Post A: Designers advocating tobacco activity?

By April Jiang

Design activism is about improving views, places and relationships through innovative and positive change. In response to the collaborations evident with tobacco organisations in Indonesia, this idea of design activism is significantly challenged to a great extent. It is not acceptable for figures, who possess great potential to initiate change, to promote such negative activity especially for upcoming generations.

Designers are intimately involved in the organisation of events such as festivals which attracts a large body of Indonesia’s youth. Wide spread events such as Sound Adrenaline, manifest strong marketing of tobacco brands and imitates a propaganda-like presence. Sound Adrenaline is an annual music festival, held in Indonesia sponsored by one of the most popular tobacco companies of the nation, ‘A Brand,’ and was held in Yogyakarta in 2013. The industry’s heavy attraction towards the youthful market is in response to gaining “replacement smokers”(Myers 2010) for the hundreds of adults that die as a result of tobacco causing diseases. Designers play a huge role in the collaboration of promotion, entertainment, liberation and dense branding, succeeding the tobacco industry’s market. ‘A Brand’ utilises empowerment as a key theme throughout their taglines; “Go ahead” and “write your own story” (Freeman, Assunta & Astuti 2018), as well as “chase your dreams” and “express yourself” to gage positive connotations with their brand.

In the promotion of the event, designers produce outdoor advertising such as decorations, billboards, banners, as well as participatory competitions accessible to all.

Figure 1: Interdependence of tobacco industry and designers, and connection between influencers such as artists and the target audience (youth).

Creativity is a key form of expression that is encouraged through the promotion of the event. As a tool for attracting a wider audience, everyone is given the opportunity to participate in creative challenges such as music, design, art, photography and cinematography. Additional activities and simultaneous exposure of ‘A brand,’ included the opportunity to create customised merchandise and a competition for the package design for their limited-edition cigarettes, which achieved over one million responses (Freeman, Assunta & Astuti 2018). This manifests an interdependent relationship with designers and the industry (shown in figure 1); designers providing effective spaces and art, and the industry providing creative opportunities. The map additionally reveals the connected influence on the target audience as well as the artists who perform at the festival. By engaging these two themes of empowerment and creativity, it draws the attention from the youth-saturated audience and is further marketed through their helpless instincts of social media.

Events like this reveal designers abusing their skills as a way of initiating negative change to the broader community, blinding youth with a positive outlook on tobacco industries. Just as Crosby states, “design is both the problem and the solution, and effects everything”( Crosby 2016), hence designers must work to become ethical influencers. Although economic barriers exist for the funding of such events, and not so much for tobacco companies, a solution for this is to use these creative and successful responses of teenagers to create anti-smoking events that may advocate the opposite of what the tobacco companies advertise. Designers must not accept project for the economics, but rather the ethics of future projects.


Crosby, A. 2016, ‘Designing futures in Indonesia,’ PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, volume 13, issue 2, viewed 20 December 2019,


Freeman, B., Assunta, M., Astuti, P. A. S. 2018, ’ Raising generation ‘A’: a case study of millennial tobacco company marketing in Indonesia,’Tobacco control BMJ journals, volume 27, issue 1, viewed 20 December 2019,


Myers, M. L. 2010, ‘U.S bands must smash tobacco sponsorship,’Huffpost, September, viewed 20 December 2019,


Post C: Interview – The world of tobacco for Indonesian women.

By April Jiang

Tobacco has formed many personal relationships with the citizens of Indonesia. In particular has become an activity that determines and signifies one’s masculinity, prominently evident in visible street advertising and accessible statistics. However, its relationship and impact on the female population is hidden and goes unnoticed, as a result of traditional norms and its disproving relationship with women. Through primary research I was able to grasp and voice two distinct perspectives of women in Indonesia and the contrasting impact tobacco has had on their lives.

Rhya, a 42-year-old mother who works at a café/bar in Yogyakarta reveals the reality of a tobacco inflicted life. She exemplifies what Indonesian culture would identify as an “abnormal” (Barraclough & Morrow 2010) female smoker. Throughout her story, she identifies three points of contact with tobacco. The first being her father, herself and her son. This reveals the inescapable grasp of the past, present and future relationships with tobacco that exists within her family. In this modern age, women tend to have more work, especially as a mother, “both reproductive and productive duties” (Mandracchia 2013) causing distress. Rhya exemplifies a common reason for smoking; a temporary relief of her stress and struggles – in other words, the ability to control her emotions which has become a “highly valued attribute in traditional Indonesian culture” (Barraclough & Morrow 2010). In response to her life experiences, she believes that the national percentile of female smokers has increased. Although her father was a smoker and passed away from a heart attack, she acknowledges the inevitable bond formed with tobacco, hence forfeits rebuking her son of smoking. It is to this degree that tobacco has become a significant part of Indonesian culture and exceeds the likeliness of eradicating its influence.

(Aditama 2002)
  From this table, we can see that more women wish to stop and have tried to stop smoking in comparison to men. This potentially conveys the inescapable grasp tobacco has on women like Rhya, who are trapped by the influences and exposure to tobacco.

On the other hand, Bivy, a 19-year-old female student of Muhammadiyah University, embodies a juxtaposing life of a detached relationship with tobacco. She is a non-smoker who lives with a non-smoking family. She is an example of a citizen who grew up with non-smoking areas and potentially symbolises a hopeful percentile of the population. Through conversation it was revealed that a rare amount of her friends are smokers resulting her to believe that the national percentile of female smokers has reduced, opposing to Rhya’s opinion. Bivy’s reasoning for her disinterest in smoking provides a potential prospect to reduce the numbers of female smokers. It was her focus on health and beauty that causes her reluctance to participate in what the nation would misinterpret as “culture” to the community. The lifestyle of Bivy could be interpreted as one that reflects the progressive work of organisations that promote smoking prevention and limit tobacco exposure. This includes the Heart Foundation whom are active in promoting tobacco free areas in factories and educational institutions, and Lembaga M3, whom are involved in anti-smoking activities (Barraclough 1999).

It is important to understand that a low percentage of female smokers does not excuse a dismissal of attention and research. “Despite the low percentages, at least two million Indonesian women are smoking” (Barraclough 1999). In reflection to the distinct conversations recorded, there is a strong contrast in perspectives of two very different women of Indonesia, Rhya and her family being immersed and Bivvy being untouched by tobacco. Through a youthful perspective, it is evident that the increasing work of anti-smoking organisations has potentially produced hope for the nation and future generations, and ultimately may lead Indonesia to become a safer community.


Aditama, T. J. 2002, ‘Smoking problem in Indonesia,’ Medical Journal of Indonesia, electronic data set, viewed 19 December 2019,


Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and Tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, Volume 8, Issue 3, viewed 19 December 2019,


Barraclough, S., Morrow, M. 2010, ‘Gender equity and tobacco control: bringing masculinity into focus,’ Global Health promotion, volume 17, issue 1, viewed 19 December 2019,


Mandracchia, F. J.  2013, ‘Indonesian Tobacco: A consumer culture of exploitation,’ Proceedings of a great day, volume 2012, issue 25, viewed 19 December 2019,


POST D: Culture of tobacco advertising in Indonesia

By April Jiang

With the domination of Indonesia’s tobacco industry, advertising plays a significant role in its culture manifesting new and existing values to the community. As a result of the government’s lack of urgency regarding the nation’s blind addiction to tobacco, Indonesia is the only country in Asia that is not affiliated with the World Health Organisation’s: Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) (Tjandra 2018). This has significantly compromised the growth of citizens and their behaviour and views towards smoking activity. As a result of the heavy marketing of tobacco, the world’s view of illegal advertising, is regarded as normal for the community.

(A schoolboy passes billboards advertising tobacco products in Sumba, Indonesia c. 2014)

Indonesia’s culture of cigarette advertising is known to be amongst the most aggressive in the world. It has become an undetected factor to the wisdom of society, influencing their behaviours and priorities, and disguising the activity with positive connotations. In 2004, 50% of all the nation’s billboards comprised of tobacco advertisements. In local Yogyakarta, this was a result of billboards’ taxes comprising a large portion of the government’s revenue. The vigorous nature of the industry is evident in the government’s inability to compromise the economy, for the public health of the people. As a result of tobacco companies possessing political and financial power, the industry is present in almost all aspects of Indonesian living. This is revealed to a great extent, in previous sponsorships within Yogyakarta, such as contests and college scholarships offered by tobacco companies, whose advertisements were also evident in college canteens (Nichter, Padmawati, Prabandari, Ng, Danardono, Nichter 2009). This exposure inevitably stains the knowledge of smoking activity in students to a degree they accept its normality in society. Although new laws have attempted to suppress the promotion of tobacco advertisements, such as sponsorships and media, they continue to manifest in daily culture.

Tobacco advertisements have surpassed the purpose of promotion and have progressed to exist amongst Indonesian life style. Advertisements “promote choice, and simply reflect” (Williams 2011). and “connect with the prevailing popular cultural values and desires of the day.” (Reynolds 1999). The presence of tobacco advertisements has grown to the extent of becoming almost natural to the city landscape of Yogyakarta in Central Java, known to be a major cultural and educational centre. They have had “almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format and through any communications vehicle in the country” (Nichter, Padmawati, Prabandari, Ng, Danardono, Nichter 2009). The saturation of tobacco exposure is further evident in a small focus of Jl. Mayor Suryotomo, a Yogyakarta street. Common forms of advertisements include cloth banners and billboards. In figure 1, the distressing amount of tobacco advertisements presented on cloth banners are recorded in red along the road, accessed through Google’s 2018 satellite imagery.

Figure 1: Jl. Mayor Suryotomo, Yogyakarta (Jl. Mayor Suryotomo 2018)

Whilst the nuances of tobacco advertising evolve to become an aspect in Indonesian culture, other south east-Asian countries, such as Thailand, Singapore and Brunei are progressing to ban its promotion. However, as a result of the nation’s prolonged exposure towards the culture of tobacco advertising, the nation requires alleviated encouragement, strict bans and potentially behavioural trends that will eliminate affirming connotations for smoking today.


Jl. Mayor Suryotomo 2018, Google Maps, views 25 November 2019,<,110.369313,3a,75y,4.96h,90.79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sdjNr9z0cxEQMfuM3QvkP4Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656>

McCall, C. 2014, A schoolboy passes billboards advertising tobacco products in Sumba, Indonesia, The Lancet, viewed 25 November 2019,                         <>

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Prabandari, Y., Ng, N., Danardono, M., Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisments in Indonesia,’ Tobacco Control, volume 18, issue 2, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: The defining characteristics for success,” volume 8, issue 1, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked,’ The Conversation, 1 June, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Williams, J. 2011, ‘The cultural impact of advertising,’ The Earthbound Report,’ weblog, WordPress, Luton, October 26, viewed 25 November 2019, <


Post B: Life Education’s ‘Healthy Harold’

By April Jiang

Yandaran State school, 2017, Yandaran State School students and Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett at the Life Education van, News Mail, viewed 22 November 2019,

The empowerment of children brought by educational health and safety services acts as an effective tool for deeper understanding and engaging future decisions. The design of ‘Life Education’s’ Healthy Harold program, represents a successful platform that attracts the engagement of children in the decision-making toward their health and safety. The service reveals the effectiveness of empathy as a tool enabling immersion rather than confrontation as a basis for understanding.

Healthy Harold is a non-for-profit mobile service funded by the government that has been successfully operating for 40 years. More than 6 million young Australians have participated in the program since 1979, resulting Healthy Harold to become an Australian icon. The success of the program is reflected in the decades of service and in the outbursts toward the government’s decision of withdrawing funds in 2017. The power of social media was revealed in the immediate backlash of nostalgic Harold supporters, that forced the government to change their decision.

The giraffe puppet signifies friendly and comforting connotations for children, while heightening their attention, and ultimately achieving deeper understandings of health topics. The character of Harold is successfully manifested; being one that is funny, cute and memorable to the kids, enabling a reason for them to listen to him. It’s important to have “a platform like Life Education that reaches students on their level and helps educate them about the choices they will face” (Tran 2019). For children, there is an importance to the attitude brought by learning that ultimately saturates their attention and understanding. Overtime, although “children have changed in their knowledge and their responses to questions about drugs, their level of enthusiasm for learning is the same.” (Schilt 2017)

Similarly, in a paper written by Lynne Hall, she addresses the impact of affective interactions on the feelings and emotions of children, achieved through empathising with synthetic characters. Through this she discovers that “empathising with characters permits a deeper exploration and understanding of sensitive social and personal issues” (Hall 2005). This is evident in joy brought to children through interacting with Harold. By sharing subtle examples of his healthy lifestyle, it encourages children through their curiosity of the character.

In being a program that is designed very specifically for the appeal of children, it acts as a solution in providing information, understanding, skills and strategies, promoting safe decisions about their own health and well-being, in an empowering way. As founder of Life education, Ted Noffs states,

“Let’s not frighten our kids with scare tactics so they act in ways that we think are best for them. Let’s motivate and empower them so they can and will actively draw on their own knowledge to make safer and healthier choices.”

Tedd Noffs, Founder of Life Education Australia.

The elements of empowerment and encouragement become effective tools toward the development on their future growth and decisions. This allows children the opportunity to willingly be immersed in a learning experience as opposed to being frightened or confronted with threatening or displeasing campaigns unfit for their age.

In response to the Indonesian epidemic of tobacco usage, there is potential in similarly focusing on the immersion of an empathetic and educational experience. Since there is a high demand for cigarettes even for young children (Tjandra 2018), there seems to be a low awareness of health and safety in schools. By utilising the elements and tools identified in Life Education’s Healthy Harold, children can be empowered and encouraged to eliminate tobacco activity.