Post A: Design in Context

Context is everything when understanding and solving problems

The scope and influence of Design is seemingly endless and it plays some role in almost every industry, society, and culture today. Design determines the systems, technologies and structures we live by and as these evolve and shift, as does the role and practice of the designer. Human-Centered design researcher Gozde Goncu-Berk explained, “In the last decade, graphic design has gone from being defined largely by style to something that is influenced and can influence international policy, consumption, education and the environment (Drucker and McVarish, 2009).” This limitless flexibility is what makes context a key element in every design problem and solution.

Graduating designers are no longer simply experts in the elements and principles of graphic design, products, architecture or fashion, but equally important is their understanding and approach to the many complex contexts they may need to engage and collaborate with.  Assistant professor of art and design at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukeein, Adream Blair-Early, reinstated this when she explained, ‘New designers are valued as much for their ability to collaborate, innovate and creatively solve problems as they are for their understanding of typography and layout.’

Designers frequently must take into consideration shifting environmental, economic and  technological contexts, but with ever-growing globalisation, one of the most challenging tasks for designers today is working across a diversity of cultures. Without undergoing extensive and immersive research, understanding the needs and sensitivities of a foreign culture can be very problematic. Gozde Goncu-Berk highlighted these difficulties when she said, “Designing for another culture is less intuitive and vulnerable to assumptive thinking; therefore cross-cultural design requires constant validation of design decisions with the users. Designers need to be aware of their biases and assumptions as much as possible to draw insights from the user’s reality.”

For example, the culture of a country such as Indonesia is significantly different to Australia in many ways. Therefore an Australian designer must take time to understand the religious, social and political climate of the country before embarking on any kind of user-centered design. Without gaining this information, the designer cannot assume they know how the locals would interpret, receive, understand or interact with their design.

Throughout their practice designer’s must develop skills in innovation and creativity. These invaluable tools, when implemented in a way that is harmoniously integrated with the given contexts, have the power to significantly reshape and improve global society.


Gonku Berk. G, 2013.’A Framework for Designing in Cross-Cultural Contexts: Culture-Centered Design Process,’ PhD Thesis, University of Minnesota, viewed 18 February 2017, <;

Blair-Early, A. 2010, ‘Beyond borders: Participatory design research and the changing role of design,’ Visible Language, Vol.44 ,No.2 ,Pp.207-218.

Xiang, X. 2007, ‘Product innovation in a cultural context: A method applied to Chinese product development,’ Dissertation Abstracts International, Vol.68, No.03, Pp.73-77.


Ahlefeldt, F. ‘It’s not that deep,’ viewed 19 February 2017, <;

Post B: Maggie’s

The garden at the Gartnavel Maggie Centre designed by Rem Koolhaas at OMA  

The possibilities for change and innovation when it comes to design are limitless and inspirational examples of the scope and power of design are everywhere. One such initiative is the Cancer Care Charity Maggie’s. created by Architectural writer and theorist Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Jencks, there is now 19 Maggie centres assisting people across the world and online. Maggie’s centres combine breathtaking architecture with professional therapy to facilitate holistic healing and support families affected by Cancer.

In May 1993, Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with breast cancer and informed that she had only two to three months to live. Receiving this shattering news, and the stream of subsequent treatments in the sterile, neon-lit, and ultimately dehumanising environment of her general hospital, Maggie resolved to create a space where cancer patients would not have to “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.”

Based on this simple concept, Maggie Centre’s are a carefully designed environment that features elements of  light, space, openness, and connectedness to nature in order to allow cancer patients to heal not only their bodies, but their spirit. Generally the key elements of healthcare buildings today are determined by practical restraints such as budgets and deadlines – Dutch academic Cor Magenaar blames the separation of Architecture and healing on Modernism and points to examples of ancient temples where healing of the spirit was equally important to that of the body.

Zaha Hadid’s Fife Maggie Centre

Distinguished architects who have designed Maggie’s Centres include Richard Rogers, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas. Though it may not be entirely necessary for such famous architects to work on the buildings, it does heighten the charity’s profile, resulting in generous donations that allow them to create such incredible spaces to be enjoyed for free. The Maggie’s centres vary significantly in their size and form. However, they are all modest in size to create an intimate and human environment and they each consist of spaces for gathering, meditation, therapy, consultation, and reading.

Karl Johnson explains, ‘Architects play a critical role in shaping the qualities of our environment; they work in collaboration with end users and their needs and ambitions, and they have the power to restore and promote solidarity, mental and physical health and be a source of happiness” (Karl Johnson 2013). Maggie’s Centres exemplify this and are a unique initiative where design is used to inspire and rejuvenate people as they undergo and recover from cancer treatments.

Rose, S. 2010, ‘Maggie’s Centres: Can architecture cure cancer,’ The Guardian, viewed 16 February 2017 <;

Johnson, K. 2013, ‘Place and public health: the impact of architecture on well being,’ The Guardian, viewed 16 February 2017, <;

Merrick, J. 2014. ‘Raising the level of Care, Maggie’s Oxford by Wilkinson Eyre,’ The Architects’ Journal, 05 October 2016, Pp. 20-25.

Foster, N. 2016, ‘Designing Maggie’s Manchester,’ Maggie’s, viewed February 2017, <;

2003. ‘Made for Maggie,’ Building Design, 3 October 2003, Pp. 16-32.

Post D: Eko Nugroho’s Indonesia

Negeri Kaya Fatwa, Nugroho 2013

One way to experience the culture of a nation is by exploring it’s contemporary art scene. Based in Yogyakarta Central Java, highly-acclaimed Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho explores  the spirit and modern history of Indonesia in his imaginative, and often dark, works.

Having experienced Indonesia’s period of Reformasi (reformation) and the country’s shift toward democracy, Nugroho belongs to a generation of artists known as ‘2000 Generation.’ Nugroho’s roots in Yogyakarta’s vibrant street art scene is evident in his ecclectic and energetic style that is peppered with socio-political commentary, pop culture, and traditional Indonesian art and craft.

Although he is not directly political, Nugroho explains, “Daily life in Indonesia is consistently coloured by the issues of poverty, social injustice, corruption, violence and religion. Actually, I do not intentionally imbue my works with socio-political messages. However; it is all but impossible to free myself completely from the events happening around me.” This almost unconscious social and political commentary is evident throughout his work and paints a fascinating and dimensional picture of contemporary Indonesia.

Global Identity #2, Nugroho 2011 

Independent curator Supriyananto who Curated Nugroho’s 2009 New York exhibition ‘Tales from Wounded Land,’ commented that Nugroho’s works “make a pointed commentary about the current state of politics and society in contemporary Indonesia, a period in which the newly democratic country is going through great transformation” (Supriyanto 2009).

Nugroho’s medium varies dramatically with each work, his chosen mediums include Print Making, Embroidery, Animation, Sculpture, Painting, Design, Graffiti, Drawing, Batik, Film/Video and Installation. This dynamic mix of traditional and contemporary mediums gives his work originality and flexibility with the soul and craftsmanship of traditional Javanese arts.

Nugroho stated that, “In Indonesia the political situation is getting better, but there’s still a lot of narrow-mindedness and social pressure, and that’s exactly what I’m critical of in my work.”(Nugroho 2015). Nugroho is just one example from a wealth of fascinating contemporary artists working in Yogyakarta, through his work we gain deep insights into the character and landscape of modern Indonesia. In her thesis on contemporary art, Feehan illuminates how, “When contemporary art establishes a meaningful relationship between the viewer and the art, the results can create an insightful awareness of societal issues.” (Feehan 2010)

Artsy, 2017. ‘Biography,’, viewed 14 February 2017 <;

Asia Society, 2016. ‘Video Spotlight: Eko Nugroho,’, viewed 14 February 2017 <;

Supriyanto, E. 2002, ‘eko nugroho + wedhar riyadi: tales from wounded-land,’, viewed 14 February 2017, <;

James, B. 2012, ‘Shadows of meaning: in the Elko Chamber,’ Artlink, Vol. 32, No. 01, Pp. 82-86

Feehan, C. 2010, ‘A study on contemporary art museums as activist agents for social change,’ ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.


Nugroho, E. 2011, Global Identity #2, Artsy, viewed 15 February 2017, <;

Nugroho, E. 2013, Negari Kaya Fatwa, Art Gallery of New South Wales, viewed 15 February 2017, <;

Post C: The Future of Smoking for Indonesian Women


 Phillip Morris Smoking Advertising aimed at Women associates Smoking with Independence and Freedom.


When visiting Indonesia there is smokers everywhere. Male smokers. In fact approximately 57.1% of Indonesian men smoke, a stark contrast to only 3.6% of Indonesian women (Tobacco Atlas 2017). This difference is commonly attributed to cultural values but data from various sources suggests this gap is rapidly narrowing  and The World Health Organisation estimates that the number of women smoking will almost triple over the next generation . In an essay on public health in Indonesia, Amanda Amos cautions that, “Women are becoming more independent and, consequently, adopting less traditional lifestyles. One symbol of their newly discovered freedom may well be cigarettes” (Amos 2000). However  when talking to local Indonesian women Annisa*, who works with Muhammadiyah Tobacco Control Centre Yogyakarta, she shed light on the determination of Indonesian women to promote change and opposition to this deadly habit.

It is not just social stigma stopping Indonesian women from smoking, Annisa expressed a different view when she explained, “Women don’t really want to smoke because they will look manly and rebellious. But mostly women are more against smoking, because smoking is really disturbing first of all, and second of all, aside from the health risks, it’s still really annoying and the smell is bad.”

Studies show a clear link between tobacco marketing and risk of using tobacco products and The Tobacco Atlas warns that in order broaden their market the tobacco industry is now marketing it’s products aggressively to women and children. In a developing country like Indonesia tobacco companies market cigarettes as a ‘torch for freedom’ for women, a symbol of social desirability, emancipation, independence and success. In her journal article for ‘Addiction Robyn Richmond cautions that “Tobacco marketing has extensively targeted women, exploiting women’s struggle for equal rights by promoting themes that purport an association between smoking and social desirability, freedom, success, glamour and business appeal” (Richmond 2003).

Despite the unscrupulous marketing tactics of tobacco companies in Indonesia, Annisa offered hope when she explained “I believe that from the Indonesian women’s perspective, mostly they really want to change things and they will change them because they want to improve the quality of life for all Indonesians.”


Tobacco Atlas, 2017. ‘Indonesia,’, viewed 16 February 2017, <;

World Health Organization, 2015. ‘Tobacco Control in Indonesia,’, viewed 16 February 2017, <;

Amos A,  Haglund M. From social taboo to “torch of freedom”: the marketing of cigarettes to women, Tob Control , 2000, vol. 9 (pg. 3-8)

Ng, N; Weinehall, L; Ohman, A. 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, i’m not a reall man – Indonesian Teenage boys’ views about smoking,’ Health Educ Res, Vol. 22, No. 6, Pp. 794-804.

Richmond R. You’ve come a long way baby: Women and the tobacco epidemic, Addiction , 2003, vol. 98 (pg. 553-7)

Annisa 2017, Interviewed by Manon Drielsma in Yogyakarta, 10 February 2017.

*(Annisa’s name has been changed for the Interview)