b4de71badf485!8m2!3d-0.789275!4d113.921327?dcr=0&gt;

Henn, C. 2004, ‘Batik Designs’, School Arts: The Art Education Magazine for Teachers, vol. 103, no. 6, pp. 48, viewed 04 December 2017

Marini, T. 2016, ‘Know Various Types of Traditional Indonesian Batik Patterns’, Tinuku, viewed 05 December 2017 <;

Murinto, P. & Aribowo, E. 2016, ‘Image Segmentation Using Hidden Markov Tree Methods in Recognising Motif of Batik’, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, vol. 85, no. 1, pp. 27-33, viewed 04 December 2017

Nicholl, A. 2017, ‘Map of batik across Indonesia.’

UNESCO. 2009, Indonesian Batik, Youtube, viewed 04 December 2017 <;