POST A: Designing for local contexts through primary research

As designers, we do not only carry the responsibility to design for functional and aesthetic purposes, we also bear the weight of developing solutions that respect the contexts we are designing for. To do so, we must realise that “We individually and collectively make the city through our daily actions and our political, intellectual and economic engagements. But, in return, the city makes us” (Harvey 2003) and thus it is our duty to immerse ourselves into the culture and its traditions to gain a holistic understanding. ‘The city’ in this case, refers to Banjarmasin, Indonesia, the capital of South Kalimantan and otherwise known as the ‘River City’ or ‘City of a Thousand Rivers’.

When placing Indonesia’s social and political contexts under a microscope, it is revealed that each island has a unique identity that has “an aura of beauty, sensuality, chaos and violence” (McDonald 2014) as it is an archipelago. Through observing Banjarmasin and the way local inhabitants moved amongst its urban spaces, it became apparent that designing successfully for different contexts requires “cultural competence and awareness” and “[breaking] free of culturally bound positions” (Piper 2008). This can be achieved by conducting primary research through interacting with local inhabitants and exposing oneself to local events and traditions; both of which provide experiences that secondary research cannot.

Through observing the interactions between local market vendors and tourists in Banjarmasin, it was revealed that it is not only the physical urban landscape that shapes a city’s charm, it is the people that inhabit the space. Their determination to take pictures with bule (Piper 2008) highlighted that Banjarmasin was a city untouched by tourism, rather, it was a city that was embedded in its traditions. This ultimately impacts the design process as it must be ensured that the local people and their traditions are respected. As designers originating from a different context, this may prove to be challenging as it may defy our own values and cultures. Hence, it is crucial that we undertake primary research that allows us to immerse ourselves in the culture practically.

Local market vendor at Banjarmasin’s traditional markets (San 2018)
Local traditional markets in Banjarmasin (San 2018)

An example of this is was our visit to the local floating markets, an iconic part of Banjarmasin’s identity. In interacting with the women in the boats selling locally grown produce, the status of women in Banjarmasin was observed and realised. While the typical ideology of ‘the good wife and mother’ (Robinson & Bessell 2002, p.69) continues to exist in Banjarmasin, witnessing women operating the floating markets is a testament to the changing roles of women in Indonesia overall. Such realisations are detrimental to designing for the local people and could not have been realised without engaging in local traditions.

Pasar Terapung – Banjarmasin’s floating markets (San 2018)
Women of Pasar Terapung (San 2018)

There is no ‘correct’ answer for what design means for local contexts however it is apparent that they are shaped by the people who inhabit the space we are designing for. Ultimately, the role of a designer is not limited to developing a solution to a problem, instead it requires understanding the context they are designing for through interaction with local inhabitants and participation in local traditions. This fills the void that is left behind by secondary research and ensures that what is produced satisfies the people utilising the local space.


Harvey, D. 2003, ‘The Right to the City’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 27, no. 4, pp.939-941.

McDonald, H. 2014, Demokrasi: Indonesia in the 21st Century, Black Inc, Collingwood, Victoria.

Piper, S. 2008, gang re:Publik Indonesia-australia creative adventures, Gang Festival Inc. Newtown.

Robinson, K. & Bessell, S. 2002, Women in Indonesia: Gender, Equity and Development, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, viewed 31 January, <>

San, W. 2018, Local market vendor at Banjarmasin’s traditional markets.

San, W. 2018, Local traditional markets in Banjarmasin.

San, W. 2018, Pasar Terapung – Banjarmasin’s floating markets.

San, W. 2018, Women of Pasar Terapung.

Post C: Primary Research | Interview with Kesuma Anugerah Yanti

The impact of cross-cultural experiences carry an array of advantages that may result in a greater global perspective and perceptual understanding or personal development and interpersonal relationships (Wilson 2009). As a country with half its citizens under the age of 30, studies have found that eight in ten Indonesian students are considering to study abroad for a variety of reasons such as cultural exploration, boosting their academic profile or improved career prospects (ICEF 2017). However, the attainability of such opportunities is heavily determined by the ease of access to information and financial support.

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Indication of the Indonesian survey respondents’ motivations for study abroad (AFS 2017)

For Kesuma Anugerah Yanti (Yanti), a mathematics major from Lambung Mangkurat University in Banjarmasin, her month-long study abroad in Thailand has opened up new avenues that have shaped her future goals. As a determined young student who contributes to the city of Banjarmasin through her duties as an International Officer at university and a contributor to the city’s local tourism Instagram page, Instanusantarabanjar, Yanti has her sights set on travelling the world.
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Yanti on her studies abroad in Thailand, teaching students English in Chiang Rai (Yanti 2018)

However, for students in Indonesia, this is a dream that is often only achieveable with the financial aid of scholarships or exchange programs. Yanti placed a heavy emphasis on the difficulty for youth to access the suitable information which would result in a successful application in Banjarmasin. While Lambung Mangkurat University work with sister universities in Thailand and the Philippines to send students abroad, for more job specific programs, students are forced to seek out external programs which are often financially demanding. Without the support of a scholarship, opportunities often go amiss and students in Banjarmasin succumb to their fate that perhaps studying abroad is impossible and thus, solely focus on earning an income instead.

Despite this, there are youth like Yanti who are continuously striving to attain this goal. When asked what she would like to pursue after university, she confidently responded with ‘I would like to find scholarships to continue studying and go abroad or work to keep studying. The most important goal for me is to go abroad again as my experience in Thailand allowed me to focus on myself, grow as a person and meet new people who helped me improve my English’ (Yanti 2018). Her willingness to self-learn Spanish is an attestation of her determination to travel as she has realised the benefits of going abroad. Additionally, Yanti strongly believes that it is incredibly important to emphasise to youth that money is not a limitation to pursuing opportunities abroad.

While it is evident that money is a concern that dictates the futures of many youth in Indonesia, young individuals like Yanti are examples of the growing desire for students to travel abroad despite the hardships they may face during the application process. It is also suggested that such international experience enhances university engagement, builds relationships between countries and resultantly will broaden the cross-cultural experiences for local students (Novera 2004). Overall, this interview has highlighted the need for a greater support for students in developing countries to embark on cross-cultural exchanges for they provide students with intrinsic that can only be obtained through experience.


ICEF Monitor 2017, Study finds that young Indonesians are highly motivated to study abroad, viewed 20 January 2018, <>

Novera, I.A. 2004, ‘Indonesian Postgraduate Students studying in Australia: An Examination of their Academic, Social and Cultural Experiences’, International Education Journal, vol. 5, no. 4.

Wilson, A.H. 1993, ‘Conversation partners: Helping students gain a global perspective through cross-cultural experiences’, Theory Into Practice, vol. 32, no.1, viewed 20 January 2018, <>

Group Rambutan – Light Signage Project

To combat the growing tobacco use in Banjarmasin, we worked in partnership with Vital Strategies to create light signage that would ultimately be used to raise awareness within the public and across social media channels via the following hashtags #AyoKeBanjarmasin, #KadaHandakRokok, #SuaraTanpaRokok.

Understanding Banjarmasin and its use of Tobacco

Known as the ‘city of a thousand rivers’, Banjarmasin is the capital of South Kalimantan that has a growing problem of tobacco use amongst youth. To grasp the city’s hustle and bustle and understand how tobacco is used, we conducted primary research by walking the streets of the city and reported our observations through the following map, which presents the ‘life cycle of a cigarette pack’.

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Observation Map (Group Rambutan 2018)

This map illustrates, through the use of symbols, where cigarettes are purchased, where and how they are advertised, where they are used and then disposed of. The small kiosks which sold the cigarettes displayed poster advertisements or large tarps which were produced and distributed by the cigarette companies. However, they were not only used for the purpose of advertising with their vibrant commercialised designs, the tarps had adopted a multi-purpose use and were also being used for shade. This was a key observation which we could potentially explore in the future.



Tobacco Advertisements in Banjarmasin (7 Jan 2018)

The use of tobacco in Banjarmasin was popular along the river which seemed to be the perfect setting for locals to relax and smoke. The majority of the smokers seemed to be men leading us to question why there was a lack of women smokers. This prompted secondary research which revealed that this was due to mainly religious and cultural purposes but could also be for health reasons (Barraclough 1999).

Following this, it became evident that most of the cigarette packets were being disposed of in or by the river. The irony of this was they were polluting the river, one of Banjarmasin’s most iconic features. Overall, our walk allowed us to immerse ourselves in the contexts of the city we were designing for and ultimately resulted in a greater understanding of how we could create a successful design.


Combining our prior research about smoking in Indonesia with our mapping observations, we began to consider how we as designers might respond to the issue of smoking in Banjarmasin both today and in the future. We were initially inspired by IDEO’s Diva Centres project in Zambia to inform young women about contraception and sexual health (IDEO 2017). We wanted to explore how we might be able to create an educational kit for youth in Banjarmasin about the health risks associated with smoking to prevent them from becoming future smokers.

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( n.d.)

Subsequently, we began undertaking further research regarding smoking culture in Indonesia, the nature of smoking advertisements as well as how an educational kit might actually be achievable in Banjarmasin. However, we were soon presented with our signage assignment and became aware that an educational kit might be too big an endeavour especially in such a limited time period and with limited resources.

Design Research

After receiving our brief, we begun undertaking visual research both via online resources such as Pinterest to explore both material and conceptual possibilities as well as investigating typography across the streets of Banjarmasin. We were inspired by the wide range of possibilities that we might be able to achieve with the style by utilizing layers of material and combination of colours.

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Similarly, we undertook a site visit to the watchtower to take some photos of the space where our signage would be displayed as well as to determine the size of the hashtags for the riverside (which had not been decided yet). Whilst we were able to get a good sense of the space, we were unable to ascend the watchtower on that day and neglected to view it from the other side of the river, which did cause us some issues later down the track as we tried to ensure the legibility of our signage from a distance.

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Whilst we enjoyed generating a wide variety of different options for our signage, following a meeting with stakeholders we were made aware of the strict limitations that we had in the materiality and layout of our signage. This meant that we had to reconsider our approach to the design to ensure that we fulfilled all the criteria.

The Design Process

Drawing inspiration from our research, we imagined various outcomes in which the signage could be executed in. Combining methods of hand sketching as well as re-working these with additional techniques on Illustrator and Photoshop, we wanted to test out what concepts were feasible to set up digitally. However, we failed to consider the time frame in which this were to be completed as well as the funding of this project. Once it was realised that the signage were to be hand-cut by the vendor, styles where the text was oblique, had shadowing or separated into multiple lines were ruled out to be economically and practically impossible. We also had to revise the typeface choice for the signage placed on the Menara Pandang to consider the marquee lights, which were to be added in afterwards. Issues relating to the weight of the material used and how it would hold up against the railings, as well as its legibility from a distance were also later recognised.


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#AyoKeBanjarmasin Design (Group Rambutan 2018)

After re-establishing restrictions and re-working our designs, the style above was noted as our most successful design as it complied to the criteria given. We then experimented with a variety of colour combinations to further test the visibility of letters. Although our initial colour choice was considered as the strongest idea, upon presenting these to the stakeholders it was suggested that the green outline should be black instead, as there was a greater contrast between the yellow and black which allowed the signs to be more visible in the dark. These changes were then made with the exception of the #AyoKeBanjarmasin sign, as it was argued that the city’s colours should be kept with relevance to the city hashtag.

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#AyoKeBanjarmasin Design (Group Rambutan 2018)

The decision of a geometric sans-serif font for the signage placed on the Menara Pandang was made to ensure the functionality in accordance with the marquee lights as well as its legibility from a tall height. On the other hand, the hashtags along the river railing were more stylised in order to appeal to the targeted youth of Banjarmasin. Rather than a sans-serif which created separation between the letters, the script font created movement and a sense of flow, alluding to the motion of water and thus, suited the city’s acclaimed title of Banjarmasin as ‘The City Of A Thousand Rivers’.

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#AyoKeBanjarmasin Design (Group Rambutan 2018)

Signage in Context


#KadaHandakRokok #AyoKeBanjarmasin at Menara Pendang Banjarmasin (18 January 2018)



#KadaHandakRokok #AyoKeBanjarmasin at Menara Pendang Banjarmasin (19 January 2018)


Overall, designing for Vital Strategies and the city of Banjarmasin was an immense learning experience for Group Rambutan. Through fast-failing and quick iterations, we learnt how to work within a high-pressured environment to meet the demands of a project with a short turnaround time. Having the opportunity to design for a real life client taught us how to liaise with professionals who do not have the design experience to visualise the ideas we were generating. We were able to combat this through placing the designs in its context by creating mock-ups. Our biggest learning curve was understanding how to work within the restrictions provided by the client. As students, we are often given the creative freedom to let our imaginations run wild, however, working in partnership with Vital Strategies gave us a taste of the industry and the intrinsic rewards that come with designing for a great cause. Although our duties as designers have come to a close for this project, we hope that what we have produced will play an integral role in combating the rise of tobacco use in Banjarmasin and beyond.


Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332. 2017, Diva Centres,, viewed 8 January 2018, <;


Post B: mPOWER, the Tobacco Control package for countries of all shapes and sizes.

With approximately 1 in 10 adults being killed by smoking worldwide and projections that this could become one in six by 2030, the tobacco epidemic is a global issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later (The World Bank 1999).

As of May 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported the following key facts:

  • Half of the world’s tobacco users die due to tobacco
  • Each year 6 million deaths are caused by direct tobacco use alongside 890 000 other deaths of non-smokers caused by second-hand smoke.
  • Approximately 80% of the global smoker population reside in low to middle-income countries.

(World Health Organisation 2017)

These statistics strongly reinforce the need for initiatives that advocate for greater tobacco control on a global scale. This constitutes (but is not limited to) influencing the behaviour of current and potential users, placing limitations on the tobacco industry and reducing the harmful effects of tobacco products (West 2006).

Introducing MPOWER

MPOWER is an example of a worldwide initiative that has adopted a bottom-up design approach to reduce the demand for tobacco products in each country through implementing six practical, affordable and achievable measures (World Health Organisation 2017). These measures can be altered to suit each country’s needs and has shown promising results since being introduced by WHO in 2008.

So, what are the six magical solutions?

‘MPOWER’ is an analogy for the six following objectives:

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(WHO 2013)

By using these measures in conjunction with one another, all countries can monitor data relating to tobacco and act accordingly, create smoke-free environments, provide health-care systems for support and treatment, educate people about the risks of tobacco, stop tobacco industry giants from further promoting and advertising their deadly products and finally raise taxes to reduce consumption.

With the support of organisations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which also advocate for Tobacco Control, this transdisciplinary program has successfully achieved the following results:

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(WHO 2013)

But what is success without proof?

To put their success into perspective, the success of MPOWER in Turkey is a testament to the program’s unique ability to mould itself to suit a country’s specific needs. As of 2007, Turkey had Europe’s highest rate of smokers with 1 in 3 adults using tobacco. With the help of Turkey’s government, civil society, WHO and other global organisations, the country was the first to achieve the six MPOWER measures at the highest level. By 2012, there was a decline of 13.4% in smokers alongside a decline of second-hand smoke. It then made history by becoming the third European country ban smoking indoors. Turkey’s MPOWER success story strongly emphasises that it is highly possible to live in a world that is tobacco-free.

However, with every success story comes challenges…

Although MPOWER has shown positive results, this program also highlights the issues that arise from implementing tobacco control. Inevitably, there is a conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health systems of which WHO requires Party governments to consider when adopting the six measures. This is a challenge that will continue to remain and can only be controlled effectively at a country-level. In acknowledging this, WHO can continue to confidently launch MPOWER despite the issues they may face along the way.

Where to from here?

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While some may say that counteracting tobacco in the 21st century may be ‘too little, too late’ (West 2006), we can assume through analysing the WHO’s 2013 MPOWER report that this is not the case. Such initiatives like MPOWER will continue to succeed in battling the global tobacco epidemic and in conjunction with organisations who are actively participating in this movement, an issue that is a worldwide killer is given a powerful voice.


The World Bank 1999, ‘Curbing the epidemic: governments and the economics of tobacco control’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 196-201.

West, R. 2006, ‘Tobacco control: present and future’, British Medical Bulletin, vol. 77-78, no. 1, pp 123-136.

World Health Organization 2017, Key facts and findings relating to the MPOWER package, WHO, Geneva, viewed 9 December 2017, <>

World Health Organization 2017, Tobaccao, WHO, Geneva, viewed 9 December 2017, <>

World Health Organization 2017, MPOWER IN ACTION: Defeating the global tobacco epidemic, WHO, Geneva, viewed 9 December 2017, <>

POST D: Javanese Speech Levels and it’s place in the 21st century.


Javanese Manuscript – Serat Jayalengkara Wulang (Hamenkubuwana II 1803)

Often, we assume that the specific terms used within a conversation, such as Madam or Sir are an indication of the type of relationship shared by the parties involved. However, the Javanese language has thrown a spanner in the works by using different speech levels ‘as a symbolic and social index of local organisation’ (Berman 1998, p.12). As an ethnic language predominantly spoken in Yogyakarta and Central Java, the Javanese society perceive it as an important part of their culture.

To understand its traditions and purpose, one must first break down its complexities. Javanese is comprised of three levels, Ngoko (lowest), Krama Madya (middle), and Krama Hinggil (highest). Each is adopted according to the ‘utterers, hearers, and place’ (Farahsani 2017, p.1) and follows principles of politeness. For example, a child would use Krama Hinggil to address his/her teacher or parents as a form of respect whereas two friends would speak using Ngoko. By doing so, locals believe that it is a means of philosophical entity and social control (Berman 1998, p.12).

Contrastingly, one might use specific utterances and engage in small talk to avoid offending another individual. It is perceived as the norm for a Javanese speaker to ‘fluff about’ as some might say, before reaching his/her purpose in the conversation. Essentially, this is their way of ‘thinking before you speak’ which is a stark contrast to many Western cultures that believe in direct transparency.

“How to Start a Conversation” in Javanese Language (EngliscJember 2014)

However, despite the traditional sentiments and teachings associated with the Javanese language, it is important to realise that Young Javanese are now adopting Indonesian when placed in its present-day context. Although Javanese is a compulsory subject for years 1-9, which was implemented in 1995 as a part of the new language policy, it is the social status of family and the influence of parents that ultimately determines the frequency of using Javanese. This is revealed through Kurniasih’s research on ‘Gender, Class and Language Preference: A case study in Yogyakarta’ (2015) where it became evident that the choice to use Indonesian or Javanese differed greatly between the working class and middle class in the 21st century.

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(Famous Logos in Javanese Script 2014)

Although Javanese has thus far presented itself as a farfetched language given its complexities, the variety of lexicons and utterance levels makes it an interesting language to discuss. When placed in its contemporary contexts, Javanese presents the opportunity to analyse the overall role of language not only as a form of spoken communication but an indication of identity and social status on a global scale.

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Mapping the Javanese language in it’s geographic context (San 2017)

Written by: Wendy San


Berman, L. A. 1998, Breaking Through the Silence: Narratives, Social Conventions, and Power in Java, Oxford University Press, New York.

EngliscJember 2014, ‘“How to Start a Conversation” in Javanese Language’, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 6 December 2017, <>

Famous Logos in Javanese Script 2014, created by Aditya Bayu Perdana, Behance, viewed 6 December 2017, <>

Farahsani, Y. 2017, ‘The Implementation of Politeness Principles By Javanese People: A Cultural Pragmatic Study’, International Journal of Novel Research in Humanity and Social Sciences, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-5.

Hamenkubuwana II, S. 1803, Serat Jayalengkara Wulang, British Museum, viewed 6 December 2017, <>

Kurniasih, Y. 2015, ‘Gender, Class and Language Preference: A case study in Yogyakarta’, PhD thesis, Monash University.

Wibawa, S. 2005, ‘Efforts to Maintain and Develop Javanese Language Politeness’, International Seminar of Javanese Language, Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, Suriname, viewed 5 December 2017, <>